Woolwich Market Beresford Square

Woolwich Market has a charter going back to 1618. It wasn’t until 1887 that the space at Beresford Square became the official site of the market. It had previously been located on Market Hill and Market Street. At the New Road entrance is a metal portal with a notice informing of the town’s Saxon past.

Portal Beresford Square Woolwich

The open space outside of the Royal Arsenal Gates, Beresford Square, became an important meeting and social place in the early 19th century. There where no market tolls here so traders moved into the space to keep down their costs. Despite being evicted several times they always drifted back. By 1866 the unofficial market had become so successful that the shops close by objected to further removals as it would damage their trade. So it got its official designation. Being located so close to the Royal Arsenal it had an enormous “footfall” of workers on their way to and from work. The new residents of the Arsenal now pass on their way to the station. But is there sufficient to tempt them to buy?

Woolwich Market

The market still opens daily (except Sunday) and whilst the official information says there are 100 stalls I couldn’t see that many. The stalls sell fruit and veg, clothes, bags, cases and shoes. There must be quite a demand for suitcases as there are several stalls that sell them. It is lively and interestingly doesn’t seem to have been affected by the Tesco monolith. I spoke to one of the fruit and veg traders who explained that because people are “feeling the pinch” they are shopping more frequently and thinking twice about the one stop shop. This pattern seems to lend itself more to market trading.

Woolwich Indoor Market

The covered market in Plumstead Road was opened in 1936. Outside is a steel sculpture The Woolwich Ship by Tom Grimsey. A commentator on this blog suggested I visit the indoor market to raise awareness of it. The indoor market is in a sorry state of repair although some stalls are still trading. The fact that so many are closed makes it an uninviting trading area. I did venture inside and thought that the industrial light shades would be of interest to a salvage dealer. There is little else to entice you in. It is inconceivable that it remains as it is being located across the road from the new Crossrail station. This is the second year of the Love Your Local Market campaign and Woolwich market could do with getting involved and developing this space into something far more fitting to the rich heritage of the town. The winner of the best Council run market this year was Oswerty and their website gives you a taste of what is possible.