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Surrey Street Market: 'It's more a way of life than a job'

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TWO weeks ago we reported on plans to revive the fortunes of Surrey Street Market, one of Croydon's greatest landmarks. In the first of a three-part series, Callum Paton looks back at the history of one of the capital's oldest markets. SURREY Street Market, one of the best-known features of central Croydon, has a rich history going back to the early 13th century.

Families trading on the market at present can trace their personal family history on the market back over hundreds of years.

Banners on the street today inform shoppers that the market was established in 1276, referring to the Royal Charter obtained for a weekly market in Croydon's earliest records.

In all likelihood there was a market there even earlier, though the earliest recorded trading was from a corn and cattle market held on Thursdays in 1314.

While traders on Surrey Street will admit to having been there a long time, living memory and family stories don't go back quite as far as 1314.

Today, many stallholders can still trace their roots back to four families that made their living running fruit and veg and flower stalls on the market in the 19th century: the Curds, the Campbells, the Thoroughgoods and the Holdens.

Tim Holden, who runs a fruit and veg stall with his family and has extended family across the market, said his great-granddad, Alfred Holden, got his first licence on Surrey Street in 1908.

"They were here longer than that but I think that's when they got the first licence," he said.

Mr Holden added: "When I started working 35 years ago I worked with my father and my grandfather. Now I work with my father and my son. It's more a way of life than a job."

In 1843, the market moved from adjacent Middle Street to what was then Butchers Row.

Though the butchers' shops along the street were cleaned out long ago, the hooks used to hang up carcasses can still be seen on buildings in Surrey Street.

Russell Smith, who runs a flower stall at the end furthest from the High Street and has been working on the market since he was five, explained that his great-grandfather, Aaron Campbell, moved his stall to Surrey Street from Thrift Street in 1902.

The family grew their own flowers and vegetables and used to sell as many as ten boxes of carnations a day.

He remembers stories of his great-grandmother who had a stall next to Jack Cohen, who went on to found Tesco.

"She lent him six shillings and my grandmother says she never saw a penny of that back.

"It's probably worth a lot of money now," he said.

Read next week's nostalgia for a look at the more recent history of Surrey Street Market.

Photos taken from Surrey Street Croydon: A Stall Story, by Vivien Lovett.

Surrey Street Market: 'It's more a way of life than a job'


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