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Going Down the Roman Road

Going Down the Roman Road

'Going down the Roman' has been an East End tradition for many years. But what is the history of the Roman Road and its famous market?

Roman Road Market has a rich and varied history, as befits its status as one of the oldest trading street market in the country.

Roman Road runs more or less parallel to the buried Roman road which connected London to Colchester, and was named as such when Roman remains were first discovered.

Both the area and the road were famously taken by Boudica from Camulodunum (modern Colchester) on her way to fight the Romans in Londinium (modern City of London) and the road is one of the oldest known trade routes in Britain.

The market was legally established in 1888. It is at the heart of Bow, and 'going down the Roman' has been a tradition for generations.

In the late 1890's there were 63 stalls trading in Green Street (one of the earlier names for the Roman Road) and by 1901 this had increased to 90. Late 19th century commentators remarked disapprovingly on the amount of cook, pie and coffee shops that were available in the area as so many women worked and lacked facilities for cooking. Typical market produce would have included fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, furniture and clothing.

The market was open long hours: there are oral accounts of trading going on until 10 pm well into the 20th century. Nowadays the market starts packing up at 3pm and all traders dismantled their stalls by 4pm, or maybe 5pm on clement Saturday.

Two archways mark each end of the Roman Road Market. Erected in 1986, the archways are inscribed in Latin, alluding to the area's Roman past.

The Roman Road Market was designated a Conservation Area in 1989, and extended in 2008 in recognition of its historic significance and special character as a traditional East End market, like other open street markets in East London such as Whitechapel, Walthamstow, Barking, and Romford.

Nowadays, Roman Road Market operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but shops are open all week. Many historical shops are still trading along the Roman Road as they have done for many years, including Dennington's florist, Percy Ingle Bakery and G Kelly, the pie and mash shop, which has recently been fully renovated.

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