When working nights, Fridays was an opportunity to visit Bermondsey market before going home, but for most, the problem was having to get up very early to do it.
Situated on the other side of Tower Bridge, thanks to rampant property development, it has now become a shadow of itself from my time working in an ex-baked bean factory producing printed matter for the Government. It’s also a parking nightmare.
It used to be called the New Caledonian Market, having been relocated from North London (the actress Valerie Hobson opened it in 1949), but because it’s in Bermondsey Square people changed the name.
Bermondsey at the time was a ‘market ouvert’, following an ancient law that was finally repealed just under 25 years ago. Under this law, if you sold an item between sunrise and sunset then its provenance couldn’t be questioned, so stolen goods could be traded without any legal comeback on the buyer. The law originated centuries ago when people did not travel much; if the victim of theft did not bother to look in his local market on market day – the only place where the goods were likely to be – he was not being suitably diligent. It’s amazing how many Londoners don’t know it exists, tourists are often better informed than we are.
The old law meant you used to get a lot of stolen goods turning up. But the market opens before dawn, so you need a torch to check out the goods. This is where it gets tricky because although there are many cheap items, you could also pay a fortune for a dud, which is why Bermondsey is something of an experts’ market.