Like any big ancient city, London is a patchwork of memories and history. For millenia it's inhabitants have lived, worked and played in its streets, buildings and parks as generations have come and gone, an ever fluctuating tide of humanity.
One of the largest pieces of forgotten architectural and trading history - as well as something that is entangled in Canonbury Antiques very own genesis - is the now long lost Caledonian Market. Originally situated just north of Kings Cross train station between York Way and the Caledonian Road (hence the name) this vast market closed in 1939 on the eve of the outbreak of World War II.
( Caledonian Market in 1926 - where's grandad? )
The market was so large you could buy anything from a coffin to a cow - and pretty much everything in between and hence was a long standing stomping ground for buyers and traders. According to Marjorie Edwards, writing in the Illustrated Islington History Journal, it was the 'greatest market in the world'. She continued: “It wasn’t long before the Cockney costermongers who had traded beside the old Smithfield came along to the new market as well.
( Market trader in 1929 )
“Every Friday, people could be seen scrambling along from all directions with their barrows, prams, horses and carts full of goods, all eager to be first in the queue when the gates opened at 10am. Then it was bedlam as everyone made a mad dash to find the best pitch.
( Half a crown for this doll )
“It was said you could buy everything at the Caledonian Market, from a suit of armour to a coffin. There were fresh food stalls, fruit, flowers, clothes, tools, books, soaps, furniture. You name it, it was there.”
In terms of Canonbury Antiques roots and origins - this is where it all began. According to Canonbury Antiques MD Martin Worster: "My gran May Worster first sold secondhand clothing there. My grandfather Jim sold antiques and bric-à-brac. He specialised in 78 records especially Paul Robeson who sang 'Old Man River'. Indeed, Jim was known to all who knew him as 'Old Man River', that was his nickname."
Market trading has always been a very important part of London's history and this continues today - in terms of antiques, Portobello Road, Bermondsey, Greenwhich Market, Stables Market in Camden and many others are still busy markets. Buying goods online is all good but you definitely can't beat intimate interactions with other dealers as you haggle and bargain, plus of course the ability to handle the goods and see them for yourself in person.
The history of the Caledonian Market - or the 'Cally' as locals used to call it - shows it was first opened in 1855 as the Metropolitan Cattle Market designed to supplement the meat market just down the road at Smithfields. The market originally covered 30 acres and was on the site of Copenhagen House (originally a pleasure resort and tea garden). The site is in the Borough of Islington in North London close to our familial roots and also to Kings Cross train station which was practical for the convenient transport of livestock from the Caledonian Market. The central market was arranged in a rectangle with stalls for dealers around the 151 foot tall clock tower in the centre - which still stands today in Caledonian Park.
In the early 20th century the trade in live stock diminished and a bric-a-brac market developed populated by various relatives of Canonbury Antiques. The market closed as World War II started in 1939. The site was developed to include the large Market Estate with social housing built in 1964, plus sports pitches and Caledonian Park. The market transferred south of the river and became known as the New Caledonian Market - or Bermondsey Square Antiques Market and to this day remains busy as traders gather every Friday to buy and sell goods.
( The clock tower still stands - now in Caledonian Park )
That's a brief recap of the history of the Caledonian Market, a fascinating piece of urban history and lore, a place where our very own recent relatives bought and sold goods. It's an amazing journey to think how we travelled from there to our current incarnation - buying and selling goods via our website to an ever growing global customer base. The Canonbury Antiques Hertfordshire showroom is just 25 minutes north of London and open to the public 6 days a week. We are just outside Potters Bar which can be reached via train from Kings Cross station - right near where the Cally used to be - in 18 minutes.
We specialise in antique dining sets. Victorian dining tables, Regency pedestal tables with matching Chippendale, William IV or balloon back chairs. We also love art deco furniture and bronzes. Partial to Chinese and Asian porcelain, as well as contintental ceramics. Bronzes, lighting, oil paintings, sconces, Continental antiques and furniture. All the big architectural stuff - fountains, lifesize bronze animals, statues, marbles, water features and sculptures - are outside in our special section. We can ship any of these antiques to anywhere in the world so please get in touch for a shipping quote or if you have any other questions.
( Cow for sale - only one previous owner )
( From Cally to Canonbury... )
Originally designed by Charles Sykes in England in 1909, the Flying Lady - or Spirit of Ecstasy is an absolute enduring design classic as found on the bonnets (hoods) of Rolls Royce cars..