Chiswick Market centenary

The group behind the Chiswick Flower Market proposal, of which The Chiswick Calendar is a part, has received overwhelming support for the idea from local traders and residents. There is still time for you to give us your feedback by filling out our survey here. We are hoping, and planning for the market to become a reality in the autumn.

The Flower Market will stand on the site of Chiswick’s original outdoor market, which was established in early 1920, in response to a different economic need – men returning home from fighting in the First World War who needed an income. The discussions at the time in the equivalent of today’s social media – letters to The Chiswick Times – are very revealing of the class and gender politics involved.

Images above: drawing and tinted photograph of the outdoor market at Chiswick

Middle class ‘feeling the pinch’

On 20 February 1920, a correspondent who signed himself merely as ‘X’ wrote to The Chiswick Times:

‘the amount of shop accommodation in the Chiswick High-road is altogether inadequate to the requirements of the locality’.

On 27 February 1920 The Chiswick Times reported:

‘At a meeting of the Chiswick Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Mr H Johnson presiding over a good attendance, Mr J Sander moved the following resolution:

‘That in the opinion of this meeting a municipal market for Chiswick as a permanent institution is desirable in order that the public of all classes may have full facilities for the purchase of commodities…

… He believed the commodities sold there were such as to benefit the people who had “felt the pinch”, and they were not always those who were termed the working classes, but many were of the middle class, whose earning power had not increased, through prices had gone up’.

Mr Sanders lost that vote, as the members of the Chiswick Chamber of Commerce saw the market as a threat to their profits. He lost the battle but won the war, as the outdoor market continued to trade for several years until it was moved inside Linden House in 1924 and became a permanent fixture where the police station is currently.

Image above: Indoor market

‘Members of the Chiswick Council will do well to remember that they depend on the vote of the women’

On 3 March 1920 a woman resident wrote to The Chiswick Times, giving the Chamber members something to think about:

‘Members of the Chiswick Council will do well to remember that they depend on the vote of the women, as well as that of the mere man (who never has to go shopping and make 10s go as far as a £1 would have done in pre-war days), and when they seek re-election we women shall bear this is mind.

‘Possibly the members of the said Council have never had to stand in a queue (unless perchance at a “first night” at the theatre) in order to obtain the commonest, commodities of life, as most of us were obliged to do during the war.

‘And now, when a market is forthcoming, where a few pence can be saved, a slight compensation for the tremendous increase in the cost of almost everything in our homes, one cannot believe that they will abolish what is, and has been, a boon to many of those whose incomes are but slender’.

The idea for the Flower Market predates the Coronavirus, and hopefully it will be one of the things which gets us back on our feet once it has passed.

Thanks to Tracey Logan for historical research and to Michael Robinson for picture research.

@Chiswick Flowers