Petticoat Lane in London is a market located in East London, on Wentworth Street and Middlesex Street. The market really is on Petticoat Lane, which is what Middlesex Street was called before the ultra-modest Victorians changed its name in 1830.
The name dates from the 1600s when a secondhand clothing market was in full swing on this location, and when the French Huguenots moved into the area, they further cemented Petticoat Lane Market’s reputation when they established weaving, lace making, and clothing manufacturing here.
Highlights at Petticoat Lane
- End of season bargains at great reductions
- Great for sales banter and haggling
- Toys & Electronics
- Junk jewellery
Petticoat Lane part of East London’s fabric
The next wave of immigrants to put their stamp on Petticoat Lane Market were the Jews who moved here in the late 1800s. The market was open traditionally only on Sunday, in deference to the Jewish community whose holy day was Saturday.
The Market is rather unusual in that for most of its history it was an illegal and unregulated market, subject to raids and harassment by local authorities from time to time as the spirit moved them. It took an Act of Parliament in 1936 to legalise the market, and then it was back to business as usual.
Petticoat Lane Market is most widely known for its clothing trade, both new and secondhand clothing is available, as well as linens and household goods. You can find incredible bargains, but many items may not be of high quality.
Polyester suits for £2 might not be to your liking, but how about a designer silk skirt for £2? Much of the clothing is end-of-season that dealers buy in bulk, and this is where you can really score a great deal.
A brief history of Petticoat Lane Market
You won’t find Petticoat Lane in a London A-Z, for the market is centred around Middlesex Street. Back in 1603, there was a Petticoat Lane shown on maps, so-called because of all the clothing stalls along with it. The prudish Victorians are charged with changing the name because of the reference to woman’s undergarments!
Petticoat Lane market is believed to have been established by Huguenot lacemakers and expanded by Jews escaping from Poland and Germany. They found they were able to scrape a living from trading in market stalls along the Lane. The expertise of the immigrant communities in the leather and clothing trades remain today – there are still highly productive factories in the vicinity.
In the past, the area was notorious because Middlesex Street was on the boundary between London and the county of Middlesex. Several criminals sought by the Metropolitan police authority lived in the area around Petticoat Lane to beat a hasty exit from the City!
The life of the Jewish communities around Petticoat Lane is documented in the novel Children of the Ghetto (1892) by Israel Zangwill.