Home » Cultural Life » Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Petticoat Lane

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Petticoat Lane


Polly Nathan’s Famous Fish Shop

Once again thanks to Eric Pemberton for the use of his postcards about Petticoat Lane, the Lane as it is known locally   has a long and varied history.

If you look on maps for Petticoat Lane as a street on your London A-Z map you will not find it, why ?

The reason is that the area which has always seen as the centre of Petticoat Lane was previously known as Hogs Lane in the 16th century and was essentially a rural area just outside the city wall. By the beginning of the 17th century it had developed into commercial centre dealing in clothes and therefore became known as Peticote Lane.

The arrival of the Huguenots in the late 17th century in Spitalfields consolidated the area for manufacturing and selling of clothes. Although in 1830  it was decided by the authorities that  the area called Peticote Lane be changed to Middlesex Street, however even though officially the name changed, the old name continues to be used to the present day.


The late 19th Century saw the arrival of large numbers of Jewish Immigrants who settled in the area.

At the time of these postcards between 1900 -1914 the ‘Lane’ had become an important centre for Jewish life in London, this is illustrated by writer Israel Zangwill in his book Children of the Ghetto  published in 1914.

The Lane was always the great market-place, and every insalubrious street and alley abutting on it was covered with the overflowings of its commerce and its mud. Wentworth Street and Goulston Street were the chief branches, and in festival times the latter was a pandemonium of caged poultry, clucking and quacking and cackling and screaming. Fowls and geese and ducks were bought alive, and taken to have their throats cut for a fee by the official slaughterer. At Purim a gaiety, as of the Roman carnival, enlivened the swampy Wentworth Street, and brought a smile into the unwashed face of the pavement. The confectioners’ shops, crammed with “stuffed monkeys” and “bolas,” were besieged by hilarious crowds of handsome girls and their young men, fat women and their children, all washing down the luscious spicy compounds with cups of chocolate; temporarily erected swinging cradles bore a vociferous many-colored burden to the skies; cardboard noses, grotesque in their departure from truth, abounded. But the Lane was lively enough on the ordinary Friday and Sunday. The famous Sunday Fair was an event of metropolitan importance, and thither came buyers of every sect. The Friday Fair was more local, and confined mainly to edibles….. A babel of sound, audible for several streets around, denoted Market Day in Petticoat Lane, and the pavements were blocked by serried crowds going both ways at once.


Because the Market was generally unregulated, the local authorities often tried to close it down even to the extent in the 1930s driving police cars and fire engines up and down the market. Eventually they conceded defeat due to its massive popularity and in 1936 the rights of the market were protected by an Act of Parliament.

Many people were attracted to the ‘Lane’ for the entertainment with many traders renown for their ‘patter’, there were also a large number of ‘characters’ such as Ras Prince Monolulu who sold racehorse tips that frequented the market which added to its appeal. More recently one of the characters was entrepreneur Alan Sugar who had a stall at the market.

Although a pale imitation of its ‘glory days’, the lane is still considered one of the sights of London and still attracts large numbers of people.


Other Posts you may find interesting

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Victoria Park

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Seamens Missions

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – The London Hospital

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards Poplar and East India Dock Road

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Isle of Dogs 2

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Isle of Dogs

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Limehouse


  1. parasoles says:

    I really enjoyed your post! I used to live just around the corner, in Strype st. I lived there for three years. My first three years in London and in the UK. I remember every time we took a taxi to return to our home, it was easier to say “Petticat lane”. All taxi drivers knew it by that name! And in two occasions, two different taxi drivers told us that their father, or grandfather used to have a stall in the market..

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