Old Spitalfields Market is a covered market in Spitalfields, London. There has been a market on the site for over 350 years. In 1991 it gave its name to New Spitalfields Market in Leyton, where fruit and vegetables are now traded. It is situated in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, just outside of the City of London. The closest London Underground and mainline railway station is Liverpool Street.
There has been a market on the site since 1638 when King Charles gave a licence for flesh, fowl and roots to be sold on Spittle Fields, which was then a rural area on the eastern outskirts of London. After the rights to a market had seemingly lapsed during the time of the Commonwealth, the market was re-founded in 1682 by King Charles II in order to feed the burgeoning population of a new suburb of London.
Spitalfields Market was extended westward to Steward Street in 1926, destroying the northern extensions of Crispin Street and Gun Street in the process. The wholesale fruit and vegetable market moved to New Spitalfields Market, Leyton, in 1991 and the original site became known as Old Spitalfields Market. Market buildings were sited on the rectangular patch of open ground which retained the name Spittle Fields: demarcated by Crispin Street to the west, Lamb Street to the north, Red Lion Street (later subsumed into Commercial Street) to the east and Paternoster Row (later known as Brushfield Street) to the south. The existing buildings were built in 1887 to service a wholesale market, owned by the City of London Corporation.
Being at the centre of a revival in the area, the eastern end of Spitalfields retained its old charm in Horner Square and Horner Buildings, which are Grade II listed buildings. These market buildings were designed by George Sherrin for the last private owner of the fruit and vegetable market, Robert Horner, and built between 1885 and 1893. The original Victorian buildings and the market hall and roof have been restored and Old Spitalfields is now one of London's major markets. The market square is a popular fashion, arts and crafts, food and general market, open seven days a week, but is particularly busy at weekends.
In the late 20th century, there was a dispute between the owners, the City of London Corporation and local residents about the redevelopment of the 1926 market extension at the western end. The Corporation won, and now a Norman Foster-designed office block surrounds the western side of the site, after two-thirds of the historic market were rebuilt to include restaurants, shops and a large indoor arts and crafts market, called the Traders' Market.
The Gun, a pub situated to the south of the market buildings, recalls Tudor times, when the Old Artillery Ground in this area was used by the Honourable Artillery Company to practice with cross-bow, and later guns and artillery pieces. At the east end, and on the other side of Commercial Street, is Christ Church, a large Nicholas Hawksmoor church. In January 2011 Old Spitalfields received the "Best Private Market" award by the National Association of British Market Authorities.