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Eels, bras and leather jackets: Memories of East Ham Market Hall as demolition begins

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 June 2019

Eileen Matten's grandfather, Arthur Hale, stands outside 'The Value Furnishing Store' at East Ham Market Hall in a photo taken in the 1950s. Picture: Eileen Matten

Eileen Matten's grandfather, Arthur Hale, stands outside 'The Value Furnishing Store' at East Ham Market Hall in a photo taken in the 1950s. Picture: Eileen Matten

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A 'much-loved' market's demolition has brought back memories of leather jackets, live eels and 'ill-fitting' bras.

Children enjoy the East Ham Market Enchanted festival. Picture: Isabel InfantesChildren enjoy the East Ham Market Enchanted festival. Picture: Isabel Infantes

Diggers and workmen started work at East Ham Market Hall in Myrtle Road this spring making way for 277 homes to be built on the almost two acre site.

Now builders' shouts and the sound of rubble crashing down has replaced the cries of market stall holders who plied their trades for decades.

Bev Edwards, whose late mum Josie Maynard bought pet food, cold cuts, fruit and veg at the market, said: "The market was our history.

"It's sad there is no use for our memories. I am so pleased my mum isn't alive to see this now. Another closure and ending."

Trader Ibrahim Patel sells a watch to a customer. Picture: Steve PostonTrader Ibrahim Patel sells a watch to a customer. Picture: Steve Poston

Barbara Prater, who lived in Colvin Road, recalled huge eels looking like bicycle inner tubes swimming in a tank at the fresh fish shop before being hauled out and beheaded in front of customers.

And 'wallies', pickled cucumbers, in open tins at a food stall were one of Barbara's favourites.

Barbara said: "I would sit in my pushchair chomping on it. My Nana was horrified when she spotted me and gave my mum a telling off for 'lowering the tone'.

"You can take the girl out of East Ham but you can't take East Ham Market out of the girl. I will never forget the tantalising smells and sights of that Alladin's cave back in the 1950s and 60s."

Belle Lampard bought her first bra from the underwear stall about 65 years ago.

Walking through the market with her mum she noticed a hand written card marked "nursery bras".

She nagged her mum to let her have her first bra until she gave her the money- about 2/6p. Belle rushed all the way back and bought it.

Arriving home she rushed up to her bedroom, locked the door and proceeded to put her new garment on.

But it was harder than she had anticipated and all the while her three older brothers were knocking on the door shouting out to show them her new 'pride and joy'.

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Eventually her mum came upstairs to help, but burst out laughing.

Belle said: "To my horror I had mistakenly purchased a nursing bra for breastfeeding and couldn't make out what the front flaps were for. You can imagine the ribbing I got from my big brothers!"

Former neighbours recalled childhood memories of the cafe and saving up to buy their dream purchases including comics, leather jackets and jewellery.

And for some it was their first taste of work.

Christine Taylor was a Saturday girl from 1964-65 at Annie's coat and dress stall earning 15 shillings a day, less than her friend who worked on another stall.

"I was a bit miffed she got more than me so I told Annie I was leaving. I tried to get another job but couldn't so I went back and asked for my job back and for a rise to £1 and Annie gave it to me," Christine said.

Leather coats were all the rage at the time and making a sale was key.

"It was all about getting people to buy, never mind what they looked like in it as long as you got the sale," Christine added.

But now the site is being redeveloped by Barratt London and East Ham Regeneration Ltd, a join venture between Dransfield Properties and Land Management, after planning permission was granted last year.

William Sunnucks, chairman of Land Management, said: "The East Ham Market Hall has served the community for 95 years.

"I am proud that the site can provide 277 flats and an up-to-date shopping facility for East Ham."

When his grandfather opened it in 1922 many traders were soldiers rebuilding their lives after the First World War and since then the site has provided homes for small businesses from all backgrounds, he explained.

But Mr Sunnucks added that a 'comprehensive' rebuild was now essential.

Dransfield Properties managin director Mark Dransfield said: "This project will deliver real change to this part of East Ham, answering the need for affordable new homes as well as an attractive new retail destination for the community."

The work is due to end by 2021.

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