Chatsworth Road

Three years ago Chatsworth Road was just an ordinary struggling local high street in lower Clapton, Hackney, but when the locals decided to bring back the market they once had and a committee was put in place, organised by dedicated volunteers, the street started coming back to life. Now every Sunday Chatsworth road hosts a small and friendly market and the street is slowly beginning to change for the better.


Chatsworth Road on a Sunday feels like what perhaps nearby Broadway Market was like when it first started. It still has the friendly local feel you would expect from an East End market. Instead you will find Japanese pancakes, risotto balls, organic fruit and veg, cheese, and the usual array of cakes, vintage clothes, furniture and crafts which is all part of the parcel of any market these days. There are also plenty of cafes to people watch from attracting creative looking parents with children sporting multicoloured clothing in tow, and yes a scattering of hipsters, but mainly local families out for a stroll and a grazing lunch.

Chatsworth kidswearChatsworth Road Photos by Melanie Brown

Sowing the Seeds of Chatsworth Road

Once a busy market street until the mid 80’s Chatsworth Road was brought back to life through the initiative of a group of locals who sent out a survey asking if the neighbourhood would like their market back. The answer was a definite yes. The Chatsworth Road Traders’ and Residents’ Association (CRTRA) originally set up to deal with shop front trading problems became the driving force behind bringing the road back to life and instigating a Sunday market. Obviously this plan caused plenty of debate about the ‘gentrification’ of the area and the creation of something elitist thus alienating a percentage of the local population. Creating anything new in an area is bound to be a source of debate but it is apparent that the CRTRA has been as inclusive as they possibly can and are very aware of local needs. Do you let a local high street die and shops close down because there simply isn’t enough trade, or do you change what’s on offer to attract people from elsewhere with the invertible added value to the area as a result? It’s an age old debate that holiday destinations and areas of cities have to tackle all the time. The general conclusion has been that regenerating and injecting life into a local high street is positive for everyone. The commercial trend of franchise, supermarket out of town shopping is appearing to lose its appeal. The timing is right for Chatsworth Road to create its own local identity.

The Plot

Starting tentatively with a couple of trial markets with the support of nearby Broadway market, then moving to fortnightly and now weekly on Sundays from 11am to 4pm. The market has moved from being exclusively run by volunteers to being able to employ members of staff dedicated to its smooth running. Chatsworth Road’s dedicated website aims to create a community around the road and the market as well as being very informative.
I met Diane Cunningham and Damian Patchell who have been active members of the committee and they are the best advocates of how Chatsworth Road has evolved and what it has to offer today. You can hear them talk below:


A great example in London of a group of people re-appropriating a once used commercial space, is the development of Brixton Village. The story goes that when the owners of the 1930’s indoor market in Brixton proposed a redevelopment of the site, they were met with resistance from the locals who set up ‘Friends of Brixton Market’ to campaign for the conservation of the market.  With advice from Lambeth council the owners contacted the recently founded Space Makers Agency, to revitalise the market. This was achieved through a a social media drive to get people involved with proposals for traders to take over a unit for 3 months, rent free. The result was an eclectic selection of shops all of which were independent unique businesses. These traders wee encouraged to take over the units permanently after 6 months creating a permanent market in the area.
Space Makers has slowly withdrawn from the project allowing it to be self sustaining. The impact? There is no doubt that this vibrant covered market has added a very different shade to Brixton’s landscape and once again some would argue that this is a step towards gentrification and has had an impact on rising property prices in the area, but the direct result is a space for independent traders and somewhere pleasant for local people to go!


The emphasis has been in involving the community as much as possible and finding ways for local people to appropriate their market and high street. One way of doing this is online by encouraging people to take Instagram photos of what they’ve made with what they purchased on the market and publishing them on the Chatsworth Road website.
There is a move towards more community events with the support of the high street traders to increase footfall and raising of the profile of the street and the market to reach wider public. The challenge Chatsworth Road face is to do this while maintaining the local community feel that they have taken such great care to create.

Useful stuff
Chatsworth road facebook
Chatsworth road twitter


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