Maple Road Market

Maple Road Market is remembered affectionately by those of a certain age whether they still live in Penge or not. Before the coming of the big supermarkets the street market was not only a lively cornucopia of available produce at relatively cheap prices but also a kind of meeting place for residents.

‘Everybody seemed to know everybody’ and generations of families set up stall and worked there from year to year. We hope you enjoy these photographs and memories of those who knew it well.  Below is Maple Road in 1914, in pre-market days.

The market came into being after the First World War when the country was recovering from social hardship and sacrifice. From 1921 it was a notable social hub of commerce and friendship until the end of the century. These were its most successful years.

People remember Davis the florist which must have supplied flowers for countless Penge weddings, birthdays and funerals. There were always fresh cut-price blooms on market days.

There were clothes stalls with brightly coloured ribbons and scarfs, carpets, rugs, blankets, all manner of vegetables, fruit, cheese and honey, fish, meat, books, pictures, greetings cards… You could get a cup of coffee or tea with a sticky bun or tasty fry-up in one of the many Maple Road cafes. People met and chatted, looked out for one another.

Many have memories of venturing out as small children with their families on Christmas Eve to buy presents, perhaps after a visit to see Father Christmas at Rogers department store on the high street; to collect the Christmas turkey and herbs for the stuffing from one of the brightly-lit stalls, the smell of tangerines and roast chestnuts lingering in the dark frosty air…

No photo or picture really does the market justice: the bustling crowds, the laughter, the chatter of conversation, street-hawkers’ cries, bargaining and haggling, music playing, dogs barking, excited children, the great British queue… We hope the video links supply some of that. Perhaps the market was of its time and any new venture needs to re-invent itself for a new generation?

The market hardly changed visually even by the 1990’s. But the threat of the big supermarkets was on the horizon with their plastic-wrapped goods, over-attention to hygiene and relatively quick, one-stop shopping.

Various attempts have been made to rejuvenate Maple Road market since it closed around 2010, e.g. an overpriced ‘Farmer’s Market’, but without success. Chelsea buns at £2.50 each, anyone? No, I’d rather go to Harrods.

Maple Road now appears to be taking on a different identity as an artist’s colony but, for some, the market was the life and soul of Penge.

See the video for Maple Road Market in 1986.