Surprisingly easy to miss considering how large it is, on a side street next to Covent Garden is a monumental plaque to the people who worked there when it was a fruit and vegetable market.

The bronze relief was commissioned, reputedly following a call to the Royal Opera House by a family that had traded in the fruit market when it was open, only to be told by the incredulous employee that there was no way the buildings had ever been a fruit market.

So, in 2003, Sheila Springer, whose late husband Barry’s family were traders at the market, contacted the Covent Garden Area Trust to commemorate the area’s former traders in some way.

A bronze plaque depicting a market porter with a stack of baskets on his head was suggested as the ideal memorial, and a site found on the side of the Jubilee Market Hall.

By happy coincidence, this was all happening in the run up to the 400th anniversary of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers who had regulated the sale of fruit and vegetables in the City of London, so they got involved as well.

The sculptor chosen was Hampstead based artist, Glynis Jones Owen, and the bronze relief was unveiled on 21st October 2006, attended by former market traders, the Worshipful Company and locals from the area (pdf).

The relief is in five sections.

The top panel is based on the curved iron roof of the market, and the central panel shows the life of the market, and is based on archive photos from the Hulton Deutsche Picture Library.

The two side panels are filled with boxes of fruit and vegetables, but also symbolise the stone columns in the market building, and underneath each box of veggies are names of the former traders from the market.

The bottom panel explains the history of the market.

You can find it just to the south of the main market building, on the side of Southampton Street.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the last of the market traders leaving, in November 1974.


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