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November 5, 2021

Amazing Photos of Porters at Covent Garden Market in London Carrying Tower of Baskets on Their Heads

Covent Garden Market had its beginning in 1835 when a patent was issued to hold a “public fair or mart” in the area of Richmond, Dundas and King Streets. In 1845, the Market found a permanent home when city business owners donated land near Richmond, Dundas and King Streets.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were the days the farmers arrived to sell their wares. The inside main floor was strewn with sawdust and the shoppers could choose meat from many different butchers. Outside, buyers and sellers mingled, bargaining over wares ranging from boxes of trinkets and wild raspberries to kitten litters.

Until well after World War I, the Market was, without question, the business and cultural heart of the city. But the advent of automobile began to take its toll on the timehonored tradition of visiting the Market. In 1955, a group of nine businessmen formed the Covent Garden Building Inc. to replace the old Market building and in 1958 the new building was finished. It contained four levels of parking along with an area on the main floor for the traditional Market.

These vintage photographs show some of the hundreds of market porters who transported the many and varied forms of garden produce from the market buildings to their end buyers, in a basket (or more often than not, baskets) balanced on their heads.

A market trader with a stack of baskets, 1915.

A Covent Garden market porter, 1922.

Market trader Alfred Bailey practicing with 15 baskets at Covent Garden, London, for the basket-carrying championships, 1925.

A Covent Garden carman crossing a temporary Waterloo Bridge, London, 1925.

A porter at Covent Garden Market, London, carries twenty baskets on his head, 1925.

A porter carrying many baskets on his head, 1926.

Basketman Jim Sainsbury, 1928.

Transporting market baskets, 1930.

E. W. White, porter, carrying twenty baskets stacked to King Street, Covent Garden, 1931.

A competitor in the Basket Carrying Championships at Covent Garden, London, 1933.

(Photos: Getty Images)


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