Chiswick community creates first new flower market in London for 150 years

By 22/07/2021 No Comments

Written by: Bridget Osborne for 20/20 Visions

This article has been written for 20/20 Visions by Bridget Osborne, Editor of The Chiswick Calendar and a founder director of the Chiswick Flower Market:

September sees the first anniversary of the Chiswick Flower Market – the first new flower market to have been opened in London for 150 years. The organisers, all local residents who volunteer their time to run it, set out to create “the Columbia Road market for west London” and have succeeded, judging by the thousands of people who visit the market held on the first Sunday of every month.

The aim was to make Chiswick a “destination” which people would come to on Sundays, to help reinvigorate the economy of the local high street.

Chiswick’s existing businesses have welcomed the increase in trade the flower market has brought, especially as, in the wake of the new flower market, other groups have set up an Antiques and Vintage market and a Cheese market on the second and third Sundays of the month respectively.

Chiswick Flower Market has been recognised nationally as an exemplar by the High Streets Task Force. Read the High Streets Task Force case study here.

Chiswick Flower Market

Chiswick Flower Market takes place every month in the Old Market Place, outside George IV pub in Chiswick High Road.

The idea of running a flower market on the spot where soldiers returning from the First World War set up the first outdoor market in Chiswick 100 years earlier, was first mooted by Ollie Saunders, a local resident and commercial property surveyor who used to trek regularly from his home in Devonshire Road to Columbia Road Market for flowers.

The idea was taken up by others and enthusiastically supported at a public meeting in February 2020. The plan was to start the market in April, as a way of revitalising the economy of the High Road.

Like everything else in 2020 that plan was scuppered by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the group, who are all volunteers and local residents, went ahead and set up a Community Interest Company and opened the market, with the support of the London Borough of Hounslow in September 2020.

It was a resounding success, with Time Out proclaiming it the top thing to do in London in September 2020 and the London Evening Standard agreeing it was the best thing to do in the capital that weekend. More than seven thousand people came.

The organisers set out to make the market “the Columbia Road of West London” and have succeeded.

There’s a mix of stall holders, which include several long established market traders from Columbia Road as well as new start-up firms, including people who were made redundant during the pandemic and decided to set up in business for themselves.

At the request of businesses in Devonshire Road, the market spread round the corner from Old Market Place to encourage people to visit the shops, cafes and restaurants there.

We have stall holders selling cut flowers and live plants: bouquets of live and dried flowers, bedding plants, herbs, shrubs and hardy perennials, bulbs and houseplants as well as pots, gardening accessories and grow your own food kits.

Sustainable regeneration

The market is very sustainability conscious, selling its own brand of jute bags in the hope of weaning people off plastic bags, and operating a free delivery service locally by bike (again, volunteers).

The gardeners who tend the Kitchen Garden at Chiswick House have a stall where they sell home grown produce, which they bring to the market by cargo bike, with zero carbon footprint. Several of the stall holders grow their own stock and other buy a mix of continental and British flowers.

It has also been recognised that the market is doing what it set out to do and attracting customers to the existing High Road businesses.

Anecdotally, shopkeepers have told us trade is up on Flower Market Sundays and the Government’s High Streets Task Force singled out the Chiswick Flower Market as an example of how a community group could make a difference to revitalising the local economy.

Paving the way for other markets in Chiswick High Road

Since the Chiswick Flower Market opened, others have applied successfully to run markets in the same location. The Antiques and Vintage Market opened in May 2021, as did the Chiswick Cheese Market. The Antiques and Vintage Market runs every second Sunday of the month. The Cheese Market runs every third Sunday.

There’s also a long-established Food market that runs every Sunday morning at Dukes Meadows and the Duck Pond Market, which also opened in 2020 in Chiswick, with regular markets at both Gunnersbury Park and the gardens of Chiswick House.

First anniversary

To celebrate the first anniversary, at the flower market on Sunday 5 September 2021 there will be the usual established mix of stalls selling cut flowers and live plants, including houseplants and bulbs – bulb seller Jacques Amand was one of the award winners at this year’s RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival. There will also be a special programme of events to celebrate the anniversary – gardening workshops in George IV pub, in the middle of the market, apple pressing and a chance to get up close to the beautiful Fuller’s dray horses.

Read a recent Daily Telegraph article about Chiswick Flower Markets with quotes from co-founder Ollie Saunders here.