A set of Gothic gates that are the only surviving feature of a 19th century Tower Hamlets market have been newly restored.
The Columbia Market gates outside Columbia Market Nursery School were officially opened on Thursday (November 24).
The Victorian heraldic lion situated on the gates’ piers has been restored and the lanterns, now fitted with LED bulbs and activated by dusk sensors, will light the school’s entrance in Columbia Road all year round.
The gates were ceremonially opened by a three-year-old student from Columbia Road Nursery School, Zayde Ismail.
The project has been funded by a £15,000 grant from Heritage of London Trust (HOLT), an additional £3,180 from The Ironmongers Company and the remaining £10,000 from Tower Hamlets Council.
Dr Nicola Stacey, director at HOLT, said: “We’re so pleased to be able to bring to life what was once one of the grandest Victorian buildings in London, providing a heritage site of interest for local people year round.
“This project is a chance to tell the story of the remarkable woman behind the project and save this last fragment as a piece of London’s history.”
Columbia Market was built between 1866 and 1868, funded by philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906) at a cost of £200,000.
Angela, a friend of Charles Dickens, was not only the wealthiest woman in England by 1837, but one of the wealthiest women in Europe.
When first built, Columbia Market included 400 stalls, a market hall, a tall central tower, gatehouse, quadrangle and cloister walks and was meant to be a place where food could be sold fresh in hygienic conditions.
The project never flourished, however, due to the lack of a good railway connection, competition from established markets such as Spitalfields, and rules banning Sunday trading and even swearing.
The market closed in 1885, was bought by London County Council in 1915 to be used as workshops and warehouses and was demolished in 1958 to make way for 1960s blocks of flats.
Cllr Kabir Hussain, cabinet member for environment and the climate emergency at Tower Hamlets Council, added: “The restoration of the Colombia Market gates contributes an overall improvement to our public realm, and not only reinvigorates our streets, but highlights the rich cultural history of our borough.”
Joining the event were HOLT, representatives from Tower Hamlets Council and pupils from Hillyfields Primary School as part of HOLT’s Proud Places youth engagement programme.
The restoration work was carried out by London Stone Conservation.