If you grew up in Harrow in the 1980s and 90’s, in fact even earlier, you will no doubt be familiar with Wembley Market – one of the UK’s largest outdoor markets that had a huge 2000 vendors at its peak.
Brent was home to the famed Wembley Market which started out modestly in 1924, but over time it expanded to become one of the biggest and most well-known marketplaces in the UK.
Fruit, vegetables, and other food products were the major goods offered at Wembley Market in the beginning. Yet it quickly grew to provide a variety of products, from clothing and accessories to antiques and collectables. The market was especially well-liked by shoppers on a budget who were hunting for unusual goods, quirky items and often gift ideas for loved ones.
Due to shortages and air strikes, the market had to close during World War II. But after the war, it reopened and thrived for the remainder of the 20th century. Wembley Market had an impressive 2,000 vendors at its height and welcomed up to 60,000 people every weekend.
People who attended the market on the weekends would find vendors selling CDs, hugely popular at the market, street food – remember Wok-on-Wheels? and trainers (some may question the legitimacy of some of these!). You could browse the market whilst the music stalls would be blasting out the tunes all whilst getting a whiff of some glorious food that was also available.
The market saw a drop in popularity in the twenty-first century due to increased competition from huge chain stores and internet merchants. The market was shut down by the local government in 2013 due to worries about noise pollution and traffic congestion.
At the time, market vendors, patrons, and neighbourhood residents opposed the decision and launched a campaign to preserve the market. Customers were saddened by the loss of a cherished community hub and many traders were left without a source of income.
Wembley Market’s closure has brought to light the difficulties that traditional markets face in the face of urban redevelopment and shifting consumer preferences. Additionally, it has spawned a larger discussion regarding the cultural relevance of markets and their place in local communities.
A campaign to reopen the market was nonetheless started in 2015 by a group of vendors and locals who claimed it was an essential component of the neighbourhood and a significant source of employment and economic activity. The market was finally permitted to reopen in 2019 after a protracted court struggle, albeit on a much lesser scale than in its heyday.