Whitecross Street is a short street in Islington, in Inner London. It features an eponymous street market and a large housing estate.
In Whitecross street, King Henry V (9 August 1386 – 31 August 1422) was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 36 in 1422. builded one fair House; and founded there a Brotherhood of St. Giles, to be kept. Which House, had sometime been an Hospital of the French Order, by the Name of St. Giles without Cripplegate, in the Reign of Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots King from 1272 to 1307 and William Wallace’s nemesis. The King having the Jurisdiction, and appointing a Custos thereof, for the Precinct of St. Giles, &c. Which Hospital being suppressed, the Lands were given to the Brotherhood, for the relief of the Poor. In this Street was a White cross; and near it was built an Arch of Stone, under which ran a Course of Water down to the Moor, called now Moorfields
The Fortune Playhouse, an early Elizabethan theatre, was built on the street c.1600. John Lambe was killed in 1628 at this theatre. John Lambe 1545 to 13 June 1628 an English astrologer who served George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. He was accused of black magic and rape and stoned to death by a mob. It was closed in 1642 as part of Parliament’s closure of all theatres. A debtor’s prison, Whitecross Street Prison, was built on the street in 1813-15, near Fore Street (which still exists). After the prison’s closure in 1870, the Midland Railway Company built a goods terminus and a booking office for goods and passengers on the site in 1876-77.
The Cripplegate area was heavily damaged during World War II, and when the Barbican Estate and Barbican Centre was constructed after the war, the part of Whitecross Street south of Silk Street was swallowed up by the new construction, and the short section between Silk Street and Chiswell Street/Beech Street became part of Silk Street. St Giles Cripplegate, mentioned by Strype, is now within the Barbican Estate.
Whitecross Street Market, having been in existence for over 150 years, is one of London’s oldest markets. The market was formerly one of London’s great Sunday markets, and dates to the 17th century; although today, trading is largely limited to lunch times. By the end of the 19th century, the area had become a by-word for poverty and alcohol, and it became known as Squalors’ Market.
Today the market consists of stalls arranged along the northern half of the street, between Old Street and Fortune Street, with the road closed to traffic. There is a small general market and a food market of up to 50 food and drink vendors Monday-Friday lunchtime,which can be bustling with activity (and queues) on a sunny lunch time. It has occasional food festivals. In recent times, there has been significant investment from Islington Council, the City of London and English Heritage. It is open Monday–Friday, 10am–2pm.
In the images below I have tried to portray the atmosphere, the people and the lifestyle of Whitecross street today.
Images by Shane Aurousseau