Restoration of Brixton Market barrows
Brixton has one of London’s most vibrant historic markets, dating from the 1870s. Its traditional wooden market barrows were once a familiar sight, and twenty years ago fifty were still in use in Brixton. Today only fifteen remain.
The barrows are perfectly fit for purpose; strong, manoeuvrable and robust. They have been passed down through generations and are at the heart of Brixton life, much valued by the traders who wheel them in to their pitch at dawn. They remove the need for vans driving in to unload stock, and are part of the historic setting for which Electric Avenue and Atlantic Road are famous.
Exposure to the elements has gradually shrunk and worn the timber. Most traders need to regularly soak the wheels in water to swell the wood, as the iron tyres loosen. As few traditional wheelwrights remain in London, the barrows become gradually unusable.
The Heritage of London Trust has launched a barrows restoration project for 2016. A temporary workshop is being set up under Brixton’s railway arches. All wood is being repaired using ash, elm or oak. A specialist wheelwright is repairing or, if necessary, replacing the wheels. Historic lettering, once marking owner and pitch, is to be recarved and the barrows will be repainted.