History of the Former Stapleton’s, Spitalfields
If you look up on Commercial Street in Spitalfields you’ll spot a decorative relief showing; Stapleton’s Established 1842.
It’s above a wide door which used to house a vintage market and at one point was the proposed location for Time Out’s London Market (now planned for the former Eurostar platforms at Waterloo Station).
However, in the 19th Century it used to be a Horse Repository.
Stapleton’s: A Lone Spitalfields Survivor
Stapleton’s is London’s only surviving horse repository, a store house where horses were bought and sold.
Established by Robert Stapleton in 1842 and probably would’ve dealt in the very strong draught horses that transported goods across London. Positioned opposite Spitalfields Market and close to Brick Lane’s Truman Brewery (est. 1666) there was surely plenty of demand.
There’s a colourful account of London Cart-houses by J.G Lyall called The Merry Gee-Gee (published 1899). It’s a book about breaking in, breeding and riding horses, the byline describing it as; “The noble art of backing winners on the turf.” It explains that you can grab a bargain in London by buying a cart-horses that are ‘used up on the [London] stones’ and train him up to full racing health in the countryside.
However their description of Stapleton’s have might put people off:
“If you are fastidious as to rubbing shoulders with some terrible scadgers, don’t go to Stapleton’s as it adjoins Spitalfields Market and you meet the veriest dregs of East End Costermonger (fruit and veg seller) society there. If on the other hand, your clothes are getting shabby and you would like to be a veritable toff for the day, go to Stapleton’s and you highest ambition will be gratified.”
According to directories, Stapleton’s was out of business by 1915. The increase of motor vehicles and need for horses during the First World War probably didn’t help.
That’s not to say that horses disappeared completely from London’s streets in the early 1900s. One of the most popular horse markets could be found in Elephant and Caste until the 1950s. Read more about its history here.
Its use might have changed, but thankfully the history will be preserved. In June 2020 the building was given Grade II listed status by Historic England, thanks to a campaign from the Victorian Society. The listing notes the building’s high quality brickwork, interior architectural features and the fact it’s the only surviving horse repository in London.
Had you spotted its details before? There’s plenty more quirky historic finds to search for in Spitalfields…
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