London North, UK - These remarkable solid oak benches were salvaged from the former London Fruit & Wool Exchange in Spitalfields. The benches were originally part of the impressive tiered seating in the auction room, where traders bid for produce from 1929 to 1991, when the fruit and veg market moved out of Spitalfields.
The London Fruit & Wool Exchange was built in 1929 and is an impressive structure with a grand entrance in a Neo-Classical style. The most important room in the building was the state of the art auction room, completely panelled with solid oak and fitted out with matching solid oak benches, curving around three sides of the room.
The Exchange also served as a bomb shelter for all the local residents during the war. Thousands of people from the local area crammed into the basement during air raids. It became known as the worst shelter in London before local optician 'Micky the Midget' organised to improve the facilities. Read more about the history of the Exchange and its sad fate on the Quiet Author's blog Spitalfields Life.
Over the past few years, local residents and developers have been battling over the future of the building after plans were drawn up to demolish the majority of the building, saving only the facade. The huge development even includes the area and streets behind the Exchange, including Dorset Street where the Wedgewood china company had its first showroom and where Jack the Ripper murdered his last victim.
The planning application for the development was originally turned down by Tower Hamlets Council but unfortunately Mayor Boris Johnson stepped in and overturned the decision, approving the controversial plans despite strong local outcry. There has been an ongoing campaign to stop the plans, supported by many notable figures including the historian, author, TV presenter and local resident Dan Cruickshank.
The benches themselves are made of solid oak and have high backs and a row of shelving underneath the seats. Two of the benches are elegantly curved and one is straight. The benches have a relatively simple design with attractive panelling at each end and scroll details on the armrests at each end. They are a charming piece of London salvage rich with intriguing history. The benches are a remaining piece of important London history that is now sadly being lost.
View further images and info on blog (link below) or view the items on our website now.
View old photos of the benches in the Exchange and read further history on our blog.
View the curved pair of benches on our website
Story Type: News