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The life in the Spitalfields Market of 27years   [12-05-2010]

Mr. Jim Heppel
held the position of Chief Executive of SMTA
with our market for over 27 years (1983 to 2010)


It seems like only yesterday when I joined the Spitalfields Market Tenants Association and started on a journey which I will always remember for the riches of meeting not only the great characters associated with the trade but also the many overseas visitors who visited the Market from all parts of the world.

Let us however start at the beginning because when I first joined the Association it soon became clear to me that Spitalfields Market was the proverbial sleeping giant.

In the 70's all the other major London wholesale markets had moved. Covent Garden Market to Nine Elms, Western International had been renamed since its move to Hounslow leaving Spitalfields trading from the constraints of 10 acres the major of which consisted of public roads.

In 1985 this changed with a knock on my office door from the developers who advised that they had identified a suitable site for the relocation of the Market.

There had long been approaches from developers claiming that they had identified potential sites for the relocation of the Market. Being just outside of the City of London, the market with its 10 acres was a potential jewel in the crown for developers

From then the potential of the offered site, Temple Mills at Leyton,was warmly endorsed by the then current Chairman of the Association, Arthur Hutchinson who had just taken office that year for one year only and who always had the thought that the site would be suitable for the Market. One which has been proved right since relocation on the 13th of May 1991

13 years later Arthur stepped down as Chairman overseeing the negotiations and the settling down of the tenants at the new Market.

Throughout those 13 years I was with Arthur step by step as negotiations were firstly commenced with the Corporation of London. Then London and Edinburgh Trust, the developers.

Eventually, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, where the Corporation of London launched a Bill to promote the move of the market from the area known as Spitalfields to Leyton.

This was necessary as Spitalfields Market was then and still is a Royal Charter market, first granted by King Charles11 in 1682 to hold a market on or next to *Spittle Fields.

Today, only Parliament can change a Royal Charter.

Life can be best described as being double interesting. Not only seeing the working of Parliament at first hand, but also being closely and intimately involved in the negotiations.

The Parliamentary Bill was finally granted Royal Assent in February 1990.

The pace then quickened to building the new market to the design proposed and approved by the tenants who were all closely consulted at each stage.

I have rightly paid tribute to my Chairman who I will always remember. His was the guidance which encouraged me throughout many a difficult time.

We both enjoyed a small cigar, Hamlets as I recall. Arthur also widened my taste buds to include and enjoy champagne.

One of the greatest achievements during the negotiations was the obtain compensation for the tenants.

No other market who relocated in the past and indeed to date has managed to negotiate compensation.

In this respect acknowledgement must be made to our legal team of Hugh Edwards and Jon Pike from Richards Butler.

The weekend finally dawned when the market commenced its move to its new home. The Market traded on Friday and the move took place over the weekend so everything was in readiness to trade on morning of Monday 13th May 1991.

The morning finally arrived. The gates had to be opened early because of the build up of traffic outside. Once opened, the customers, journalists, importers and the world flooded in spreading across the car parks.

It was a moment to be savoured and one which will always be remembered. A moment shared by both Arthur and myself. Sadly Arthur died in 1994 but he had the knowledge that his work had shown great benefit.

New Spitalfields Market is now 19 years old and the move has proved to be most successful at a time when huge question marks have been asked and continue to be asked about the future for wholesale markets.

When the market relocated, accommodation had to be offered to the tenants at the old Stratford Market which was sited a mile and a half from Temple Mills and 26 tenants took up the offer

Together with the 88 tenants who moved from Spitalfields the new market housed 114 individual competitive traders.

Today the market is still fully occupied with an estimated annual turnover in excess of £600 million.

However, during the years, the nationalities of the traders has changed with over 65% ethnic traders representing both the cultural and cosmopolitan nature of London.

This has being one of the reasons for the success of the market but the other more important factor is the location.

Sited with direct access on to the motorway systems, the Market has gone from strength to strength.

Another factor has been the active promotion of the market and here tribute must be given to the support given by the Association?? Council of Management throughout the years.

During my time as Chief Executive I have been most fortunate in having Chairmen who I was always able to work with.

The role of Chairman was an honorary capacity. They brought to the table their knowledge of business and the industry.

But more importantly they brought to the table their desires to drive New Spitalfields forward in taking its rightful place as the market leader.

From my part I will always remember that the world came to my door. During my 27 years I met many peoples of the world. Enjoyed their cultures.

To the many friends I have made thank you.

I leave as Chief Executive happy in the knowledge that,

the sleeping giant has at last awakened and is now the "Jewel in the Crown"

* Spittle was the old English word for hospital. The hospital was sited in the fields outside the walls of the City of London.