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They have been given a two-year licence, effective from March 1, following a tendering process.

Barrie Hargrove, cabinet member for markets and street trading at Southwark Council, gave the announcement that Sherman & Waterman had been successful.

"This is a new opportunity to develop this historic market back to its former glory and I wish them success in building up the market over the next two years," he said.

Operated under their street markets umbrella by Southwark Council since 1949/50, the antiques market has been in slow decline for years. It never really recovered from the three years from 2008-11, when the traders were bumped around the square in temporary accommodation during redevelopment works by property developers Igloo, who own and manage the square on which Southwark have a long-lease agreement for the Friday market.

But now the future of the market looks brighter.

The market itself been in the square since 1948 and is famed as a dealers' haunt particularly for silver, with its pre-dawn opening seeing dealers peering at the glistening Georgian silver by torchlight and where the marché ouvert  (when stolen goods could be legitimately sold there, remarkably) was only taken off the statute books in 1995.

New Operators

London-based Sherman & Waterman launched in 1974 with three partners - Cyril Waterman, Anthony Sherman and Michael Collins - focusing their attentions on antiques and speciality markets from the outset. In 1976 the firm established the weekly Covent Garden Antiques Market under licence from the now defunct GLC; in 1985 they developed both the Stratford-on-Avon and York antiques centres - now solely Stratford-on-Avon - and in 2004 launched the weekly antiques and collectors' market at Old Spitalfields Market Hall.

Michael is the dynamic hands-on organiser who runs the Covent Garden and Spitalfields markets. He told me: "We're delighted to be given the opportunity to operate the renowned Friday Bermondsey antiques market. Stewardship comes with an inordinate responsibility which we embrace unreservedly and hope that during our tenure the regeneration programme we envisage will restore Bermondsey as one of London's premier antique markets.

"We sincerely hope we can do justice to the legacy that is the Friday antiques market and look forward to the challenges ahead."

Two people who are thrilled by the news are jewellery dealer Joan Bygrave, chairman of the Bermondsey Antique Market Traders Association - which will now disband as it acted as a link between the traders and the council -  and silver dealer Graham Jarvis, secretary to the association.

Their passion for the market has never wavered down through the difficult years, along with the other traders in the association.

Joan said: "We're very hopeful that the market will leap ahead. Mike has already had flyers printed; he has his finger on the pulse and certainly knows what he wants."

Graham added: "The traders are delighted that the council have awarded this contract to Sherman & Waterman, who themselves have a strong following with the umbrella of markets they currently run and will add a much-needed new and positive dimension and in time create a more vibrant Friday London market."

Challenges there certainly will be, not least attracting dealers of, say, vintage fashion and books to stand in a square which is open to the elements. It's fair to say, without leaning towards a glass-half-empty view, that there has been near-zero investment in the market which at its height fielded 250 stalls. Now out of a possible 150 stalls at the Friday market there are maybe 40.


But Bermondsey is heaving with media and fashion types, plush apartments, gastropubs, and achingly trendy wine bars, and the market could be a magnet for these folk if it's anything like Spitalfields market or - a slightly different buyer profile - the thousands of tourists who flock to Covent Garden.

• The "under new management" sign for the Bermondsey Antiques Market goes up from Friday, March 1. Hours are 5am-3pm with trade set-up from 5-7am. Contact Mike Collins on 07903919029 or email him at mactoby55@gmail.com