The City of London Corporation has unveiled early ideas for the redevelopment of the Smithfield Market following the proposed relocation of the meat market to Dagenham Dock along with Billingsgate and New Spitalfields. The work of architecture practice Studio Egret West, the new designs see the Grade II*-listed East and West Smithfield buildings and Grade II-listed Rotunda transformed for public and commercial use including removing some of the modern additions to the market buildings, such as loading bays and cold rooms, to reveal the elegance of the original Victorian structure and create four large, clear “halls” under the oversailing roof. While there’s been a meat market on the site since the 12th century, the Victorian-era markets buildings, featuring ornate iron frames, were built between 1866 and 1883. Members of the public are able to share their feedback on the initial concept drawings via the website, www.wholesalemarkets.co.uk/smithfield until 4th September.
Famously associated with Leadenhall Market, Old Tom was a gander who for several decades was a popular figure at the City of London marketplace.
Said to have been born in the late 1790s, he was brought to London among a massive contingent of birds from the Continent the aim of being fattened up for the market block.
The story goes that when the time came for the chop, however, Tom did a dash and apparently held off his pursuers for several days, avoiding becoming one of the 34,000 hapless geese which were apparently slaughtered in a two day period. His doggedness in defying the blade led to sympathy among the workers at the market who decided to let him be.
Feed on tidbits from local inns, Tom took up residence and became something of a favourite among those who worked there. He apparently lived to the the ripe old age of 37 or 38-years-old and when he died in 1835, such was the love for him, that Tom lay in state at the market to allow people to pay their respects before his burial at the market. His obituary was published in The Times, referring to him as the “chief of geese, the poulterer’s pride”.
Old Tom is mentioned on a plaque at the entrance to Leadenhall Market (pictured) which tells something of his story and there’s also a bar within Leadenhall Market itself which serves as a memorial – Old Tom’s Bar.
Some also believe that the two identical statues of a small boy grappling with a goose (pictured below) which sit atop the former Midland Bank headquarters building, located at 27 Poultry (and now hotel called The Ned) – just a few hundred paces from the market, also commemorate the gander.
The website of The Ned, however, suggests the statues, designed by Sir William Reid Dick for the architect Edwin Lutyens was actually inspired by Boethus’ famous sculpture of a boy playing with a goose which can be found in the Vatican.
Maybe it’s both?
PICTURES: Google Maps
London’s oldest chophouse, Simpson’s, can be found in the City of London, just off Cornhill, and dates from the mid-18th century.
Thomas Simpson had opened his first ‘Fish Ordinary Restaurant’ in Bell Alley, Billingsgate, in 1723, catering to a clientele made up largely of those working at the Billingsgate (Fish) Market.
When that was demolished, he retired briefly before purchasing the Queen’s Arms in Bird in Hand Court off Cheapside.
Located in Ball Court Alley, Simpson opened the current establishment in 1757 (although the Grade II-listed building itself dates from the late 1600s or possibly early 1700s). It was a gift from his father.
Customs at the restaurant included having meals were presided over a chairman who would ensure lunch started promptly as one (their job also included introducing notable guests and measuring the cheese – a task related to a tradition of placing bets on the height, weight and girth of the cheese).
Seating is arranged in stalls and the layout is apparently consistent with that of the 19th century (although some things, thankfully, have changed – ladies were finally admitted in 1916).
For more, see www.simpsonstavern.co.uk.
• The 150th anniversary of the Smithfield Market will be celebrated at a street party this weekend. The Museum of London and Smithfield Market are joining in offering the free event which, reminiscent of St Bartholomew’s Fair, will feature food, music and historical re-enactments. Performers include Nadia Rose, Stealing Sheep, Girls Rock London, Gandini Juggling and Horrible Histories. Designed by Sir Horace Jones, the redesigned market – which is owned and managed by the City of London Corporation, was officially opened on 24th November, 1868. Runs from 11am to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday. For more, see www.culturemile.london/festival/smithfield-150/.
• Hampton Court Palace is hosting its annual food festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Highlights include The Kitchen theatre featuring live cookery demonstrations from top chefs and gastronomic experts including Nadiya Hussain, Melissa Hemsley, Dr Rupy Aujla, Rhiannon Lambert, Lisa Faulkner and Michel Roux, Jr and The Classroom, which will be offering hands-on masterclasses such as sourdough workshops and ‘naked cake’ decorating with the BBC Good Food Cookery Team, gin and cocktail masterclasses and kids’ cookery. There will be stalls from more than 100 food providers offering everything from oysters to sausages, sweet treats and ales as well as a bandstand with live music and activities including vintage games, shire horses and a circus school. The festival runs from 25th to 27th August. Free entry to the palace and gardens is included with the ticket. For more, see www.hrpfoodfestivals.com.
• The work of largely forgotten Edwardian female illustrators Alice Bolingbroke Woodward and Edith Farmiloe is going on show in a new exhibition at the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner. Peter Pan and the Other Lost Children, which opens Saturday, has been designed around 19 of Woodward’s original watercolour drawings from the first Peter Pan and also includes seven watercolours from her drawings from a 1930s edition of Alice in Wonderland. The display, which also includes works by Farmiloe, has been timed to coincide with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act of 1918. For more, see www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org.
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This Smithfield institution owes its sign to its close association with the cloth fair once held nearby.
The current Grade II-listed pub at the corner of Middle and Kinghorn Streets dates from the early 19th century but there has apparently been a succession of taverns on the site since the 12th century (the sign on the pub proclaims the date 1532).
Thanks to its location within the precincts of St Bartholomew’s Priory, it became a focal point for the cloth fair which was held nearby between the 12th century and 1855 (the street Cloth Fair is named for it).
As well as being a favoured location for those attending the fair to obtain refreshment, it was also the location of a ‘Court of Pie Powder’ (from French pied poudreux for ‘dusty feet’ ) relating to travelling traders.
The pub’s name, meanwhile, is said to be a reference to the Lord Mayor of London’s practice of officially declaring the fair open by using shears to cut a piece of cloth on the tavern’s doorstep.
The pub also has some association with executions and, legend has it, was a popular spot for people to seek refreshment as they made their way to Newgate Prison where, between 1783 and 1868, executions were held outside the walls in the thoroughfare now known as Old Bailey.
For more, see the pub’s Facebook page.
PICTURE: Google Maps
Helen Fielding’s creation, the thirty-something singleton Bridget Jones, lives in a small flat in London.
While in the original column, Jones’ home was given as Holland Park, a subsequent movie adaptation of the book (and sequels) shifted it to a flat above The Globe Tavern in Borough.
Located at 8 Bedale Street, the property – now rather squashed due to the proximity of railway viaducts – is located in the heart of the famous Borough Market.
A short distance away, at 5 Bedale Street, is where, Daniel Cleaver (played by Hugh Grant) and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) battled it out over Bridget (played, of course, by Renee Zellweger) in the original film.
The Gothic-styled Globe, incidentally, dates from 1872 and was designed by renowned Victorian architect Henry Jarvis. As well as starring in the Bridget Jones books, it also featured in the Michael Caine thriller, Blue Ice.
Famed for its market, the area around the southern end of London Bridge is generally simply known as Borough. But that’s just an abbreviation – Borough is actually a contracted version of Borough of Southwark.
The origins of the word borough come from the Old English burh, a word which originally simply referred to a ‘fortified place’ and, in this case, referred to the settlement which, since Roman times, had grown up outside the city walls around the southern approaches to London Bridge.
It later came to mean a town with its own locally-based government and, according to Cyril M Harris in What’s In A Name?, Southwark was, in the later Middle Ages, the only London borough outside the City Wall which had its own MP.
The fact that the borough was outside City jurisdiction meant it become a popular place for inns, theatres and other forms of entertainment including the infamous Southwark Fair.
Although ‘Borough’ can still be used as an alternative word for the entire Borough of Southwark, these days when people refer to ‘The Borough’, they’re often referring to just a small district of the much larger borough.
While it’s hard to get a fix on exactly where the boundaries of this district are, at the heart of this area is Borough High Street and landmarks particularly associated with it include the Borough Market (see our earlier post here) as well as Southwark Cathedral and the galleried George Inn as well as the Church of St George The Martyr (and, of course, its own Tube station, which opened in 1890).
Singer Amy Winehouse was remembered with the unveiling of a life-size bronze statue at the Stables Market in Camden this week. The work of London-based artist and designer Scott Eaton, the statue – seen here in the studio – was commissioned by her father Mitch Winehouse. Located in the north London district where Winehouse lived until her death in 2011, the statue was unveiled on what would have been her 31st birthday. For more of Eaton’s work, see www.scott-eaton.com. PICTURE: Courtesy of Scott Eaton.
This curiously named area in London’s east – located outside the medieval walls – is named for a priory and hospital founded here in the late 12th century.
The Priory and Hospital of Blessed Mary without Bishopsgate (more commonly known as St Mary Spital), was founded by London citizen Walter Brunus and his wife Roisia (both later said to have been buried before the chapel’s high altar), possibly along with other Londoners, in 1197 (although the priory was apparently “refounded” in 1235 when the church was moved).
An Augustinian institution, it also housed what became one of the largest hospitals in England – as well as caring for pilgrims, widows and the infirm poor, it is said to have provided care for pregnant women and the young children of those who died in childbirth – and the site of a large cemetery.
The hospital survived until the reign of King Henry VIII (although apparently barely with the church said to have been in some disrepair by this time) when it fell prey to Thomas Cromwell and his agents in the Dissolution. It was closed in 1539.
The church and most of the buildings were subsequently demolished with part of the area subsequently used as an artillery ground under the jurisdiction of the Tower of London (the area of the inner priory, meanwhile, reverted to the Crown and retained its status outside the jurisdiction of local authorities, known as the Liberty of Norton Folgate).
But the name remained in use for the suburb which had started to appear around the priory and on its former lands (Spitalfields) and in the seventeenth century a market was established here which ensured its longevity. For more on Old (and New) Spitalfields Market and the area’s later history, see our previous post here.
Major excavations were carried out at the priory cemetery between 1991 and 2007 when more than 10,500 skeletons were unearthed. More than 5,000 of these were analysed providing archaeologists with considerable insight into medieval burials. The remains of a charnel house, dating from about 1320, which was once part of the cemetery still exist in Bishop’s Square.
For more, check out Christopher Thomas’ Life and Death in London’s East End: 2000 Years at Spitalfields.
• Borough Market, which claims to be London’s oldest food and drink market (see our earlier entry on the market here), has introduced a new app which provides smartphone users with an interactive map of the market so they can get information on the go. The app loads automatically when people enter the market website on their phones. Further features of the mobile site are yet to be unveiled. For more information, see www.boroughmarket.org.uk.
• Broadcaster Richard Dimbleby (1913-65) has been honored with an English Heritage blue plaque at his former home in Cedar Court, Sheen Lane, East Sheen in London’s south west. Once the nation’s most famous broadcaster, Dimbleby, father of David Dimbleby, lived at the flat between 1937-39 – a time when he delivered some of his earliest radio reports including one on Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s return from Munich. Dimbleby’s career on radio and television spanned some 30 years and saw him reporting on some of the great events of his time. He was the BBC’s first war correspondent and was the first reporter to describe the horrors of Belsen concentration camp as well as being among the first reporters to enter Berlin where he reported from the ruins of Hitler’s bunker. Dimbleby was also commentator on television specials such as the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/?topic=Blue%20Plaques.
• On Now: Manet – Portraying Life. This display at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly’s Burlington House is the first major exhibition to showcase Edouard Manet’s portraiture in the UK. It examines the relationship between his portraits and his scenes of modern life and includes more than 50 paintings, gathered from public and private collections in Europe, Asia and the US, spanning his career from the mid 1800s to his death in 1883. The exhibition is arranged thematically with different sections looking at Manet’s family, his artist, literary and theatrical friends as well as his models. Highlights include The Luncheon (1868), Mme Manet in the Conservatory (1879), Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets (1872), Street Singer (1862), The Railway (1873) and Music in the Tuileries Gardens (1862). Admission charge applies. Runs until 14th April. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
• On Now: Light Show. This installation at the Hayward Gallery in South Bank “explores the experiential and phenomenal aspects of light” and brings together sculptures and installations that use light to sculpt and shape space in different ways. The artworks date from the 1960s to the present day and are the work of 22 different artists. Admission charge applies. Runs until 28th April. For more, see www.haywardlightshow.co.uk.
While there is said to have been a market in Greenwich since as far back as the 1300s, it was on 19th December, 1700, that Lord Romney granted the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital a charter to hold a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The market was originally located on the site of the Old Royal Naval College’s west gate and the surrounding area but under an initiative to clean up the area in the early 1800s – when the market sold all manner of foodstuffs, including livestock, as well as general goods – saw the commissioners move it to its current location on an “island site” in the midst of a block bounded by Nelson Road, King William Walk, College Approach and Greenwich Church Street.
Under the direction of Greenwich surveyor Joseph Kay (he also built Greenwich’s Trafalgar Tavern), between 1827-1833 the market was rebuilt with three roofs constructed over three linked buildings to protect traders and customers from the weather.
In 1849 an Act of Parliament was passed giving Greenwich Hospital the right to regulate the marketplace including creating byelaws and collecting fees from traders.
In the early 1900s, the byelaws were changed so the market could trade six days a week (except Sundays) and in 1908, the original timber roofing of the market was replaced with the steel and glass roof that still stands today.
The market, which lost its roof when it was struck by flying bombs in 1944, was established as a wholesale market in the years after the war and renovations carried out in the late 1950s/early 1960s. The market remained a wholesale fruit and vegetable market until 1980s when, inspired by the success of Camden Lock Market in London’s north (we’ll look at this market in a later post), it was transformed into an arts and crafts market (officially opened on 14th May, 1985) with shops around the edge let to craft-related businesses.
These days the market has about 150 stalls, selling everything from antiques and fashion to art and photographic work, jewellery, books and gifts as well a host of places to eat and drink in the market and surrounding streets.
A regeneration plan – under which a 100 bed hotel, 17,000sq ft of retail space and 155 trading stalls would be located on the 1.64 acre site currently occupied by the market – is now under consideration by Greenwich Hospital. The market is expected to be relocated to the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College while the regeneration takes place in January with the market reopened in late 2014.
WHERE: The market has four entrances – off Greenwich Church Street, Nelson Road, King William Walk and College Approach, Greenwich (nearest DLR is Cutty Sark); WHEN: 10am to 5.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays (different stalls operate on different days – check website for details); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.shopgreenwich.co.uk/greenwich-market.
This is the last in our series on 10 Historic London Markets (we’ll be looking at more markets in upcoming posts). PICTURE: visitlondonimages/britainonview/Stephen McLaren.
For more on London’s markets, check out The London Market Guide.
One of the more well-known street markets of London, there has been a market operating in Petticoat Lane (later known as Middlesex Street) in East London since the 17th century.
The market – which lies in relatively close proximity to the Columbia Road Flower Market and Old Spitalfields Market as well as Brick Lane – started to emerge in the early 1600s as a place where clothes were traded and received a boost with the arrival of Huguenot silk weavers who settled in the area later that century having fled religious persecution in the continent (it’s believed the lane was named after the silk petticoats which were sold here).
During the 1800s the area become renowned as the centre of the clothes manufacturing trade and the market was the place to buy the clothes. Around 1830, the name of the street was changed from Petticoat Lane to Middlesex Street after some sensibilities were offended that the street was named after unmentionables.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the market became dominated by Jewish traders who had arrived in London, like the Huguenots before them, fleeing persecution in Europe. They added new life to the market and maintained the coster traditions.
Like many other street markets in London, the market didn’t get formal approval until quite late in life – only in 1936 was it was protected by an Act of Parliament.
These days the market – one of 1o managed by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in whose jurisdiction the majority of the market lies – occupies the lanes and streets centring on Middlesex Street including Cobb Street, Goulston Street and Wentworth Street (which has long had a street market in its own right). It is open weekdays as well as Sunday when there are more than 1,000 stalls selling everything from clothes to CDs, books and artwork.
WHERE: Middlesex Street (nearest Tube stations are Aldgate, Aldgate East and Liverpool Street); WHEN: 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm Sunday; COST: Free.
PICTURE: Andrew Dunn, www.andrewdunnphoto.com (via Wikipedia).
Originally founded in the early 1800s, the Columbia Road market in East London has since evolved into a specialist flower market on Sundays.
First emerging as a general street market in the early 1800s, the market was formalised in the mid 1800s when banking heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts financed the construction of the now demolished – and somewhat architecturally fanciful – Columbia Market. This opened in 1869 at the northern end of the road but didn’t prove a great success. Despite efforts to save it – including apparently relaunching it as a fish market – it closed in 1885.
The market building – which is said to have resembled the sort of market hall that might be found in rural areas – was later used as a warehouse but after suffering bomb damage in World War II were demolished.
The market, meanwhile, reappeared on the street and as the area’s Jewish population grew, moved to a Sunday, a decision which allowed traders from Covent Garden and Spitalfields to trade their leftover goods from the previous day.
The introduction of new regulations – including those introduced in the 1960s requiring traders to attend regularly – saw the market gradually transform itself into the colorful market selling cut flowers, plants and bulbs you can find there today. Popular with film makers and photographers thanks to the colourful backdrop it provides, the surrounding streets also feature a range of interesting independent shops and cafes.
WHERE: Columbia Road, Bethnal Green (nearest Tube stations are Shoreditch, Liverpool Street, Aldgate East and Bethnal Green); WHEN: 8am to 2pm Sunday; COST: Free; WEBSITE(S): www.columbiaroad.info/www.columbia-flower-market.freewebspace.com/index.html.
Established far more recently than many of the other markets we’ve looked at, the origins of a market in Portobello Road in London’s inner west only go back to the mid-to-late 19th century.
The oddly named road (it takes its name from the Battle of Porto Bello in the wonderfully named ‘War of Jenkins’ Ear’ between Britain and Spain in the mid 18th century – more on that in an upcoming What’s in a Name? post), was transformed from a mere laneway, known as Greens Lane, to a larger thoroughfare in the mid 180os as the area developed and the market started to take shape in the 1880s.
These days the street market can stretch for a mile along Portobello Road from Golborne Road in the north to Chepstow Villas in the south.
It offers everything from fruit and vegetables and various foodstuffs (sold particularly at the northern end and along Golborne Road itself, known as Golborne Market as well around Elgin Crescent) through to vintage and alternative clothing, music and other bric-a-brac (a section in the middle, around the Westway flyover, specialises in this – this area includes the Acklam Village Market and the Portobello Green Fashion Market) and the world famous antiques market (down at the south end, closer to Notting Hill Gate Tube station – Saturday is the key day here).
Different sections of the market open on different days – there’s a great map showing what opens when on the Portobello and Golborne Markets website here) – but Saturdays and Sundays are sure to find the area packed with people. The street is also lined with independently owned shops (including the colourful buildings above) and arcades and, as well as street food stalls, there’s plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants where you can get a bite to eat.
There is currently a campaign to have Portobello Road declared Britain’s first “business conservation area” with the aim of preserving the character of the market. Head here for more details.
There has been a market on the site now known as Old Spitalfields Market, located on the eastern outskirts of the City of London next to what was the Priory and Hospital of St Mary Spital, since the thirteenth century.
But it was centuries later when, following the tumult of the Civil War, in 1682, John Balch was formally granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II to hold a “flesh, fowl and roots” market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or on the rectangle of land known as Spital Square. A ‘market-house’ was built on the site around this time for administrators with traders selling their wares from stalls.
The success of the market drew people to the area – in particular, Huguenots fleeing France who brought with them new skills in silk-weaving, and later Irish fleeing the Potato Famine and Jews escaping the harsh political climate in Eastern Europe – and the market gained a name for itself as a place to buy fresh produce.
By late in the 19th century, the market had fallen into decline. So, in 1876, a former market porter by the name of Robert Horner decided it needed an upgrade and, buying the lease, had the central market square roofed with glass and new market buildings, known as the Horner Buildings (pictured above), constructed around the northern, eastern and southern sides of the site. Having cost £80,000, it was completed in 1893.
In 1920, the City of London took over control of the market and later than decade expanded the original buildings. Having continued to grow over the ensuing years and with traffic congestion continuing to increase in the surrounding streets, it was decided to move the fresh produce aspect of the market to a new location at Leyton to the north-east.
The new market, known as New Spitalfields Market, covers more than 31 acres and boasts more than 100 traders.
Meanwhile, Old Spitalfields Market, the western end of which was redeveloped in the late 20th century, continues to operate on the original market site – now known as Horner Square, with stalls selling everything from contemporary and vintage fashion to music, gems and jewellery, bric-a-brac and antiques as well as various themed market days – check the website for more details.
A covered – and splendidly decorated – Victorian-era market located just off Gracechurch Street in the heart of the City of London, Leadenhall Market might go un-noticed by many but visit at lunchtime on a weekday and you’ll to fight for space among the besuited City workers looking for sustenance there.
The history of a market on this site goes back to Roman times for it was under the current market that the remains of Londinium’s basilica and forum – the Roman marketplace – can be found (there’s apparently a part of the basilica wall in the basement of one of the Leadenhall shops).
This fell into disuse following the Roman period, however, and the origins of the current market are generally agreed upon as emerging in the 14th century when it occupied the site of a lead-roofed manor (hence “leaden hall) which was at one stage leased by the famous Lord Mayor Richard “Dick” Whittington before it burnt down in the late 1400s. The subsequent market was initially associated with poultry and then with cheese and other foodstuffs (it remained known for game and poultry) and separate areas were later developed for trade in wool, leather and cutlery.
In 1666, a small section of the market was destroyed in the Great Fire of London but it was rebuilt shortly after – for the first time under cover – and was divided into three sections: the Beef Market, the Green Yard and the Herb Market.
In 1881, after the existing building was demolished, a new structure boasting wrought iron and glass was designed by Sir Horace Jones (architect for the Corporation of the City of London, he also designed Billingsgate and Smithfield Markets – see our earlier entries here and here). The market is now one of the City’s five principal shopping centres and, as well as fresh food and flowers, hosts a variety of specialty shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs.
The Grade II* listed building was extensively restored in 1991. It has since starred in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as well as other films including The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and the recent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Before we finish, we would be remiss not to mention Old Tom. A celebrated gander, he managed to avoid the axe for years and became a favorite of traders and customers (even being fed by local innkeepers) – so much so, that when he died at the age of 38 in 1835, his body lay in state before he was buried on site. There’s a bar in the market named for him.
WHERE: Gracechurch Street, City of London (nearest Tube stations are Monument, Bank and Cannon Street); WHEN: Public areas are generally open 24 hours a day with core trading hours between 10am and 5pm weekdays (check with individual shops for opening hours); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.leadenhallmarket.co.uk
PICTURE: DAVID ILIFF. Licence CC-BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikipedia.
Now the UK’s largest inland fish market (and located in Poplar, east London), the history of Billingsgate Market goes back centuries.
Known originally by various spellings including Blynesgate and Byllynsgate, Billingsgate may have been named for watergate on the north bank of the Thames near where the market was originally established (an alternate theory is that it was named for a man named Biling or an mythological British king, Belin).
The right to collect tolls and customs at Billingsgate, along with Cheap and Smithfield, was granted by King Henry IV in 1400.
Billingsgate only became particularly associated with fish in the 1500s and in 1699, an Act of Parliament was passed making it “a free and open market for all sorts of fish whatsoever” (this was with the exception of eels, restricted to being sold by Dutchmen from boats in the river – a reward for the help they provided after the Great Fire of 1666).
While for much of the market’s history, fish was sold for stalls and sheds around the ‘hythe’ or dock at the site known as Billingsgate, in 1850 the first purpose-built market building was constructed in Lower Thames Street.
Deemed inadequate for the task at hand, however, it was demolished after slightly more than 20 years of service. A new building, designed by then City Architect Sir Horace Jones and constructed by John Mowlem, was opened in on the same site in 1876. In the late 19th century, it is said to have been the largest fish market in the world. The heritage listed former fish market building in Lower Thames Street (pictured above) is now used as a venue for corporate events, catwalk shows, post premiere parties and concerts (see the website for more www.oldbillingsgate.co.uk).
In 1982, the market was relocated to a 13 acre site on the Isle of Dogs, just to the north-east of Canary Wharf. The building contains a trading floor with some 98 stands and 30 shops as well as an 800 tonne freezer store. An average of 25,000 tonnes of fish and fish products are sold through its merchants every year and the market has an annual turnover of around £200 million.
The role of the fish porter – who traditionally have been the only people licensed to move fish around the market – was opened up to anyone following a fiercely fought battle between the porters, traders and the City of London Corporation earlier this year.
The market is open to the general public and tours can be arranged – head to the website for details.
WHERE: Billingsgate Market, Trafalgar Way, Poplar (nearest Tube Station is Canary Wharf); WHEN: 4am to 9.30am Tuesday to Saturday (children under 12 are not permitted on the market floor and non-slip shoes are advisable); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/business/wholesale-food-markets/billingsgate/Pages/default.aspx.
Now the largest wholesale meat market in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe, the connections between the site of Smithfield Market, officially known as the London Central Markets, and livestock go back to at least 800 years.
Since the 12th century animals were routinely traded here thanks to the site’s position on what was then the northern edge of the city. Smithfield was also known for being an area for jousting and tournaments and was the location of the (in)famous St Barthlomew Fair (this closed in 1855) as well as an execution ground – among those executed here were Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasant’s Revolt, and ‘Braveheart’, Sir William Wallace (1305).
Skip ahead several hundred years and, by the the mid-1800s, traffic congestion led to the livestock trade being relocated to a new site north of Islington. Plans were soon launched to locate a cut meat market on the Smithfield site.
Following the passing of an Act of Parliament, work on the new market began in 1866 with Sir Horace Jones (he of Tower Bridge fame), the City Architect, overseeing the design. Constructed of ornamental cast iron, stone, Welsh slate and glass, the initial market buildings were completed in 1868 with the result being two vast buildings, separated by a grand central avenue, but linked under a single roof. The new market was opened amid much pomp by the Lord Mayor of London on 24th November, 1868.
Four further buildings were soon added – only one, the Poultry Market, which opened in 1875, is still in use – and in the 1870s the market began to see the arrival of frozen meat imported from as far afield as Australia and South America.
Closed briefly during World War II – when the site was used for storage and an army butcher’s school – it reopened afterwards. The main poultry building was destroyed in a fire in 1958 and a replacement featuring a domed roof – the largest clear spanning dome roof in Europe at the time – was completed by 1963.
More recently, the market underwent a major upgrade in the 1990s. Queen Elizabeth II opened the refurbished East Market Building in June, 1997.
WHERE: London Central Markets, Charterhouse Street and West Smithfield (nearest Tube Stations are Barbican, St Paul’s and Moorgate); WHEN: From 3am Monday to Friday (visitors are told to arrive by 7am to see the market in full swing) (There are walking tours available – see www.cityoflondontouristguides.com for details); COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.smithfieldmarket.com.
PICTURE: Rossella De Berti/www.istockphoto.com
In the first of a new series looking at some of London’s most historic markets, we take a look at the history of Borough Market in Southwark, now the city’s most famous food market.
The origins of a food market in the area go back to at least to the reign of the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred the Unready in early 11th century (some have suggested as far back as Roman times) with food vendors clustering around the southern end of London Bridge. The market was relocated to Borough High Street in the 1200s.
In 1755, traffic congestion saw Parliament close the market but Southwark residents raised £6,000 and bought a small area of land known as The Triangle – once part of the churchyard of the now long gone church of St Margaret’s – and reopened the market there.
The Triangle still remains at the heart of the market which sits partly under railway arches just to the south of the Southwark Cathedral churchyard. New market buildings were constructed in the mid 1800s but deemed “impractical”, they were replaced by new buildings in the late 1800s and 1930s (the latter was when the art deco entrance on Borough High Street was erected).
The market was refurbished in 2001 and the ornate Grade II-listed Floral Hall, which was originally the south portico on the Floral Hall at Covent Garden (taken down to make way for the Royal Opera House), was installed in 2003.
There are now more than 100 stalls in the wholesale and retail food market, making it one of the largest in London. It is owned by a charitable trust, The Borough Market (Southwark), with the volunteer trustees all local residents. Sections in the market include the Jubilee Market and the Green Market and a blue plaque, declaring the market London’s “oldest fruit and veg market”, was installed by Southwark Council earlier this year.
The amazing variety fine food on offer will tempt even the most jaded of palates but be warned that you have to queue as it can get a little packed with tourists at lunchtimes!
WHERE: 8 Southwark Street (nearest Tube Stations are London Bridge or Borough); WHEN: 10am to 3pm Monday to Wednesday, 11am to 5pm Thursday, 12pm to 6pm Friday, and, 8am to 5pm Saturday; COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.boroughmarket.org.uk
We’ll kick off this week with just a few more of the plethora of Olympic-related events which are happening around town:
• Tower Bridge, site of some spectacular fireworks last Friday night, is currently hosting an exhibition celebrating the 26 cities which have hosted the modern Olympics. Cities of the Modern Games, located on the bridge’s walkways, runs alongside an interactive exhibition looking at the bridge’s construction. Follow the link for details.
• The Guildhall Art Gallery is showcasing sculpture and art inspired by sport and the “Olympic values”. The art works are all winning entries from a contest organised by the International Olympic Committee. The chosen works were selected from among 68 submissions made by an international jury. Follow the link for details.
• The Design Museum is hosting a new exhibition celebrating the nexus between sport and design. Designed to Win looks at everything from the design of F1 cars to running shoes, bats and bicycles and explores the way in which design has shaped the sporting world. Runs until 9th September. Admission charge applies. See www.designmuseum.org.
• The London Metropolitan Archives is holding an exhibition of playing cards featuring an Olympic theme. Sporting Aces – Playing Cards and the Olympic Games features cards drawn from the collection of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards which have an Olympic theme. Admission is free. Runs until 13th September. See www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma.
And in other news…
• A night market has been launched at Camden Lock over the summer period. Street food stalls and vintage fashion, arts and crafts and book shops will be open until 10pm every Thursday with extras including live music and film screenings. For more, see www.camdenlockmarket.com.
• On Now: Another London: International Photographers and City Life 1930-1980. This exhibition at Tate Britain in Millbank features more than 150 classic photographs of the city and its communities by foreign photographers including such luminaries as Henri Cartier-Bresson. The exhibition features iconic works such as Robert Frank’s London (Stock Exchange) 1951, Cartier-Bresson’s images of King George VI’s coronation, Elliot Erwitt’s depiction of a rain-washed London bus stop, and Bruce Davidson’s image of a child with pigeons in Trafalgar Square alongside works such as Wolfgang Suschitzky’s images of working class families in the East End, from the 1940s, and Karen Knorr’s images of punks in the 1970s. The photographs all come from the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection, which includes more than 1,200 images of London and has been promised as a gift to the Tate. Runs until 16th September. Admission charge applies. See www.tate.org.uk.
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