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Address: Lower Thames Street London EC3R 6DX
Originally, Billingsgate Fish Market was located on the north bank of the River Thames on Lower Thames Street, just west of the Tower of London and All-Hallows Church (now the oldest Church in the City of London) and oppersite Pudding Lane, (infamous for being the epicentre of the Great Fire of London in 1666). The Billingsgate Market Building still stands today, built in 1876, and can still be visited when there are no events on. the building is easily recognised by the passer-by, if they look up, and see the statue of Britannia 'ruling the waves' with her trident in hand sitting on top.
Edwards the third granted the charter for Billingsgate in 1327, and the charter prohibited rival markets being set up within 6.6 miles of it. This strange distance was as far a person could be expected to travel to sell his produce at a market at the time. Various Charter's and Acts have be granted since then, including one that lays down the responsibility of the City of London as Market Authority for Billingsgate. Billingsgate has also been known as Blynesgate and Byllynsgate previously and was originally a general market. It was 200 years as so after the Market had started that it became an exclusive Fish Market, probably because of it's river location in the Pool of London, ideal for ships to berth and off load their fresh catches directly for sale.
In 1669, three years after the Great Fire of London, an Act of Parliament made Billingsgate a "free and open market for all sorts of fish whatsoever" except for eels. Only the Dutch fishermen who moored on the Thames, were allowed to sell eels. This was in gratitude to these merchants for having fed the people of London during the Great Fire and prevented starvation.
Until 1850 this market was outside and made up of stall and random wooden storage sheds on the 'hythe' or dock at Billingsgate. This was considered no longer practical, due the the size of the market and amount of fish being sold, and a purpose-built market building was constructed on the site in Lower Thames Street. The first building lasted only 23 years before it was realized this structure was again too small. For two years the market reverted back to the 'hythe', whilst City Architect, Sir Horace Jones and builder by John Mowlem designed amd constructed current (old) Billingsgate Market Building.
The market was relocated to the Docklands development in 1982 and still operates from there today. (see below for more information) The (Old) Billingsgate Market is now a listed building, with the interior updated and used for events and lavish after show parties. Incidently, Dr Who famously filmed 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' here in 1973 and captured the building here before the market relocated (in b/w)
Underground (District/Circle): Monument Station - Exit station and follow signs for 'Monument' then follow Monument Street down hill towards the river, to Lower Thames Street - the old market buildings are on the opposite side of the road and can be identified by Britannia and her Trident sitting on top.
By road: There is nowhere to park within reasonable distance from this building.
Address: Billingsgate Market, Trafalgar Way, London E14 5ST
Located in the Docklands, in an area heavily bombed in World War 2 with much dockyard infrastructure lost, and in an area which was completely empty and unused by 1980. The market was opened in West India Docks in 1982, on land sold by the London Port Authority, just prior to The London Docklands Development Corporation taking charge of the area, the then new Conservative Government wrestling control from the local boroughs (and also closing the Greater London Council). The market is still owned and run by the City of London Corporation, even though the area is geographically in Tower Hamlets. This was made possible by agreements between the City Corporation, the merchants, the Docklands Joint Committee, (representing the old GLC) and the Department of the Environment, together with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Since then the London Docklands Development Corporation regenerated the surrounding area, which has been greatly developed and now huge towers lean over this low level market building. Close by is the tallest building, the impressive Canary Wharf. The LDDC eventually was withdrawn from 1994-1997, and now the local boroughs are back in control of the Docklands area and the 'New' Billingsgate Market is still operating, although it is now under threat from from a "Market Review" of all London Markets... Land in London is expensive! So a visit sooner than later may be required!
The market is the UK's largest inland fish market and is aimed at wholesalers mostly, although an ancient market bylaw allows it to be 'free and open market' for the general public. Auctions and 'Auction style' selling is strictly prohibited, so this is one market where sales are fast and without 'catches'. (Forgive the pun). Each trading day at Billingsgate Market offers buyers an opportunity to see the largest selection of fish in the United Kingdom. Daily arrivals from the coast and overseas ensure a continuity of fresh supplies and with some 54 merchants trading in close proximity in the Market Hall, competition is keen. In addition to such a wide selection of fish and fish products, the Market offers buyers a comprehensive service with tenants dealing in cooking oils, potatoes, trade sundries and specialist restaurant and catering supplies.
The Market does not offer regular escorted tours for individual members of the public, however they are open to the public and you are welcome to visit. It is a working market so no under 12's are allowed on the market floor. This maybe more for health and safety than anything else! As well as fish products, there are a few traders dealing in other food related products and even a couple of places to grab a cup of tea and something to eat for breakfast!
The market is open Tuesday to Saturday from 5am to 8.30am. (Sometimes Sundays from 6am-8am). You can get there on the DLR, but check the time table before travelling.
Tube: From Stratford, London Bridge & Waterloo take the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf(10 minutes walk)
DLR: from Bank/Tower Gateway/Stratford/Beckton - to Canary Wharf (10 minutes walk) or to Blackwall (change at Limehouse)(5 minutes walk)
Road: From the City - A1100 Tower Hill - A1203 East Smithfield - The Highway - Limehouse Link Tunnel (follow signs to Royal Docks) on exit form tunnel into Aspen Way. Take the 1st slip road and follow the signs to Billingsgate Market.
From the South - A102 via Blackwall Tunnel take first exit on North side follow signs to Canary Wharf / Isle of Dogs
SatNav Postal Code: E14 5TD