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TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
Billingsgate Fish Market
One of the oldest markets in London, right on the river.
Location: Trafalgar Way, London
Description: Billingsgate was known as Blynesgate and Byllynsgate before the name settled into its present form. The origin of the name is unclear and could refer to a watergate at the south side of the City where goods were landed-perhaps owned by a man named 'Biling'-or it may have originated with Belin (400BC) an ancient King of the period.
Billingsgate was originally a general market for corn, coal, iron, wine, salt, pottery, fish and miscellaneous goods and does not seem to have become associated exclusively with the fish trade until the sixteenth century.
In 1699 an Act of Parliament was passed making it a free and open market for all sorts of fish whatsoever. The only exception to this was the sale of eels which was restricted to Dutch fishermen whose boats were moored in the Thames. This was because they had helped feed the people of London during the Great Fire.
Until the mid-nineteenth century, fish and seafood were sold from stalls and sheds around the 'hythe' or dock at Billingsgate. As the amount of fish handled increased, a purpose-built market became essential. In 1850 the first Billingsgate Market building was constructed on Lower Thames Street but it proved to be inadequate and was demolished in 1873 to make way for the building which still stands in Lower Thames Street today. This was designed by the City Architect, Sir Horace Jones and built by John Mowlem.
It was opened in 1876 and is now a listed building.