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Billingsgate

Billingsgate

[bil-ingz-geyt or, especially Brit., -git]
Billingsgate, wharf and fish market, London, England, on the north bank of the Thames River. The market was named after a river gate in the old city wall. The word Billingsgate, a synonym for coarse language, arose from references to the speech of the district's fish mongers. The market has been relocated to a modern facility on the Isle of Dogs, a split of land near the West India dock.

Billingsgate is a ward in the south-east of the City of London, lying on the north bank of the River Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. It is found within the boundary defined by the river, Lovat Lane, Fenchurch Street, Mark Lane and Sugar Quay.

Origins

Originally it was known as Blynesgate and Byllynsgate, and may have originated with a water gate on the Thames, where goods were landed, becoming Billingsgate Wharf, part of the London docks close to Lower Thames Street. Stow records that the market was a general market for corn, coal, iron, wine, salt, pottery, fish and miscellaneous goods until the 16th century, when neighbouring streets became a specialist fish market . By the 16th century, most merchant vessels had become too large to pass London Bridge and Billingsgate, with its deeply recessed harbour, replaced Queenhithe as the most important landing-place in the City.

The ward includes Pudding Lane, where in 1666, the Great Fire of London began. A sign was erected upon the house in which it began:

After the Great Fire of London, arcaded shops and stalls lined the west side of the harbour and at its head lay an open market-square known as 'Roomland'.

Fish market

Billingsgate Fish Market was formally established by an Act of Parliament in 1699 to be "a free and open market for all sorts of fish whatsoever". Oranges, lemons, and Spanish onions were also landed there, alongside the other main commodities, coal and salt. In 1849, the fish market was moved off the streets into its own riverside building, which was subsequently demolished (c. 1873) and replaced by an arcaded market hall (designed by City architect Horace Jones, built by John Mowlem) in 1875.

  • The Churches of the City of London Reynolds,H London, Bodley Head, 1922*
  • A Survey of London, Vol I Stow,J p427 : Originally,1598: this edn-London, A.Fullarton & Co,1890
  • Wren Whinney,M London Thames & Hudson, 1971 ISBN 0500201129

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