Borough Market Is A Thousand Years Old

Ben Norum
By Ben Norum Last edited 44 months ago
Borough Market Is A Thousand Years Old

Photo by the randyman can from the Londonist Flickr Pool

If you felt old on your last birthday, then spare a thought for Borough Market which turns a thousand tomorrow. Yep, that jam-packed tourist foodie favourite has been around for a whole millennium.

Borough Market in the early 1900s

It first launched as a street market on what is now Borough High Street in the 11th Century and later caused outcry as it was so successful that it threatened the prosperity of markets in the City, just over London Bridge. At the time, its popularity was spurred on by its relative cheapness compared with stalls on the north bank of the river, a very different story to nowadays when it’s among the most expensive places in London to shop.

The market went from strength to strength before eventually being closed by an act of parliament in the 18th Century due to it causing too much congestion on the street. When this happened, Southwark residents were granted permission to start a new market away from the road by way of compensation. In 1756 a group of locals launched Borough Market in its current location and it slowly built up to become one of London’s most important food markets.

Its success was helped in no small way by the transport options offered by its riverside location, and although at that time it was mainly trade-focused it gradually became more consumer oriented and morphed into the destination we have today.

Join in the celebrations

Borough Market will commemorate its anniversary tomorrow with an event called Footsteps In Time, and everyone’s invited. Tubs of different coloured paint (eco friendly and wash-away) will be placed at each of the three main market entrances with the idea being that visitors walk through it on their way in and leave multi-coloured footprints behind them as they browse the stalls, creating a work of contemporary art as they go.

“The work will beautifully represent all the millions of feet that have passed through the Market over the centuries,” says the market’s managing director, Keith Davis. And for full effect, it’s worth bearing in mind that this includes the feet of William Shakespeare and Charlie Chaplin, as well as more modern celebrities during the filming of Bridget Jones's Diary, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The paint will be washed away at the end of the day, but the duration of the footstep making will be filmed from above to create a thoroughly modern commemorative timelapse video. If you do attend, the organisers encourage you to post on social media using the hashtag #BoroughMarket1000.

We see a glut of #MarketSelfies coming on.

Last Updated 19 September 2014