Dive Into This Free Exhibition About Billingsgate Fish Market

Dive Into This Free Exhibition About Billingsgate Fish Market

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Black and white photo of porters at Billingsgate
Billingsgate Market has been a hive of fishy activity for centuries.

"A large Watergate, Port or Harbrough for shippes and boats, commonly arriuing there with fish, both fresh and salt, shell fishes, salt, Orenges, Onions, and other fruits and rootes, wheate, Rie, and garine of diuers sorts …"

That's John Stow's description of Billingsgate Market in the early 17th century; in fact an official fish market was in operation in the City in the 14th century, as you'll discover at Guildhall Art Gallery's latest exhibition, which features Liber Horn — a compilation of charters, statutes and customs made by the Chamberlain of the City in 1311, that's illustrated with small fish.

An old painting pf Billingsgate on theThames with boats next to it
Horace Jones' Billingsgate Market building opened in 1875 and still exists, although business moved out to Poplar in 1982.

Other objects on display at the free show — running seven days a week from now until May 2024 — include a 17th century petition by the fishermen protesting at being "... hindered and oppressed by great vessels loaded with salt and oranges..." thanks to the bustling fish market at that time; a print of Sir Horace Jones' market building, which opened in 1875; and 20th century photographs of a busy market and of porters plying their trade.

Billingsgate Market has been in Poplar, east London, since 1982, but will soon move to a new home in Dagenham, along with Smithfield meat market, and — at some point — New Spitalfields fruit and veg market.

Billingsgate Market exhibition, City Heritage Gallery, Guildhall, until 16 May 2024, free

Last Updated 28 February 2024

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