The Stories Of Billingsgate Fishmongers: Preserved In A New Community Archive

By Maire Rose Connor Last edited 24 months ago
The Stories Of Billingsgate Fishmongers: Preserved In A New Community Archive

In a few short years, Billingsgate Fish Market will be gone — at least, as we know it.

The historic wholesale seafood market has been part of London's social and industrial fabric since the 17th century but there are plans to shut up shop in Poplar — and form a 'megamarket' in Dagenham, along with Smithfield meat market and New Spitalfields fruit and veg market.

In light of the relocation plans, one artist decided to launch a new community-led archive that centres those most impacted: the fishmongers who trade here.

Laurie Bellamy, one of the fishmongers at Billingsgate

Pat Wingshan Wong has spent the last two years getting up at the crack of dawn to sketch the fishmongers at Billingsgate. Over time, she collected their stories — bartering her sketches in exchange for their memories and observed the strong community ties that bind them together. Thus the Barter Archive was born.

An observational sketch of a Billingsgate trader by Pat Wingshan Wong

The Barter Archive — which you can access here — features observational sketches like the one above and 3D scans of meaningful objects submitted by participating fishmongers, including flat caps, oyster knives and ice picks.

Here you'll also find video interviews, many of which highlight the community bonds forged at Billingsgate.

"We’re like family", Martin from Cyprus Seafood says. "Everybody talks to everybody. Everybody listens to everyone’s problems. Everybody likes to chat. There used to be a bar upstairs. A pub. When it’s open, we go have a drink after work."

See Martin's full interview here:

Cyprus Seafood: Martin from Wing Shan Wong on Vimeo.

Last Updated 16 June 2021