Did You Know These 9 Facts About Borough Market?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 9 months ago
Did You Know These 9 Facts About Borough Market?
Photo: ArUK5

1. It's old. Really old.

The market itself claims to be over 1,000 years old, although the earliest known record is 1276. Originally, trade took place closer to the river, at a spot next to the original London Bridge, before moving further down the high street. It's been trading on the current site since 1756.

2. Borough Market as a threat

In medieval times, Borough and the Southwark area wasn't part of London — London was confined to the City of London, only to be reached by the medieval incarnation of London Bridge. Traders at Borough Market riled the City of London by undercutting the prices offered by the City's own traders, to the extent that it banned its citizens from heading south across London Bridge to buy "corn, cattle, or other merchandise" in Southwark.

Southwark (south) and the medieval London Bridge. Image: public domain

3. It caused traffic jams

The market in the the 1700s was a less orderly affair than it is today, consisting of stalls (and livestock) in the middle of Borough High Street — the only thoroughfare into London from the south. The City of London had power over the market by this time, so used an Act of Parliament to close the market down, as it was blocking the road and preventing people from getting to London Bridge and into the City.

The traders at the time were offered the opportunity to purchase pitches at a new, independently run market, which was set up on the site of the current Borough Market.

4. Early doors

Most Londoners think of Borough Market as a lunchtime spot, but did you know that it opens at 2am on weekdays? Before you head for the nearest night bus, this is wholesale only — the public market doesn't open until 10am (8am on Saturdays).

Local pub The Market Porter opens at 6am on weekdays, catering for the market's night workers in need of refreshment after the graveyard shift.

The Market Porter. Photo: pg tips2

5. Death by umbrella

According to the Illustrated Police News of 22 February 1890, a quarrel between two traders in the market resulted in one "striking [the other] in the eye with the end of an umbrella". Alfred How, also known as 'Flash Alf' (no explanation given), was fatally injured in the blow by Edward Lamb, which took place after a lunchtime drinking session in the nearby Harrow public house.

6. The bell, the bell

Photo: Matt Brown

Look out for this bell in Middle Road in the market. Traditionally, a bailiff used to ring a bell to announce the start and the end of the day's trading — it was one of the rules of the market when the current market was founded in 1857. It's not used anymore, but The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall rang the bell to officially reopen the market after a development project in 2013.

It's also worth keeping an eye out for the Schedule of the Rents board while you're wandering around.

7. The part that came from Covent Garden

Photo: JAY

The elegant façade of restaurant Roast on Stoney Street is rather at odds with the industrial architecture of the rest of the market. The portico used to be part of the Floral Hall at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and was put into storage when that was redeveloped in the 1990s, before Borough Market bought it for £1. It's Grade II listed, and was designed by E M Barry.

8. It's quite the film star

Recently the market appeared on the big screen in Bridget Jones's Baby, in which Renee Zellweger's character lives in the flat above the market's Globe Tavern (in real life, the flat belongs to the pub). The mystery of how she could afford the flat still hasn't been solved, but suspend reality for long enough to admire the view of The Shard she enjoys from her window.

Prior to this, the market appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in the scene in which the Knight Bus drops Harry off at the Leaky Cauldron pub (more on that here). The exterior shot was filmed on Stoney Street, but the interior was filmed in the studio. Key locations in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels were also filmed at the market.

9. Listed buildings destroyed

The new bridge in situ over Borough High Street — it was finished in October 2010. Photo: Londonist

Thought listed buildings couldn't be altered destroyed? Think again. The Thameslink Programme, which has redeveloped London Bridge station, has also involved adding another railway bridge over the top of Borough Market, allowing Thameslink trains to run on separate tracks to their Southeastern counterparts.

The construction of this new railway bridge and viaduct right over Borough Market involved lots of work in the area — including the destruction of around 23 listed buildings, many in the market itself and most of them Victorian.

The Globe pub is now wedged between two railway bridges. Photo: Andy Kirby

The Grade II listed Wheatsheaf pub on Stoney Street has its top floor lopped off and replaced with an extension on the back of the building, while the Globe is now wedged between two viaducts. At one point the new viaduct passes just 157mm from a building

See also: 7 things you might not have done in Borough Market.

Last Updated 23 March 2017