During the 19th century Billingsgate market, situated in the south-east corner of the City of London, was the largest fish market in the world. Originally just a general market by the riverside a 1699 Act of Parliament made Billingsgate ‘a free and open market for all sorts of fish whatsoever’.
The first actual Billingsgate Market building was built on Lower Thames Street in 1850 but it soon became too small and was demolished in 1873. The new building known as Old Billingsgate Market, and the one that still exists today albeit without the market, was designed by the city architect Sir Horace Jones and opened for trading in 1877. The new building was twice the size of the original and incorporated the Billingsgate Stairs and Darkhouse Lane.
Billingsgate market, which had long been seen as rather anachronistic while it was situated in the City of London, ceased trading in 1982. It was reallocated to the Isle of Dogs where it still continued to be run by the City of London Corporation and for which they pay an annual ground rent made up of “the gift of one fish”. The writer George Orwell worked for a short while at Billingsgate in the 1930s as did the the Kray Twins, for about six months, when they were fifteen. It was the longest job they ever had.
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