Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century and is situated in what was the centre of Roman London. Originally a meat, poultry and game market, it is now home to a number of boutique retailers, restaurants, cafes, wine bars and an award-winning pub.
Starting as the site of a manor, Leadenhall Market has survived changes in use, rebuilding, and even the Great Fire to become a popular destination for city residents, visitors and workers. Situated in the centre of the City of London’s financial district, the current Grade II listed Market building, designed by Horace Jones, dates back to 1881. Its airy and light wrought iron and glass structure replaced the stone market previously created by Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington in the 15th Century.
THE HEART OF ROMAN LONDINIUM
Leadenhall Market sits at the heart of Roman London – underneath its arches and cobblestones lie part of the Roman Forum (marketplace). In 1803, excavations in the Leadenhall area found a stunning example of Roman mosaic artwork, 9 feet 6 inches below street level. The subject of the mosaic was Bacchus, riding on a tiger and surrounded by drinking cups, cornucopia, serpents and other symbolic objects. Sadly, some of it had already been destroyed to build a sewer, but what remains now resides in the British Museum.
During the 19th century ‘Old Tom’ was a celebrated character in Leadenhall. He was a gander who managed to escape his fate of being slaughtered along with 34,000 other geese. He became a great favourite in the market, even being fed at the local inns. After his death in 1835 at the age of 38, he lay in state in the market and was buried on site.
CHARLES DICKENS & A CHRISTMAS CAROL
‘And Scrooge ran out into Christmas Day morning and he was a very different Scrooge than the one who left his door the morning before’
On Christmas Day, Scrooge awakens transformed and asks a passing boy to fetch him a prize turkey and have it delivered to the Cratchits. It’s very likely this would have been purchased in Leadenhall Market which was London’s go-to place for buying fowl.
HARRY POTTER & MORE
Part of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the first film in the blockbuster series) was filmed in Leadenhall in 2000/2001. The market was used to represent the area of London leading to the popular wizarding pub The Leaky Cauldron and was the inspiration for the magical shopping street Diagon Alley.
Leadenhall Market is a popular choice as a filming location and can be seen in many other movies including: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Hearafter and Love Aaj Kal. The pop group Erasure also filmed their music video for Love to Hate You in the market in 1991.
Built on the site of a Roman Basilica (Courts) and Forum (Market), Leadenhall was the largest market north of the Alps and occupied an area bigger than that of Trafalgar Square.
In 1309 the Manor of Leadenhall was first listed as belonging to Sir Hugh Neville. Leadenhall Market was originally a lead-roofed manor house located within London’s Lime Street Ward. It is from its original lead roof that it derives its name. By 1321, the area around Leadenhall Manor was a known meeting place for poulterers. They were joined, in 1397, by cheesemongers.
In 1408 the former Lord Mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington acquired the lease of the building, and acquired the site in 1411, gifting it to the City. It quickly became one of the best places in London to buy meat, game, poultry and fish. The meat and fish market occupied a series of courts behind the grand lead-roofed mansion of Leadenhall Market on Leadenhall Street. The site grew in importance as a granary and a chapel were built to service those coming to the market.
In 1463, the beam for the Tronage (royal tax upon wool) and weighing of wool was fixed at Leadenhall Market, signifying its importance as a centre for commerce. In 1488, it was decided that leather for Londoners was only allowed to be sold from Leadenhall Market. The Leather Market later moved to Bermondsey.
Leadenhall Market was an important and integral part of the surrounding community. The inclusion of a school and chapel suggests that it was much more than simply a space to buy and sell goods. During the reigns of the Tudor and Stuart Monarchs, it was used as a venue for shows and festivals.
In 1622, a cutlery monopoly was granted to Leadenhall Market. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of the City of London, including parts of the market. When it was rebuilt not long after, it became a covered structure for the first time and was divided into the Beef Market, the Green Yard and the Herb Market.
Business continued until Leadenhall’s redevelopment in 1881 with the City’s architect, Horace Jones, who also designed Smithfield Market and Tower Bridge. His designs replaced the earlier stone structure with wrought iron and glass – a structure which in 1972 was given Grade II* listed status.
Extensively restored in 1991, Leadenhall Market offers a spectacular Victorian setting with the roof, cobbles and buildings preserved. By the mid-20th Century the shops were also being used for general retailing and leisure and by the end of the Century Leadenhall Market had evolved into one of the City’s five principal shopping centres.
In 2021 Leadenhall Market continues to provide a wide range of shopping and dining options to its visitors. Looking at the beautifully clean, airy and vibrant Victorian buildings of today it’s hard to imagine the noise and smells of a 19th century market, but if you look closely at the shop fronts you will see the original wrought iron hooks where produce used to hang.
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