History of Billingsgate Market celebrated at City of London Heritage Gallery

The history of one of the most popular and historic markets in London is being celebrated at the City of London Heritage Gallery in the heart of the Square Mile.

Billingsgate Market was described by John Stow's 1603 Survey of London as a bustling waterfront hub for ships laden with an array of goods, including fresh and salted fish, fruits, and vegetables.

Since then, Billingsgate Market, which is owned by the City of London Corporation, has played a vital role in shaping and feeding the City.

Located within Guildhall Art Gallery, the Heritage Gallery provides a unique space in which to display some of the most iconic documents, books, images, and maps from the extensive collections held at the City Corporation’s Clerkenwell-based London Metropolitan Archives.

The items on display in Billingsgate Market at the Heritage Gallery, include:

  • Liber Horn, a compilation of charters, statutes, and customs made by Andrew Horn (Chamberlain of the City 1320-1328) in 1311, illustrated by small images of fish showing their importance to Londoners.
  • A late seventeenth century petition by the fishermen protesting at being '... hindered and oppressed by great vessels loaded with salt and oranges...' and requesting clearance of the dock so that they can have access.
  • The flourishing market is shown by nineteenth century volumes recording the collection of tolls and detailing the licensing of porters and by a print of the market building designed by Sir Horace Jones.
  • Twentieth century photographs of a busy market and of porters plying their trade.

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee, Munsur Ali, said:

“Billingsgate Market has served Londoners - and indeed, the whole of the UK - well for many centuries, providing it with fresh fish and shellfish, and it feels entirely right to celebrate the market’s history with some of our related heritage assets.

“While these items look back at Billingsgate Market’s past, it is currently preparing for a bright new future, along with Smithfield Market, in a purpose-built, 42-acre site at Dagenham Docks.

“My colleagues and I hope that this evocative display will be enjoyed by heritage and history lovers, as well as anyone – past, present, and perhaps even, future - connected to this most popular of food markets.”

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Markets Board, Henry Pollard, said:

"It is wonderful to see the history of Billingsgate Market being exhibited and celebrated in this way.

“Whilst it is important to look back at Billingsgate Market’s past, we can also reflect as we prepare for the market's bright new future, as it moves along with Smithfield Market, to a purpose-built, 42-acre site at Dagenham Docks in 2028."

The City of London Corporation owns three historic wholesale food markets. Billingsgate (fish), New Spitalfields (fruit, vegetables and flowers), and Smithfield (meat) are vital to the capital’s food wholesale and retail sector, and putting food on Londoners’ tables.

The City Corporation is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year. The organisation manages a range of world-class cultural and heritage institutions, including the Barbican Centre, Tower Bridge, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Guildhall Art Gallery, London Metropolitan Archives, and Keats House. It also supports the London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London.

Billingsgate Market at the Heritage Gallery is free to view and runs until 16 May – more details from

The City of London Corporation’s flagship Destination City programme sets out a vision for the Square Mile to become a world-leading leisure destination for UK and global visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy. Dedicated to making the City a thriving, seven-day-a-week destination, Destination City will power the Square Mile’s recovery from the pandemic, reaching new and existing audiences to encourage footfall and spend.


About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally successful UK.   

About Guildhall Art Gallery:

The historic Guildhall Art Gallery is owned and managed by the City Corporation. It opened in 1886 and is home to the organisation’s magnificent art collection. Particularly rich in Victorian art and ranging from Pre-Raphaelites to depictions London’s colourful past, the Gallery’s basement houses the remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre, dating from AD70. The Gallery also owns one of the largest oil paintings in Britain, John Singleton Copley’s Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar (1783 – 1791), which is on permanent display.

Guildhall Art Gallery is open from Monday to Sunday, 10.30am to 4pm (last admission, 3.45pm). Guildhall Yard, London, EC2V 5AE. Free admission to the permanent collection. Booking recommended. Tel: 020 7332 3700

 About London Metropolitan Archives:

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), which is owned and managed by the City of London Corporation, is the archive repository for the Greater London area. The documents and books that LMA cares for, and provides access to, date from 1067 to the present day and collections are constantly expanding. The archives are free to use, as are the majority of resources in the public research rooms.

London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London, EC1R 0HB

London Metropolitan Archives is open to visitors at the following times:

·         Monday - 10am to 4pm

·         Tuesday - 10am to 4pm

·         Wednesday - 10am to 7pm

·         Thursday - 10am to 4pm

·         Saturdays – 9 December, 13 January, 10 February, 9 March - 10am to 4pm

(Closed on Bank Holidays - check the website for full details)