|Ward of Billingsgate|
Ward of Billingsgate shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|Sui generis||City of London|
|Administrative area||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Police||City of London|
|UK Parliament||Cities of London and Westminster|
|London Assembly||City and East|
Billingsgate, as a water-gate to the city of Trinovantum (the name given to London in medieval British legend), is mentioned the Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), written circa 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. This work describes how Belinus, a legendary king of Britain said to have held the throne from about 390 BCE, built a water-gate to the City of London with a tower above it:
In the town of Trinovantum Belinus caused to be constructed a gateway of extraordinary workmanship, which in his time the citizens called Billingsgate, from his own name. ... Finally, when his last day dawned and carried him away from this life, his body was cremated and the ash enclosed in a golden urn. This urn the citizens placed with extraordinary skill on the very top of the tower in Trinovantum which I have described.
Originally it was known as Blynesgate and Byllynsgate, and may indeed have originated with a water-gate on the Thames, where goods were landed, becoming Billingsgate Wharf, part of the London docks close to Lower Thames Street.
John Stow records that Billingsgate Market was a general market for corn, coal, iron, wine, salt, pottery, fish and miscellaneous goods until the 16th century, when neighbouring streets became a specialist fish market. By the 16th century, most merchant vessels had become too large to pass London Bridge, and Billingsgate, with its deeply recessed harbour, replaced Queenhithe as the most important landing-place in the City.
Here, by the permission of Heaven, hell broke loose upon this protestant city, from the malicious hearts of barbarous Papists, by the hand of their agent Hubert, who confessed, and on the ruins of this place declared the fact, for which he was hanged, viz. That here began the dreadful fire, which is described and perpetuated on and by the neighbouring pillar, erected Anno 1680, in the mayoralty of Sir Patience Ward, knight.
After the Great Fire of London, arcaded shops and stalls lined the west side of the harbour and at its head lay an open market-square known as Roomland.
Billingsgate Fish Market was formally established by an act of parliament in 1699 to be "a free and open market for all sorts of fish whatsoever". Oranges, lemons, and Spanish onions were also landed there, alongside the other main commodities, coal and salt. In 1849, the fish market was moved off the streets into its own riverside building, which was subsequently demolished (c. 1873) and replaced by an arcaded market hall (designed by City architect Horace Jones, built by John Mowlem) in 1875.
In 1982, the fish market was relocated to a new building close to Canary Wharf in east London. The original riverside market building was then refurbished (by architect Richard Rogers) to provide office accommodation.
The raucous cries of the fish vendors gave rise to "billingsgate" as a synonym for profanity or offensive language.
The ward contains the Customs House and the Watermen's Hall, built in 1780 and the only surviving Georgian guild hall. Centennium House in Lower Thames Street has Roman baths within their basement foundations.
Billingsgate is one of 25 wards in the City of London, each electing an alderman to the Court of Aldermen and commoners (the City equivalent of a councillor) to the Court of Common Council of the City of London Corporation. Only electors who are Freemen of the City of London are eligible to stand.
In popular culture
Billingsgate is also referenced in the song "Sister Suffragette" in the 1964 version of Mary Poppins.
- Historia Regum Britanniae [iii.II]
- Spelling was not standardised until much later (Borer)
- History of Billingsgate accessed 21 May 2007
- Derived the name from the butchers in Eastcheap "having their scalding house for hogs there; and their puddings with other filth being conveyed thence down to their dung boats in the Thames" (Stow).
- 'Book 2, Ch. 7: Billingsgate Ward', A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (1773), pp. 551-53 accessed: 21 May 2007
- Billie Cohen (January 2005). "Lox, Stock and Barrel". National Geographic Magazine.
- Word of the Day Archive - Monday June 12, 2006 accessed 21 May 2007
- Built by Wren, but gutted in 1941(Whinney)
- So called after the templates that were used by the clogmakers of the district(Reynolds)
- As the resident population of the area declined(Huelin).
- Ward Constable profile
- Ward Newsletter
- Ward map
- Ward Club
- Map of Early Modern London: Billingsgate Ward - Historical Map and Encyclopedia of Shakespeare's London (Scholarly)
- The City of London-a history Borer,M.I.C. : New York,D.McKay Co, 1978 ISBN 0-09-461880-1
- Vanished churches of the City of London Huelin, G.: London, Guildhall Library Publishing 1996ISBN 0900422424
- The Churches of the City of London Reynolds,H London, Bodley Head, 1922*
- A Survey of London, Vol I Stow,J p427 : Originally,1598: this edn-London, A.Fullarton & Co,1890
- Wren Whinney,M London Thames & Hudson, 1971 ISBN 0-500-20112-9