Billingsgate is a small ward in the south-east of the City of London, lying on the north bank of the River Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.
It is bounded to the south by the Thames, to the west by Lovat Lane and Rood Lane, to the north by Fenchurch Street and Dunster Court, and in the east by Mark Lane and St. Dunstan's Hill.
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: Template:Quotation
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.<ref name=City>History of Billingsgate accessed 21 May 2007</ref> 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.
Until boundary changes in 2003, the ward included Pudding Lane, where in 1666 the Great Fire of London began.<ref name=new>'Book 2, Ch. 7: Billingsgate Ward', A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (1773), pp. 551-53 accessed: 21 May 2007</ref> A sign was erected upon the house in which it began: Template:Quotation
thumb in 1720.]] thumb thumb. Behind Legal Quays lays Thames Street, with its warehouses, sugar refineries and cooperages.]] thumb, a view of the Legal Quays, between Billingsgate Dock and the Tower. Boitard's engraving, 'Imports from France', provided a satirical look at Londoners' passion for French luxury goods and manners. Although Boitard deliberately exaggerated the number of both people and shipping, he also provided the most accurate picture of the Legal Quays at work. Boitard recorded treadwheel cranes, beamscales, Customs' Officers gauging barrels and porters handling cargoes. Smuggling, theft and pilferage of cargoes were rife on both the busy open wharves and in the crowded warehouses.]]
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.<ref name=City/>
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.
The ward contains two churches: St Mary-at-Hill and St Margaret Pattens, but another, St. George's Botolph Lane, was demolished in 1904.
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
Lord Blackadder, the titular hero of Blackadder II, resided in Billingsgate.
In chapter 3 of Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Mr. Sedley has "brought home the best turbot in Billingsgate."
Billingsgate is also referenced in the song "Sister Suffragette" in the 1964 version of Mary Poppins.
- 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