The Leadenhall Market in London, England, is of the oldest markets in London, located in a Historic market between Lime Street and Gracechurch Street. The site occupied by the market once held the basilica and forum of the Roman city of Londinium.
During the Middle Ages, the Neville family owned the site, whose mansion-house boasted a lead roof, hence the name ‘Leadenhall’. A poultry market was established sometime before 1377 for people from outside London.
The Corporation of the City of London, under the leadership of Lord Mayor Dick Whittington, purchased the site in 1411, and the market was enlarged to provide a location for selling poultry, grain, eggs, butter, cheese, and other foodstuffs.
In 1488 Leadenhall Market was granted a monopoly for selling leather, and in 1622 cutlery was added as a monopoly to Leadenhall.
Neville’s mansion and the market buildings of Leadenhall were destroyed in the Great Fire of London. The market was rebuilt as three distinct areas selling beef, herbs, lamb-related products, and fish, poultry, and cheese.
In the early 1800s, many geese were sold from Leadenhall Market. One goose that achieved a measure of notoriety was ‘Old Tom, ‘ a gander that survived the unfortunate end. He met his fellows and became a local celebrity, being feted and fed at all the local inns. When Old Tom finally died (of old age) in 1835, he lay in an open casket so that mourners could pay their last respects.
The stone market structure was replaced in 1881 by the current market building, a lovely cast iron and glass structure designed by Horace Jones. Under the glassed roof are cobbled alleys leading past colourfully painted retail shops.
The market is no longer specifically for game, meat, and poultry but provides a more general retail environment, like a modern shopping centre in a more attractive historic environment.
The market was used as a location for Diagon Alley in the 2001 film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Today, it draws visitors as much to enjoy its unique ambience and evocative architecture as to pick up a bargain in one of the shops.
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