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Around Billingsgate Market

April 8, 2014
by the gentle author

These intriguing photographs are selected from a cache of transparencies of unknown origin, recently acquired by the Bishopsgate Institute. We believe they date from the nineteen sixties but the photographer is unidentified. Can anyone tell us more?

Fish Porters at Number One Snack Bar next to St Magnus the Martyr

Looking west along Lower Thames St and Monument St

Sign outside St Mary-At-Hill

Pushing barrows of ice up Lovat Lane

Passage next to St Mary-At-Hill

Carved mice on a building in Eastcheap

Old shop in Eastcheap

Billingsgate Market cat

Inside the fish market designed by Horace Jones

Old staircase near Billingsgate

The Coal Exchange, built 1847 demolished 1962

Part of London Bridge crossing Lower Thames St, now removed

The Old Wine Shades, Martin Lane

Sign of a Waterman, now in Museum of London

In All Hallows Lane

Derelict site next to Cannon St Station

Looking towards Bankside Power Station by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, now Tate Modern

Old Blackfriars Station

The Blackfriar pub

Sculptures upon the Blackfriar

Sunrise over Tower Bridge

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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At the Fish Harvest Festival

Charlie Caisey, Fishmonger

Roland Collins’ Photographs

23 Responses leave one →
  1. April 8, 2014

    This has brought back many memories. My Dad William (Bill) Lang worked for WH Dorset
    Potatoe Salesmen. My dad passed away in 1953, I was eight years old. I used to go up to Billingsgate (Lower Thames Street) every Saturday, whilst Dad worked at the shop, followed afterwards by a visit to the Tower. Wh Dorset was just near the part of the London Bridge now demolished. I remember the men – Dad called them pushers up the hill, who pushed the produce up Monument Hill (in the photograph they are pushing ice). Our cat was a market cat – keen as mustard – he used protect the potatoe sacks from the rats. There was another branch of the company across the river. This was a time of fish smells, old buildings and brought alive the history of this part of the city, with the Monument, the spice wharves, and the Tower.
    Sandra Stewart now living in New Zealand

  2. Paul Kelly permalink
    April 8, 2014

    Lots of theses places still exist.Especially doing well is the Blackfriars pub.The old Billingsgate is used now as an events arena, hosting all sorts of evenings. One of the reasons for the move from Lower Thames street is that the area was too small for maneuverability and heavy traffic coming into London needed the access route that the market occupied. The modern day Billingsgate is housed in the shadows of the huge towers of Canary Wharf and easier for traders getting in and out of the big smoke. The modern market does exude a certain charm and well worth a visit; don’t forget bargains are to be had when buying at source!!!

  3. April 8, 2014

    What superb photos.
    And buildings – the old shop & Coal Exchange look particularly fine.
    Lovely colours

  4. April 8, 2014

    Oh my heavens – The Blackfriars Pub on the inside

  5. Greg Tingey permalink
    April 8, 2014

    LOTS of clues as to dats here (in some picture, anyway)
    The older ones have colour-values that are obviously “out” – the film available then wasn’t particulalrly good at rendition.
    Look at the dirt/cleanliness of the buildings – some of the later ones, not only are the film-colour-values better, but the buildings are cleaner.
    Where visible, look at cars: whne was that make/model first built? Gives you an “earliest” date – of note here are pictures: 11, 17, 18 – the pictures of the “Black Friar” were also obviously taken at the same time.
    Similarly no 2 is early – probably before 1955.
    The damaged roof was taken off Cannon St station in 1958 – but I’m not sure if it would have been visible from that viewpoint, anyway – see also the finale of the Ealing fim: “Hue & Cry” of 1947

  6. Jose Cadaveira permalink
    April 8, 2014

    What an incredible collection of photos, brilliant!

  7. April 8, 2014

    Astonishing views — especially the Blackfriar pub with it’s imposing architecture!

    And beneath there are cars I got from “Matchbox” when I was a child …!

    Love & Peace

  8. April 8, 2014

    A wonderful find and some beautiful pictures of the analogue world we used to live in. I like the processing colour-casts, they remind me of hot darkrooms. Today’s commercial sign makers take note!

  9. April 8, 2014

    Fantastic collection of photos, and for me another trip down memory lane, thanks! Valerie

  10. Elli Pyne permalink
    April 8, 2014

    Wonderful old photos, my Dad, Brother, Uncle and Cousin all worked at Billingsgate Market. I remember my Dad bringing his heavy tarred hat home to re-tar and I still have his market licence and subscription record. I would be happy to give to any one who collects this sort of item. Over the years I heard lots of tales about ‘One tree park’ and the porters cry of ‘Up the hill’. My Dad, John Pyne worked as a Porter most of his life and around 70 years old still unpacked fish lorries, he finally retied aged 81 to look after my Mum.
    Thank you for posting, enjoyed them immensely.

  11. April 8, 2014

    Beautiful! Good old London! I would not live anywhere but London!

  12. Pete permalink
    April 8, 2014

    Fantastic pictures ! ….The photo with cars must be 1967/68 or later as there is an F reg Mini van in view !

  13. April 10, 2014

    @Paul Kelly, SO good to hear that about the Blackfriar Pub! Almost the first thought I had after seeing its amazing architecture was “I bet it got pulled down not long after this picture was taken” and it was like a visceral sadness. Same with Prince Henry’s Rooms and the Staple Inn in the other post of photos from this collection – deep sadness at the losses of built history followed by glee that these particular buildings, at least, are not lost!

  14. John permalink
    April 22, 2014

    The picture of porters outside of the cafe is in Lower Thames Street – this was cleared away in the 70s to make way for new office space/lorry park area.

    The picture of Lovat Lane with Morcks shows the old dressing rooms for the porters – not very sophisticated but that was what was special about the old market.

    I have visited the new market but please do not underestimate just the sheer volume of fish that used to go through the old market – quite massive compared with today’s tonnage levels!

  15. John permalink
    April 22, 2014

    I should have said – with overtime cutting eels – as a porter in 1969 I was earning in excess of £120 per week some weeks – for the clever ones out there you do the maths to calculate what that would be worth in today’s money!

    In those days, sheer hard work could get you up the ladder – it is sad for the youngsters today because these opportunities are now very rare.

  16. Dennis Patten permalink
    June 23, 2014

    For me, these photos are both a joy and somewhat tinged with sadness…I was a porter in Billingsgate from 1962 until 1968 when I left for a new life in Canada and the USA. My first job was at Thomas M Wright, shellfish merchants in the bottom left hand corner of the main market, next to Ted Holts Cafe. I also worked for a few years at Vango and Gorman owned partly by Spencer Kingsford, an Australian and relative of Kingsford-Smith, an aviator who has Sydney Airport named after him.
    In 2007, I visited Tsukuji Fish market in Japan and was saddened to learn from the Japanese porters, that the Worlds biggest wholesale Fish Market was being moved from the centre of Tokyo to the outer city suburbs…… Since leaving Billingsgate, I have owned a local Canadian newspaper, hosted Radio shows, Mc’d appearance by everyone from Jacquie Collins to Jackie Chan, managed a big Club/Casino. ran wrestling shows in the Fiji Islands and lots more. Today i live in Sydney Australia, married to a Vietnamese woman, with children in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, London and a 22 year old son Marcus in Australia….Not bad for a bloke from Bethnal Green, who once pulled barrows up Monument Street filled with produce from Aberdeen and Grimsby !!!

  17. Pauline Allen permalink
    August 10, 2014

    How I love these photograph’s of the old buildings of my memories.
    So sad that many are no more. I used to get off at Blackfriars and
    walk over the bridge to work. Also, at the Unilever building, same
    side as station. I also worked in Mincing Lane. A short walk to the
    Monument. Brings back lots of memories. Thank you for capturing

  18. clare page permalink
    October 29, 2014

    My dad worked at a printing company called A G Bishop in Lovat Lane – can anyone remember it or the actual number it was on Lovat Lane ? Thanks in advance.

  19. John Cousins permalink
    May 20, 2019

    My dad, Jack Cousins, who died 17 years ago in 2002 aged 87 worked as porter for many years before firstly selling fish off the back of a Ford Thames van in Muswell Hill and Finchley. finally acquiring a open-fronted fish shop on Aylma Parade, East Finchley. I worked in the fish game with dad for nearly 12 years stating in 1965 when leaving school aged 16, going down Billingsgate early, buying and loading up the van with fresh fish and then off to the shop. Good days and great memories. I’m 70 today and looked in at this site. God bless dad, what a fabulous start to my working life!

  20. Mikki French permalink
    June 15, 2019

    I have just discovered that my 2 x gt grandfather was an ice merchant who had offices in Love Lane, under the name Horsman and Cannon, in the 1850s. And in his Will proved 1857 he left business stuff to a Fish Factor of Darkhouse Lane. It was lovely to see the photo of the men pushing a load of ice up the hill and all the other photos.

  21. Ron Bunting permalink
    July 12, 2019

    I am forever looking for information regarding my Huguenot Ancestry around the East end. My GGgrandfather Benjamin Deffee , A Huguenot surname, had a Fish factor business in the Old billingsgate market with a Mr Charles Booty ,Benjamin died young(ish) at 66 in 1904 but I see the company was still trading as Deffee and Booty at 23 Billingsgate Building ,and again in 1921 at 162 in the Billingsgate building.
    My Ggrandmother ,Lillian Maud Deffee ,was the last member of the family ,her siblings died tragically at very young ages. I wonder if any of the Family of Charles Booty ,descendants that is,are around today?

  22. Alia permalink
    May 2, 2020

    Hi, I’m writing a coursework on Iron architecture and I was looking for photos in color of Coal Exchange. Just want to say that this post is very interesting. Amazing photos and thank you so much for sharing them !

  23. Alan collett permalink
    June 27, 2022

    Mum and Dad, Vic and Renee Collett, ran the One Tree Park, cafe in the early 70,s

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