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At Fishmongers’ Hall

May 11, 2022
by the gentle author

This palatial building of Portland stone tucked under the west side of the foot of London Bridge is Fishmongers’ Hall. Many a time I have passed by on an errand to the Borough to buy fresh fish and cast my eyes upon it, so – as one for whom the worship of fish is almost a religion – I was delighted to enter this temple to the wonders of the deep.

The Fishmongers’ Company were already long-established on this site when they received their first Royal Charter in 1272 from Edward I, the fish-loving king, and their earliest hall on this site was recorded in 1301. A monopoly on fish trading brought great wealth to the Company, and in the fourteenth century three fishmongers were successive Lord Mayors of London, John Lovekyn, Sir William Walworth and William Askham. Subsequently, they secured Fishmongers’ Wharf in 1444 and retained its sole usage for unloading their catch until 1666, prior to the development of Billingsgate Market which traded on the east side of London Bridge until 1982.

This most-recent Fishmongers Hall was constructed as part of the new London Bridge in the eighteen-thirties, designed by Henry Roberts but constructed from drawings by George Gilbert Scott. The tone is partly that of a stately home and partly that of a lofty public institution, yet salmon pink walls in the vestibule and mosaics gleaming like fish scales conjure an atmosphere unique to the Fishmongers’ Company, heightened by an astonishing collection of historic paintings, sculptures and artefacts which evoke all things fishy.

A lavishly embroidered funeral pall created by nuns around 1500, portraying Christ handing the keys of Heaven to St Peter the fisherman and embellished with mermen and mermaids, testifies to a former age of credulity, while a sturdy chair fabricated with timber from old London Bridge and with a seat containing a stone from the same source reminds us of the detail of history in this spot. The combination of architectural opulence and multiple fish references suggests that the Hall itself might be understood as a fishmonger’s distinctive vision of Heaven, where St Peter awaits the newly-departed at the head of a gilded staircase.

At every turn in this building, you are reminded of fish, the ocean and the ancient trade established more than seven centuries in this place, which fills your mind with thoughts of fishmongery and makes it startling to peer out from the prevailing silence in the Fishmongers’ Hall upon the clamour of the modern city with the Shard looming overhead.

Crest of the Fishmongers’ Company

Wonders of the Deep, 1 by Arnold Von Hacken

Wonders of the Deep, 2 by Arnold Von Hacken

Wonders of the Deep, 3 by Arnold Von Hacken

Arnold Von Hacken’s eight paintings of Wonders of the Deep

Wonders of the Deep, 4 by Arnold Von Hacken

Wonders of the Deep, 5 by Arnold Von Hacken

This stained glass of the earlier Fishmongers’ Crest dates from the before the Fire of London

Wonders of the Deep, 6 by Arnold Von Hacken

Wonders of the Deep, 7  by Arnold Von Hacken

Wonders of the Deep, 8 by Arnold Von Hacken

Chair made from the timber of old London Bridge with a seat including a piece of stone from the bridge and a back showing designs of subsequent bridges

Turtle shell painted with the crest of the Fishmongers’ Company

Figure of St Peter the Fisherman from the Fishmongers’ barge

Queen Victoria presides over the Great Hall

Fishmongers’ crest in the Great Hall

Fishmongers’ crest from a steel muniment box

Fishmongers’ funeral pall embroidered by nuns c. 1500

Christ hands the keys of Heaven to St Peter, the Fisherman

Merman from the pall

Mermaid from the pall

Fishmongers’ Hall, Fishmongers’ Wharf

Interior of Billingsgate Market at 6am by George Elgar Hicks

Fishmongers’ Hall, London Bridge

Paintings reproduced courtesy of Fishmongers’ Hall

You may also like to take a look at

At Drapers’ Hall

At Goldsmiths’ Hall

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Paul Huckett permalink
    May 11, 2022

    About ten years when I was about to travel to London , I contacted the Fishmongers Hall and expressed an interest in seeing the building and it’s furnishings, and in some detail . I spent my working life as an antique dealer and a collecting antiquarian based in Australia. They were delighted and agreed and I spent a memorable afternoon being graciously guided around their treasures . It’s a quite beautiful building with beautiful interiors and some wonderful furniture and a reminder of the important role fishmongers and all the allied trades had in the history of London . Your photos are superb . Thanks for the memories

  2. Mark permalink
    May 11, 2022

    Fantastic! what a place and what history and wonderful paintings!

    Thank you for sharing this.


  3. ros permalink
    May 11, 2022

    wonderful artefacts, beautifully photographed. Was one of the pikes shown hanging in the pink room among the makeshift weapons, along with a narwhal’s tooth and a fire extinguisher, used to halt the assailant as he ran away over London Bridge after killing two young people attending the same day conference as he was? I think that was in November 2019.

  4. Rita permalink
    May 11, 2022

    Who pays to maintain this Treasure Trove?
    How do the public access it?
    Given we are an Island of fishermen and our Fishing Industry has been decimated. It’s a sad reflection that you would be hard pressed to find a decent fishmonger these days.
    But beautiful photos and interesting account to GA.

  5. Grace Caruso permalink
    May 11, 2022

    How is it possible that such a magnificent building has survived…?? The care and maintenance must require such dedication and skill… I cannot imagine that anything like this would be or could be built in this age of nondescript or worse yet – ugly architecture.
    Thanks for taking the pictures for us. Oh… and I had forgotten that St. Peter was a fisherman.

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