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Roy Reed At Billingsgate Market

April 3, 2023
by the gentle author

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Roy Reed took these pictures of Billingsgate Market when he was a twenty-three-year-old documentary photography student at the London College of Printing in 1975.

Roy’s enthusiasm for the subject was greater than the interest of the student journalist who asked him to take the pictures for a project on London’s dying markets. “When I suggested we get there early, she said, ‘See you there at eight,'” Roy recalled, rolling his eyes significantly. In the event, Roy got there at seven-thirty on a February morning and took his pictures just here as business was winding up at the nocturnal market. Nearly fifty years later, any disappointment Roy might harbour that the project was never written up and published is outweighed by his satisfaction in having taken these rare photographs of a lost world.

“It was nice chatting with the porters,” Roy remembered fondly, “No-one seemed to mind having their photograph taken – except maybe the guy in the tweed hat, you can see him looking at me suspiciously in the picture.” Taken at the time the market was already due to leave its ancient location next to London Bridge, Roy’s lively photographs comprise a fascinating record of a seemingly recent era in market life that grows increasingly remote.


Photographs copyright © Roy Reed

You may also like to read about

The Last Fish Porters of Billingsgate Market

At the Fish Harvest Festival

Charlie Caisey, Fishmonger

Around Billingsgate Market

The Markets of Old London

4 Responses leave one →
  1. April 3, 2023

    Thank you Roy and the GA. Breathe in deeply and you will smell it!

  2. Bernie permalink
    April 3, 2023

    What I am most in need of, in this context, is an idea of how a market like Billingsgate actually worked, i.e. some ‘text’ to connect the ‘dots’ provided by the images.

    Is there anyone alive who can provide such connecting details, I wonder?

  3. Marcia Howard permalink
    April 5, 2023

    Fabulous images, each with its own story

  4. John Walton permalink
    September 10, 2023

    See more great images of the old fish market in the City here:

    Someone here asked how the market operated. In short, it was samples market. Porters would shore in “samples” of the fish on sold and there was an unwritten assurance between seller and buyer that if they bought off the strength of the sample then everything else would be the same. This meant that the majority of stock would be held outside on lorries awaiting delivery to customer vans by the licenced porters. I believe that this practice occurred both at the old market in the pictures above and also at the new market after it moved in 1982. This all changed aorund10 years ago when the licensed porter system was disbanded by the Corporation.

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