CATALÀ ENGLISH FRANÇAIS MAGYAR ITALIANO
association of best food and traditional markets of Europe

London

Borough Market is managed by 16 Trustees and run by a small team of office staff and Beadles who look after security. The Trust is governed by acts of parliament dating back to the18th century. In 1999 the Market was registered as a charity.

The Market comprises three main elements. While historically focused around a wholesale fruit and vegetable market, in recent years a weekly fine food retail market has been established. The third strand of our operations involves management of a number of shops specialising in food retailing.

Strangely enough, it is when most of us are asleep and there is little sign of life on the streets, that the Borough Market is at its busiest. A typical wholesale traders day starts at around 2am. Throughout the night, large container trucks transport fresh fruit and vegetables from producers near and far. They are unloaded in Stoney Street by a team of ‘pitching porters’ and stacked on the traders stands to await the arrival of customers.

In the early hours, greengrocers, restaurateurs and hoteliers from the City, West End and the South East come to select the freshest produce available. The local café and pubs in and around the market complete the hive of activity. The Trustees own ‘police force’, the Beadles, who until the 1930s used to have powers of arrest and the use of cells under the market (recently re-discovered), maintain good order throughout. By 9am, most of the trading has finished, leaving the Trustees team of ‘sweepers’ free to clear away the debris left by another frantic trading session.

Since 1999, a very successful weekend gourmet retail market consisting of up to 70 stalls and stands has been developed. Producers from all over the country bring a range of fresh produce to the market, including; fish, meats, vegetables, ciders, cheeses, breads, coffees, cakes and patisseries.Other stalls specialise in produce imported from abroad.

To ensure that a range of quality produce is maintained, the Trustees have appointed an Advisory Food Committee comprising stallholders and Trustees staff. A waiting list is maintained to encourage new traders as space allows.

The Market has been voted London's most popular market in the Time Out's publication's retail surveys. In 2003 it won the Visit London award for the most popular London experience, also voted for by the public. Similar accolades have appeared in the Evening Standard magazine as well as national newspapers.

Borough Market now also boasts an increasing range of high quality food shops in its premises situated around the wholesale core. Following the arrival of Neil’s Yard Dairies in 1997, we now have a further 7 retailers, adding substantially to the already diverse range of produce on sale around the Market.

Small wonder then that Borough Market is attracting people from an increasingly wide catchment area in addition to the local population. What everyone finds when they come in addition to the produce is a unique space and meeting place that is The Borough Market.


The history

Southwark – sometimes called the Borough – is the most ancient of London areas with a history much older than the ‘Thorney Isle’ which afterwards became Westminster. Before the Romans came, Southwark Fair Market flourished on the southern side of the river but no bridge of any kind existed to link the two banks. Aulus Plautus and his Roman legions found the market at Southwark in AD 43 on their way to sack the city, but Plautus was no writer and there was no written record until two centuries later – when Dion Cassius told the story of this early Roman invasion.

To cross the Thames the Romans built the first London Bridge and the Borough Market has always either been active trading on it or positioned very close to southern end.
‘Southwark’ itself is first mentioned by name in AD 944 when it is recorded that the Saxons built a wooden bridge at the southern end of which they erected a ‘Suthringagewoerc’ or military encampment to defend the city from invasion.

The first formal record of the market was on the bridge built by King Canute in AD 1014 after the previous bridge was destroyed by Norsemen in an attempt to lay siege to London. Mention is first made of Borough Market as a recognised institution in 1276, when it caused great inconvenience by causing congestion on London Bridge.

A series of Royal Charters were passed by Edward III in 1406, 1442 and 1462. Although the Borough Market has moved locations by a few hundred yards either side from the southern bridgehead of London Bridge it has always existed in roughly the same location. It is now the oldest fruit and vegetable wholesale market still trading from its present 4.5 acre site – since 1756 – in Central London.

Records traced back to AD 1014 show that the market then sold fish, grain & cattle – as well as vegetables and because of it’s central location (the meeting points of all roads from the South Coast & Southern Counties into the City of London) merchants from all over Europe would travel from coastal ports to trade in this market. They would rest for the night in one of the many inns in Southwark, the best known of which was the ‘Tabard Inn’ featured in Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’. As well as being a meeting place for merchants, Southwark had an unenviable reputation for crime and it was not uncommon for fighting to spill out of the inns into the street, a frequent number of murders being the result.

At the height of the Victorian era most of the food imported to the capital of the British Empire arrived at wharves alongside London Bridge and Tooley Street – hence it’s name – ‘London’s Larder’ and later on via London Bridge railway station, (the first large railway terminus in Central London). Thousand of tons of produce was wheeled the few yards from the train to the Market.

Borough Market has survived for 20 centuries, and remains a centre of food excellence. We are is looking forward to another 2,000 years of trading.
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