A history of Borough Market
Death and rebirth
Bedlam on the high street
As London grew in size and stature, the bedlam on Borough High Street began to arouse significant opposition within the corridors of power. The location of the market house right in the middle of the road certainly didn’t help—imagine a busy warehouse being constructed across the M1—and numerous representations were made to have it removed. In 1676 these were rendered irrelevant when a huge fire swept through Borough, taking the market house with it.
This alone did little to ease congestion, and the City eventually decided that its revenues from the market didn’t make up for the dampening effect on business of having the only southern route into London completely blocked by bullocks. In 1754 a bill went before parliament declaring that as “the market obstructs much trade and commerce”, it would have to cease trading by 25th March 1756 and that thenceforth “no person shall use any stall, trussel, block, or other stand, or expose to sale upon such stands peas, beans, herbs, victuals or other commodities.”
Residents of Southwark began petitioning to be allowed to start a new market, independent of the City, away from the high street. A second act passed through parliament declaring that, “for the convenience and accommodation of the public”, the parishioners of St Saviour’s could acquire land away from the main road and set up a market of their own, and that this market would “be and remain an estate for the use and benefit of the said parish for ever”.
The act also declared that “no provisions except hay or straw” could be sold within 1,000 yards of the new market. With this local monopoly in their favour, the parishioners quickly raised £6,000 by selling annuities to interested citizens—over £1 million in today’s money—and bought an area called The Triangle. Within two years, the parishioners returned to parliament for permission to raise a further £2,000 to enlarge the site and build a market house.
Up and running
In February 1756 advertisements were placed stating that a “commodious place for a market is now preparing on the backside of Three Crown Court on the west side of the high street of the Borough and will be ready by the 25th March next for the reception of all country carriages and others bringing any kind of provisions to the said market”. Borough Market as we now know it was up and running.