A market that has stood on the site for over 1,000 years
London’s Borough Market was front page news worldwide in 2017 for all the wrong reasons. Knife and machete wielding jihadist lunatics drove into the thronging and thriving area and proceeded to hack and stab as many people as they could.

Eight people lost their lives and 48 were injured. But this will never define Borough Market. The stories of selfless heroism as unarmed people faced down the terrorists and prevented worse atrocities are extraordinary. And the the determination of the market to quickly get back to its hustling and bustling best show the spirit of the area.

After all, a market has stood on the site for over 1,000 years and it will take more than a small bunch of demented killers to stop it now.

London’s most famous food and drink market, in its current form, has been trading since 1851. Situated at the Southwark Cathedral end of London Bridge, records show that market activities began in 1014 and for many years this position marked the only crossing into the the capital. The very definition of a ‘prime location’!

It has been a colourful history for the site. Warring, King Ethelread the Unready being chased out of London by Danish warrior-king Sweyn Forkbeard, then returning and taking charge with hordes of brutal mercenaries. Then, as the influence of Southwark and its market trading to travellers, the authorities tried to get in on the action by regulating and profiting from the markets. Naturally this was not popular with the traders!

Borough Market

Stock Photograph

The markets also upset the city of the other side of the bridge by undercutting the traders there. It got so bad that in 1270 the City forbade citizens to shop for “corn, cattle or other merchandise” at Southwark.

But by 1406 the City was exerting control and effectively Southwark became an extension of London itself. In the 1460’s Southward Fair was added to the calendar – a riotous three day event to be held every September.

And in April 1550 King Edward VI sold Southward to the City and additional marketing days were extended to include Monday and Saturday.

As London grew inexorably so the chaos and bedlam surrounding the market and its road cause increasing consternation for those in power.

The only southern route into the city was continually blocked by traders, buyers and even bullocks!

With the market literally obstructing the path of City-bound traffic and therefore trade and commerce in the capital, parliament declared the Southwark market had to stop trading by April 25th 1756.

Southwark residents countered this by lobbying for a new market, independent of the City, but one that would not get in the way of the thoroughfare.

This was achieved in 1756 and this remains the market as we now know it.

Its fortunes have ebbed and flowed with the growth of supermarkets and the establishment of the New Covent Garden Market at Vauxhall in the 1970’s causing a decline from it bustling heyday. But the 1990’s boom in artisan foods led to a rebirth and revitalising.

Traders now attend from all around the world and Borough Market’s status as probably the most famous food market in the country looks secure for a long time to come.

Its history has seen 100’s of years of turbulence, growth, chaos, mismanagement, bedlam, downturns in fortune, re-invention, political interference, Royal involvement and, most recently, a murderous, terrorist atrocity met by extraordinary acts of selfless heroism. Any visit to Borough Market is now tinged with poignancy, but it is no stranger to the extremes of circumstances, events and human behaviour, and it remains the most vibrant, exciting and captivating of ancient trading sites.