Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market: From Selling Food to Food Architecture

Welcome once again as I delve into London’s great walks and history! Today’s journey takes me from one market to another. I begin at Leadenhall Market and then go via some well-known modern landmarks, The Cheese Grater and The Gherkin. I then stop by London Liverpool Street Station before going through Petticoat Lane Market and ending at Old Spitalfields Market.

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Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market

I start at Leadenhall Market, located in the heart of the city of London, which dates back to the 14th century, and is on what used to be a centre of Roman London.

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Leadenhall Market

Back in the 1300s, the Manor of Leadenhall belonged to Sir Hugh Neville, though within a few years it became a popular meeting place for poulterers and cheese mongers. In 1411 Leadenhall was gifted to the City by former Lord Major Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington. By 1440 the then Lord Mayor Simon Eyre replaced the manor hall with a public granary, school, and chapel as a gift to London’s citizens.

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The beautifully vintage market

The market then became enlarged to start selling food produce, such as poultry, grain, eggs, butter, cheese and other items. Over the next 200 years other markets were added with wool, leather, and cutlery proprietors appearing. It soon became one of the centres of commerce in the city.

Like most buildings in 1666, the market suffered a small amount of damage in the Great Fire of London, and during its rebuilding it was split into three separate areas; a Beef Market, the Green Yard, and the Herb Market.

Leadenhall Market was redesigned in 1881 by the City’s architect, Sir Horace Jones, who was also the architect for Billingsgate and Smithfield Market’s. By 1972 the stone structure with wrought iron and glass was replaced and given Grade II heritage listed status.

Until the 20th century the poultry market remained, and by the mid 20th century shops were used for general retailing and leisure. Today, this makes it one of the City’s five principal shopping centres. One thing you notice amongst the Victorian buildings is that every store, whether that’s Barbour or Pizza Express, has the same vintage branding you’d see centuries ago. This for me makes it quite the unique place.

From a market that sells cheese, we move to one that is shaped like something you’d use for it! 122 Leadenhall Street, or the Leadenhall Building, or as it’s affectionately known as ‘The Cheesegrater’, is a 225m (737ft) building that opened in July 2014. Designed by Graham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, developed by British Land and Oxford Properties, and built by Laing O’Rourke, it covers 70,000 square metres of glass; the same area as 9 football pitches! It has 48 floors, and houses many corporate firms.

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Cheesegrater (Credit: @CheesegraterLdn)

The nickname of The Cheesegrater came when the City of London Corporation’s chief planning officer, Peter Rees, commented to Richard Rogers, a senior partner of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, that he could ‘imagine his wife using it to grate parmesan’, and the name stuck! (And of course because it looks like a cheesegrater!) It also is slanted to have less impact on the protected view of St Paul’s Cathedral, and I have to say the architecture of it is grate….!

I’m taking just a slight detour from one food building to another, and I end up at The Gherkin! The commercial skyscraper was completed in December 2003, and opened in 2004.

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The Gherkin

It’s 180 metres (591ft) tall with 41 storeys. Its structure was designed by Norman Foster and Arup group with it being erected by Skanska, taking two years to construct.

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Beautiful Gherkin at night (Credit: The Gherkin)

It’s commonly referred to as one of the City’s most recognisable examples of contemporary architecture, and I have to say, it’s up there with other older landmarks as a distinctive part of our skyline.

I leave two of the capital’s most famous modern-day landmarks to visit one of London’s main networks to the East, Essex and East Anglia. London Liverpool Street Station was opened in 1874 as a new terminus for the Great Eastern Railway with connections to the Metropolitan railway, the world’s first underground railway.

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London Liverpool Street Station

The station was built on the site originally occupied by the Bethlem Royal Hospital. Its roof was designed and built by the Fairburn Engineering Company, who also supplied the roof for the Royal Albert Hall.

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Inside the station with the hustle and bustle of commuting

It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that it went under major redevelopment work with the modernising of the station’s facilities and simplifying the layout, but still retaining the grand 19th century architecture.

Outside the station stands a statue to the Children of the Kindertransport, which marks the people of Britain who saved the lives of 10,000 unaccompanied, mainly, Jewish children who fled Nazi persecution in 1938 and 1939. It was dedicated by the Associates of Jewish Refugees Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief in 2006.

Today, London Liverpool Street has 123 million visitors a year and is the main connection to Stansted Airport, with the tube lines including Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan lines.

I’d love to quickly jet set to Stansted Airport, but I’m off to hit more markets! The next of these is Petticoat Lane Market located near Old Spitalfields and Brick Lane, which is one of the oldest and most famous markets in London. It wasn’t formally registered and given legal trading until 1936.

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Entrance to Petticoat Lane Market

The first reference to Petticoat Lane came in the early 1600s when it was called Peticote Lane with traders in its early days selling clothes and other cheap, second-hand items. Petticoat Lane Market is split into two markets in two locations with one on Wentworth Street which runs six days a week, and other on Middlesex Street that is only open on Sundays.

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Petticoat Lane Market on a Sunday offering a variety of items

My final destination on my walk takes me to yet another one of London’s famous markets, Old Spitalfields!

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Entrance to Old Spitalfields Market

The name Spitalfields takes its name from the hospital and priory, St Mary’s Spittel that was founded in 1197. The market first began trading in 1638 when traders used to work from a collection of sheds and stalls to meet the needs of an evergrowing London population. It soon became the popular place for fresh produce while trading six days a week.

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The busy marketplace

By 1876 the market fell into decline due to a reputation of it being a cheap area in which to live and trade. This prompted former market porter Robert Horner to buy a short lease on the market to rebuild it. It was completed in 1893 at a cost of £80,000. The City of London acquired direct control of the market in 1920 and extended the buildings eight years later. With popularity and a bigger reputation, in May 1991 the wholesale fruit and vegetable market was forced to move to Leyton, East London to keep up with demand. This is known as New Spitalfields Market.

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Vibrant Old Spitalfields Market

At the end of 2005, after 18 years, the Spitalfields regeneration programme was completed with new two public spaces, Bishops Square and Crispin Place, a public art programme, an events programme, retailers and restaurants.

When you visit the market today it’s a mix of fast food, designers, artists, with vintage and antique clothing and furniture!

Well, it has been an amazing walk to experience not just one, but three of London’s famous markets, as well as some of the most recognisable modern buildings.

Please share your memories and thoughts with me in the comments section, and don’t forget to follow the blog, and me on Twitter and Instagram

Thanks for joining me, and I’ll see you next time! 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger, unless credit given. © Copyright 2016

History of Leadenhall Market

The Cheesegrater Twitter Account

The Leadenhall Building

The Gherkin Building

History of London Liverpool Street Station

History of Petticoat Lane Market

Old Spitalfields Market History

63 thoughts on “Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market: From Selling Food to Food Architecture

  1. Love your posts. I book marked them. I grew up in London 1955-1965. My son lives there so I get to visit once in a while. I have some London posts with some history from 2015-2016 – see my London category. BTW your site works well now that you added ways to look at previous posts. I look forward to more. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I lived in London for 60 years, and walked around much of it during my time. I have also posted about a few walks (not illustrated nicely like yours) that you might be interested to read.
    https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/non-tourist-london-a-london-walk/
    https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/tourist-london-an-unlikely-destination/
    https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/non-tourist-london-surrey-docks-to-tower-bridge/
    Thanks for following my blog, which is much appreciated.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful blog! I love this street side view of the capital – reminds me of Dickens, observing the great and good and ordinary folk too, wandering the streets and alleyways in admiration of the great city.
    The stories behind the buildings and markets are fascinating and it makes me want to follow in your footsteps.
    Thanks for the follow and for introducing me to this wonderful space

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha yes, London isn’t known for its prolonged sunny weather! However, amazingly this winter we’ve had many dry and clear days, which is why many of my walks will feature photos in sunny weather 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for dropping by and following. I was pleasantly surprised when paying a reciprocal visit to find you a veritable treasure trove of London walks and info. You see I recently revived my interest in London and have been doing a lot of walking and reading also (though on a much smaller scale as I live in the suburbs. I look forward to delving further on your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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