Metaphorically speaking, Leadenhall Market links Roman London with the Modern City of London, and the reason, is that its location on the site of the old Roman Forum and Basilica is slap bang in the middle of the modern Financial District.
It’s also appropriate that there’s a market here because in Roman times the Forum was their marketplace, and the one in Londinium was the largest north of the Alps, but we know very little of what happened after the Romans left.
What we do know though is that by the 14th century there was a manor house at Leadenhall, and the area around it became known as the place to come to buy poultry. That trade was still in evidence when Dick Whittington, the former mayor of London, came to own the lease of the manor house in 1408, and when he bought the land around it three years later, it was the best place to come, not just to buy poultry, but also meat, game, and fish.
The open-air market was partially destroyed in the Great Fire of London and was re-built as a covered market, but what we see here today is a magnificent Victorian version designed by Horace Jones in 1881. His other work includes Smithfield and Billingsgate Markets, and most notably, Tower Bridge. This Grade II listed building has some wonderful ornate decoration and cobbled stone floors making it a place to come to see as much as it is to come to shop.
You can still buy meat here, but nowadays it’s less of a market and more of a shopping arcade with restaurants, wine bars, and retail outlets catering for the clientele that work in the nearby financial institutions.
The Lamb Tavern is a bit more in my league, and one of the bars is called the Old Tom Bar and named after a regular. Actually, I’m not convinced that this regular found his way downstairs to the bar named after him because Old Tom was a goose who managed to escape the slaughterhouse. He became a well-known customer around the inns of Leadenhall where people used to regularly feed him. He lived to the ripe old age of 38, and when he died in 1835 his body was allowed to lie in state in the market before being buried underneath the market floor.
The public areas of the market are usually open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but the shops, restaurants and bars have various opening times. The main entrance is in Gracechurch St.