The Borough Market London

Borough Market is rich with history, but it remains as relevant now as it has ever been. As London’s oldest food market, it has been serving the people of Southwark for 1,000 years, and that extraordinary heritage is an important part of its appeal. It is a source of quality British and international produce, but it is more than just a place to buy or sell food.

The Market is a place where people come to connect, to share food and awaken their senses. Its mission is to share knowledge and inspire people about food.

Upcoming events at Borough Market

Apple Day 2016 -Apple Harvest is back on the 23rd of October 2016.
For details

Christmas and new year opening times
Opening days and times from December to January for the festive season
For details

Lets dive into its history to know more about the market.

Defined by a bridge
Borough Market has existed in one form or another for around 1,000 years. Its precise start date is impossible to pin down: there was no official opening, no ribbon-cutting ceremony, not even a brief mention in a chronicle. The best date available, and the one used as the basis for the Market’s millennium celebration, is 1014.
Borough, then as now, was a place defined by its position at one end of London Bridge—for centuries, the only route across the river into the capital. It is likely that London’s first post-Roman bridge was constructed here in the mid-990s, partly to bolster the city’s defences against Viking raiders who routinely sailed up the Thames to kick seven shades of wattle and daub out of the locals.
A market town
St Olaf’s story was recounted in epic detail by Snorri Sturluson, one of the greats of medieval Scandinavian literature, tells the (probably apocryphal) tale of how Olaf, in his assault on the Danish defences, slung strong cables around the legs of London Bridge and used the force of the Thames current to pull it down—a key moment in Ethelred’s victorious campaign.
The passage begins: “First they made their way to London, and so up into the Thames, but the Danes held the city. On the other side of the river is a great market town called Southwark…”
And there we have it: a great market town, in 1014. It’s not much, but it’s the best we’ve got.
A colourful, chaotic artery
London bridge, a colourful and chaotic artery joining London to the town of Southwark and the ports and cities of the south, acted like a magnet for people who wished to sell things to travellers. Its rich commercial potential kicked off an epic struggle between authorities determined to regulate and profit from officially sanctioned markets and hordes of small traders who wanted to make as much money as possible with the least possible interference.
For a long time there were two legitimate marketplaces around Borough. The smaller of these started in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital, at the southern entrance to London Bridge. In 1215, the hospital relocated to what is now St Thomas’ Street, and the market, which specialised in corn, moved with it.
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 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.”
Independent market
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”.
Up and running
In February 1756 advertisements were placed stating that a “commodious place for a market is now preparing on 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.

The renaissance
Revival of interest
Borough Market’s current incarnation has its roots in the revival of interest in artisan foods which took shape in the 1990s. When the likes of Neal’s Yard Dairy and Brindisa—pioneering food businesses which had moved into the area’s empty warehouses—began to host special retail events for the public at their respective premises and around the Market.
Thanks in part to the encouragement of these traders, Henrietta Green was asked to hold a three day Food Lovers’ Fair at the Market in November 1998, which gathered together around 50 of the best food producers in Britain as part of the annual Southwark Festival. The event was a roaring success, with many traders selling out within hours.
International institution
This clear evidence of its potential led to a decision to hold a regular retail market at Borough on the third Saturday of every month, with British traders joined by those offering produce from around Europe and the world. This soon became a weekly affair, its popularity bolstered the endorsement of just about every chef in the country. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, it was a genuine international institution—probably the most famous food market in the country. It is now open six days a week, and its activities have broadened considerably, but that sense of excitement has never dissipated. Many of the traders who started the Market’s modern boom are still here, still playing their part in its gradual evolution and the the Market’s trustees continue to work to ensure the Market’s survival for generations to come.
The bridge that began it all is still there too, of course; still bringing customers over from the City.

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