4. LEADENHALL MARKET

— Upmarket Victoriana Gone Hollywood —

Open: Mon-Fri: 7AM-4PM
Admission: free

Leadenhall Market in the late 19th Century.

Leadenhall Market in the 19th Century

          Tucked among the alleyways between Lime Street (to the east), Gracechurch Street (west) and Leadenhall Street (north), and occupying land that once held Londinium’s Roman forum, Leadenhall Market has been a City of London food market for about 700 years. Named after Sir Hugh Neville’s lead-roofed 14th century mansion that stood nearby, medieval Leadenhall Market welcomed "foreign" farmers from outside The City to sell poultry and dairy produce here as early as 1397. Today’s grand arcaded market building was built in 1881. Its High Victorian opulence — by City Architect Sir Horace Jones — was in the same style he used to rebuild two other popular City markets at Billingsgate (London’s primary fish market, still

 

standing) and Smithfield (a major meat & poultry market, burned

down 1958 and rebuilt in 1962).

 

          If the design has thrived, the busy open-air market has not. True, there remain a few shops selling good-value goods including meat, cheese, and fish, but mostly the market has been overtaken by upscale restaurants, coffee shops, bistros, and fashion shops, all catering to the hurried walk-in lunchtime crowd that descends upon Leadenhall from the office towers that surround it. The Lamb Tavern is one of the market’s most popular pub/restaurants, and is open for lunch (12N-2:30PM) and evening meals on weekdays to 9PM, but — like the rest of the shops at Leadenhall Market —

 

never on weekends.

Leadenhall Market is often shoulder-to-shoulder
with city workers at lunchtime Monday-Friday.

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           The ornate market restored to a glory it likely never had at its inception — is delightful to walk through at any time, but especially when full of well-dressed financial types looking for their noontime gnosh. At Christmastime the scene becomes even more colorful, with the market halls being decked with greens and festive lights.
          In the second half of the 17th century Leadenhall Market was at the apex of its glory days. When Spain’s ambassador to England had visited the market he remarked to King Charles II that he believed more meat was sold there than in the kingdom of Spain. Then, suddenly, Leadenhall Market was almost destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666 along with most of The City. Its importance being well understood, Leadenhall Market was rebuilt in its traditional location in The City’s center.
          Leadenhall Market has become a London showpiece — looking fancifully more Londonesque than most parts of the sprawling metropolis. Even before The City’s recent renaissance Leadenhall Market had caught

 Leadenhall Market is especially
festive at Christmastime.

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the eye of visitors and filmmakers. The Lamb Tavern appears in at least two major films: "Brannigan" (1975), starring John Wayne, and "Winds of War" (1983) with Robert Mitchum.

 

 

          The rest of the market has appeared on film, too. In 2000, Russell Crowe ate a Chinese meal in a market restaurant in "Proof of Life". A year later, Angelina Jolie raced through Leadenhall in "Lara Croft – Tomb Raider". Most recently — and most popularly — Harry Potter’s Leaky Cauldron Inn, that leads into magical Diagon Alley ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", 2004), was shot using an empty Leadenhall Market stall on tiny Bull’s Head Passage.

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 Leadenhall Market has frequently been used
as a set for major motion pictures.

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