Leadenhall Market

Above: Entrance to Leadenhall Market from Gracechurch Street.

Most of London’s streets and ancient buildings tend to have interesting names but because we have lived with those names since children we often say the name without really thinking about what it means or how the name came about. The name in the title is a good example so, let’s start with its meaning. The name ‘Leadenhall’ should be written ‘Leaden Hall’ – that is to say ‘A hall whose roof was leaden (or made of lead)’. Many of the church roofs of old churches are lined with lead. This also applies to the roofs of cathedrals as well. Being a relatively soft metal, lead is easy to beat or cut into shape and even in medieval times, it was considered a good material to use to weatherproof a roof. Lead is expensive which meant that only churches could afford the luxury of a lead roof. This also applied to other buildings but only for owners who could afford the cost.

Above: Leadenhall Market from an early map of c1553. The name ‘Ledden hall’ is shown above the rectangular building. Notice the well in the quadrangle of the building. Opposite Leaden Hall (on the west side of Gracechurch Street) is shown the church of St Peter, Cornhill (labelled ‘St Pr’).

The origins of Leadenhall Market go back to 1296 when the earliest mention was a ‘La Ledenehalle’. In 1390 the building was described as ‘a manor belonging to Sir Hugh Nevill’. In 1408 it was ‘confirmed’ on Richard Whittington – yes, he was a real person, four times Lord Mayor of London and the less said about the cat the better! In those times the large building was in use as a residence. In 1411 Richard Whittington handed the building over to the City and it was from that date that a market was held there. In 1446 the Lord Mayor – Simon Eyre – had the premises rebuilt or converted. A market was held on part of the site but, in addition, there was ‘a common garner for corn for the use of the City’. It should be explained that in those times the harvest of corn failed from time to time, usually connected with wet weather conditions. In some years, the City imported grain from countries on the Continent to feed the citizens. To prepare for the eventuality of a year with a poor harvest, the City stored grain at Leadenhall.

A document of 1345 lays down that all strangers should take poultry for sale to Leadenhall Market and all Londoners should sell at Westcheap (the old name for the street now called Cheapside). The nearby street called Poultry was probably the actual location. From this document, we can conclude that there may have been a market before the building was handed over to the City. In 1446 it is recorded that wool, cloth and leather was sold there. In 1503 an order was made that Frenchmen were only to sell their wares of canvas, linen and cloth, at this market. Other foreigners, selling nails, lead and iron-work, were also limited to this market only. It was held on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Foreign butchers were admitted in 1553 to sell flesh in Leadenhall Market. Formerly they stood nearby in Lime Street and paid rent for their stalls to the householders. In 1595 the Butchers began selling at Leadenhall and for a time after this date, the market became famous for meat.

Due to diligent action, during the Great Fire of London (1666) the buildings were saved. After the Great Fire, the market was extended to accommodate Country butchers; City butchers who had lost their shops; fish; meal; hides; and leather. Some of the names of the commodities are shown on the Ogilby and Morgan map of 1667. The evidence for the leaden roof is now a distant memory but the name lives on.

The greatest change to the market came in 1881 when Sir Horace Jones (the City Architect and also the architect for Tower Bridge) designed the building that we all know and love today. While the new structure was being constructed, the foundations of the Roman Basilica (or Town Hall) for Londinium were discovered in the ground. The market, which covers an area of 27,000 square feet (2,508 square metres), continued to flourish throughout most of the 20th century. There were butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers among the many shops at the market. They sold to the public but also supplied the many Company Halls who provided banquets for various functions.

Above: Early morning view of the interior of Leadenhall Market, looking east from the Gracechurch Street entrance.

Around the time of the Millennium, trade was declining and the shops selling groceries gradually closed down – unable to justify the high rents of their premises. Today there are two shops, one selling large hams and a fishmonger remaining in the building. The market buildings look exactly the same as they were in the last century but they are now used for different purposes. Many of them have become the inevitable coffee shops and high-end restaurants, mainly serving the needs of the local office workers. For those who remember the days of the flourishing meat, fish and vegetable shops, it not really the place that it was.

Since the 1990s there has been a marked increase in glass-clad offices in the City – many of them high rise. It has led to many people complaining that the ancient character of the City is gradually being eroded. Not only that but, due to their height, the new offices are creating dark ‘chasms’ which lie in the huge shadows of these new tall structures. The concept of ‘glass and steel’ – with a concrete structure to support the new buildings – is hardly a new concept. Although Victorian buildings were not so tall as those of today, it was in that era that ‘glass and steel’ started to be used for large structures, due mainly to advances in the production of steel (in various forms) and the ability to produce large sheets of glass. The next time you decide to lament the modern buildings to be seen in the City, just remember the structure of Leadenhall Market which is, essentially, constructed in ‘glass and steel’.


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Gracechurch Street

Above: Looking north along Gracechurch Street from the southern end.

The history of Gracechurch Street is actually related to the construction of a bridge across the Thames by the Romans, to connect Londinium (on the north bank) with the southern shore. It is believed that a wooden bridge was built crossing the Thames soon after the Romans established their township which they called Londinium. The Roman thoroughfare running north from the bridge was on the line of today’s Fish Street Hill and Gracechurch Street. In Norman times the first stone bridge on the same site as the original Roman one – constructed between 1176 and 1209. In the 1820s a new London Bridge was built just west of the Norman one which meant that the southern end of Gracechurch Street had to be modified to meet King Willian Street which ran north from the new bridge.

It is likely that a Roman roadway was established by about AD 50 on the line of today’s Fish Street Hill and Gracechurch Street. The name ‘Gracechurch Street’ came about in medieval times because there was a herb and hay (or grass) market held in the street. On the south side of the junction with Fenchurch Street was a parish church called St Benet which became known as ‘St Benet, Gracechurch Street’ – to differentiate it from other ‘St Benet’ churches in the City. From being called ‘Grass church Street’ the name was gradually corrupted to ‘Gracechurch Street’. According to Harben, in his ‘Dictionary of London’, a version of the name was in use by 1284.

Sadly the church of St Benet was demolished in 1868 and only a City Plaque marks the original site today. Gracechurch Street has little to commend it from the historical point of view. At pavement level, the street is mainly lined with shops which occupy the ground floor premises of much larger office blocks.

The Crosse Keys pub stands on the site of a once-famous coaching inn with the same name. The equally famous coaching inn called the Spread Eagle, which stood on the opposite side of the road, is also long-since demolished. In Talbot Court, near the southern end of Gracechurch Street, is an attractive pub called the Ship. To the north of the Fenchurch Street junction is Ship Tavern Passage which, curiously, has a small Victorian pub called the Swan, with an actual address of 77-80 Gracechurch Street. Presumably, Ship Tavern Passage was named after a pub called the ‘Ship Tavern’ but that is not certain.

The most interesting feature of the street today is the large Victorian structure of Leadenhall Market which stands at the northern end of Gracechurch Street, at the junction with Leadenhall Street. The old covered market actually has four entrances and is the subject of a separate article.

After nearly 2,000 years of history, today’s Gracechurch Street has little historic evidence to show for its long and colourful past. As a principal route through the City – from old London Bridge to Bishopsgate (Gate) – it has seen its fair share of traffic throughout the centuries. Along with Bishopsgate (Street), Gracechurch Street once had many inns serving the needs of travellers in medieval times. Those inns adapted in the 18th century to provide destinations for the new form of ‘rapid transport’ called stagecoaches. From the 1830s onwards, coaching inns went into steep decline with the advent of railways. Today, Gracechurch Street is known for its many offices, being at the centre of the financial district in the City


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Roman Wall at Bishopsgate

Above: Looking west in the gardens to the south of St Botolph Without Bishopsgate. The tennis courts in the distance are beside a yellow-brick wall. That wall is on the south side of where the Roman Wall once stood. This is a ground-level view of the lower image taken from Google Maps.

Either side of Bishopsgate, the two streets called Camomile Street and Wormwood Street run at strange angles for a very simple reason –their line followed the ancient Roman Wall. To the east, Camomile Street (whose SE extension becomes Bevis Marks and then Duke’s Place) followed the line of the Roman Wall on the inside, with Houndsditch following the line on the outside. The latter street was so-named – according to John Stow – because people threw dead dogs into the ditch that formed a further defence for the wall. Similarly, to the west, Wormwood Street followed the line of the Roman wall on the inside. Due to St Botolph Without Bishopsgate being so close to the outside of the Roman Wall, no street formed on the outside the wall. However, it is believed that the ditch continued to the west of the gate called Bishopsgate.

Sadly, no trace of the Roman Wall can be seen above ground today. Modern buildings stand over the line of the wall to the east of Bishopsgate (Street). To the west, the line of wall runs beside the gardens to the south of St Botolph but there is no evidence above the ground. There was a section of wall at this point in about 1810. We know this because there are prints showing the wall itself. What happened to it after that time is not known.

Above: Line of the Roman Wall (dotted line) plotted onto a section from Google Maps.

In the image from Google Maps, a dotted line has been drawn where the line of the Roman Wall would be. The view looks south, with St Botolph’s church and tower on the left of the view. It is necessary to show the view looking south because the line of the Roman Wall runs close to the back of the four-storey buildings lining Wormwood Street. The ‘gap’ in the dotted line – where Bishopsgate (Street) is to be seen – would have been where the Roman gate was situated.

Some years ago, the Museum of London decided that there should be a greater public awareness of where the Roman Wall used to stand. They installed about 20 information plaques at relevant sites – especially at points where the Roman gates stood. It seems that the museum plaque for Bishopsgate has been removed.


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Bishopsgate (Gate)

Above: A large bronze mitre on the west side of Bishopsgate (Street) marks the site of the original gatehouse.

If you are wondering why ‘(Gate)’ has been added to the title, it is to clarify the name. The name ‘Bishopsgate’ applies to a street – notice that it is not called ‘Bishopsgate Street’ but just ‘Bishopsgate’. The name also applied to the gate and gatehouse in the Roman Wall. The same word is also used for one of the City wards. To avoid any confusion, the author chooses to add an identifier to the name. Related to the three examples just mentioned, the author uses – Bishopsgate (Street), Bishopsgate (Gate) and Bishopsgate (Ward) respectively.

The Roman Wall was constructed around Londinium about AD 200. Being such a massive structure, it defined the boundary of the City of London for many centuries after the Romans had left Britain. The wall, with its gates, survived through Norman and medieval times – right up to the 18th century. Every night, the gates of the City were closed, to keep the citizens safe from attack. Since by 1760 the City had never been attacked, the City fathers decided that the gates could be removed and the gatehouses demolished to provide wider roadways and easier access for carts. They also decreed that anyone who wanted to remove the wall could do so but at their own expense. Since that time most of the wall has been taken down with the result is that only a very few full-height sections of the Roman Wall remain today.

For many people going about their everyday lives near the City’s boundary wall, they probably never think about the fact that they are passing through the land where a large stone gatehouse once stood. This is certainly true for Bishopsgate (Gate). The road by the same name runs north through the City until it reaches the crossroads formed with Wormwood Street (to the west) and Camomile Street (to the east). The line of the Roman Wall ran just north of that junction and, across the roadway, once stood the stone gatehouse called Bishopsgate.

The site used to be marked on either side of the modern road by a large bronze mitre mounted high up on the walls of the modern buildings. Because of their height above the ground, few people notice them as they rush to and from their train at nearby Liverpool Street Station. Sadly, the eastern mitre was lost a few years back when the site was redeveloped. It would seem that developers take little interest in the history of their sites. No trace of the Roman Wall remains at this point and even if you walk around the modern buildings you will find no visible evidence there either.

Above: The so-called Agas Map, produced about 1561, gives some idea of how the gatehouse looked.

One of the earliest representations of the gatehouse is to be seen on the ‘Agas’ map of c1561. The gate is clearly shown, along with the Roman Wall. Bishopsgate (Street) is shown, with the path inside the wall which is now Wormwood Street (left) and Camomile Street (right). Outside the wall was a large ditch – to add a further defence to the City’s wall – which the map shows filled with water (rather like a moat). Immediately north of the gate – just as it is to this day – is shown the parish church of St Botolph Without Bishopsgate.

What the Romans called their gates in the wall is not known. Most of the names were devised in Saxon or Norman times and have been retained ever since. Bishopsgate (Gate) derived its name from the fact that the land nearby was owned by the Bishop of London. The roadway passing through this gate retains the same name inside the City and also outside, eventually joining further north with a short thoroughfare called Noton Folgate. Outside the Roman Wall, the Roman road led north to places like Lincoln and York. The Saxon name for this Roman road was Ermine Street. It is now numbered and is part of the A10.


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Bishopsgate (Street)

Above: Looking north in Bishopsgate (Street) near the eastern entrance to Liverpool Street Station. Notice how the modern buildings tower over the older Victorian offices.

We will start first by explaining the title. The name ‘Bishopsgate’ applies to a street – notice that it is not called ‘Bishopsgate Street’ but just ‘Bishopsgate’. The name also applied to the gate and gatehouse in the Roman Wall. The name also applies to one of the City wards. To avoid any confusion, the author chooses to add an identifier to the name. Related to the three examples of the name, the author uses – Bishopsgate (Street), Bishopsgate (Gate) and Bishopsgate (Ward) respectively.

The line of Bishopsgate (Street) – or possibly parts of it – were established by the Romans when they laid out Londinium. The Roman road ran north through what is now called Bishopsgate (Gate) and crossed the land of today’s Inner London where Norton Folgate, Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland Road are situated. The Roman road led north to places like Lincoln and York. The Saxon name for this Roman road was Ermine Street which is now numbered and is part of the A10.

Leading north from London Bridge, when the old medieval bridge (the one with the houses on it) was in existence was a thoroughfare called Fish Street Hill (which remains today). That led north to Gracechurch Street and that, in turn, led into Bishopsgate (Street). Since the 1830s, a new London Bridge has existed on a new site – just west of the medieval one. Running north off today’s London Bridge is King William Street. The southern end of Gracechurch Street has been ‘bent’ westwards to meet with King William Street at a complex junction which also includes Eastcheap.

Bishopsgate (Street) runs north from the cross-roads formed with Gracechurch Street, Cornhill and Leadenhall Street. From that point, it curves slightly. Its line went through the Roman Wall at Bishopsgate (Gate). From the site of the gate, the road continues north out of the City. At first glance, Bishopsgate (Street) does not seem to offer much in the way of history. However, it should be mentioned that the point where the street joins Gracechurch Street was the north side of the Basilica in the days of Londinium. Bishopsgate (Street) is now lined with some of the tallest office blocks in the City which means that the general impression is one of commerce and not history.

Almost opposite the junction with Threadneedle Street is a tiny turning called Great St Helen’s – with the church of St Helen at the end of it. That church is of medieval origin, with parts of it once being a religious house. The church is now a conference venue and ceased to be used as a place of worship in the 1990s. Keeping to the east side of Bishopsgate (Street) the next turning to the north is St Helen’s Place, which was once on land connected with the religious house. At the end of that turning is the Leathersellers’ Hall.

Just a short distance north is the small church of St Ethelburga, which stands beside the pavement. That church – also dating from medieval times – was almost completely destroyed by an IRA bomb in the 1990s and most of what can be seen today is a modern reconstruction. The church no longer holds church services. The building is now used as a centre for peace.

Above: Looking south near the northern end of Bishopsgate (Street). Notice how the modern offices are so much taller than the Victorian ones (which are in the centre of view towards the bottom of the picture).

Continuing further north, Bishopsgate (Street) meets the cross-roads formed with Wormwood Street and Camomile Street. Immediately north is where the line of the Roman Wall ran, along with the Roman gate. It began to be called Bishopsgate from Norman times. On the west side of Bishopsgate (Street) stands the church of St Botolph Without Bishopsgate (meaning that it stands outside the Roman Wall). The land to the north of the church was once the site of another religious house called the Priory of St Mary of Bethlehem. The priory began to look after those with mental disorders and because in medieval times such people were considered to be ‘mad’ the name of the priory started to be associated with mental illness. The priory’s name corrupted to ‘Bedlam’ which how the phrase ‘Its like Bedlam’ entered the English language. After two moves, the hospital wing transferred on a large site at West Wickham, in the London Borough of Bromley, and is now known as Bethlehem Royal Hospital.

Keeping to the west side of Bishopsgate (Street), the next major building to be seen is the Great Eastern Hotel, serving the adjacent Liverpool Street Station, originally operated by the Great Eastern Railway Company. Built around the station and also further north beside Bishopsgate (Street) is the large office development called Broadgate. Started in the 1990s, new office blocks continue to be erected, replacing those built less than 30 years ago.

One of the most well-known streets in the City is Middlesex Street – so-called because the boundary between the City of London and the County of Middlesex ran down the centre of the street. The street runs off the east side of Bishopsgate (Street). Middlesex Street became the venue for a market where second-hand clothes and petticoats were sold in the 19th century. It was those items of clothing that gave the market its name today – Petticoat Street Market. The market is now held on Sunday mornings with a variety of goods on offer.

A short distance north of Middlesex Street stands the Bishopsgate Institute and Foundation. It provides premises for education as well as a large lecture hall. One of its finest assets is a large reference library, with collections of books on many subjects, particularly the history of London.

From what has been said, it will be seen that the street has enjoyed a rich and diverse history over the centuries. As one of the main thoroughfares into the City, the street was once lined with many inns which, in the 18th century, became coaching inns – especially serving travellers to East Anglia. Sadly, only a few buildings remain today to stand witness to what has gone before.


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Bishopsgate and Lime Street Overview

Above: Outline map of the City of London. Today’s land is indicated in PINK. The old pre-2003 ward boundaries for the area of study are shown with a RED outline on the modern Google street map.

This area of study is coded ‘/Bishopsgate’ in the ‘Categories’ list and is given the shortened name by the author – which appears in the title. To be precise, the full name of the area of study would be ‘The Ward of Bishopsgate, the Ward of Lime Street and the eastern half of the Ward of Langbourn’. It should now be obvious why the shorter title has been used.

To say that some of the ancient ward outlines in the City of London are rather strange shapes is almost an understatement. The Ward of Bishopsgate is in the form of three ‘lumps’ – a small one at the southern end, a slightly larger one in the middle and a large area at the northern end. The Ward of Lime Street is so narrow in places that it is barely wider than the street of the same name. This area of study consists of the two wards just mentioned wards and, in addition, the eastern half of the Ward of Langbourn. This ward resembles a butterfly’s wings in shape being connected by land which is only the width of a City street. The western half of Langbourn is listed under the area of study called ‘Cornhill’.

It should be pointed out that, of recent years, there have been changes to the boundaries of the City Wards. These changes do not help to understand the history of the City. In fact, the changes only confuse the reader because by adhering to the old ward boundaries they align with old maps and also history books published over the last four hundred years. It is for this reason that the old boundaries are shown and used for defining areas of study in these blogs.

The area of study contains the site of the Basilica – the Roman ‘town hall’ for Londinium. There is plenty of history to consider but, sadly, it is an area where land prices are very high, so many historic buildings have been lost due to constant redevelopment. If you know where to look, there are several interesting buildings to be found.

The Ward of Bishopsgate

This ward is so-called because the long street called Bishopsgate forms the ‘spine’ of the land enclosed by its boundary which is around the street of the same name. Notice that the street is just called ‘Bishopsgate’, there is no ‘Street’ to be added to its name. The name of the ward name drives from the street and the street name derives from the name of the gate in the Roman Wall. There are no records to explain if the names of the Romans gates. Perhaps they just called them ‘I’, ‘II’, ‘III’, ‘IV’ and so on. We just do not know. The name of the gate came about due to land nearby being owned by the Bishop of London but that was much later – in medieval times.

Part of the ward lies inside the Roman Wall and is often referred to as ‘Bishopsgate Within’. The remaining part of the ward lies outside the Roman Wall and is, therefore, known as ‘Bishopsgate Without’. A large part of Bishopsgate Without is now covered by Liverpool Street Station which was opened in 1874. Until that time, the whole street called Bishopsgate was lined with numerous coaching inns acting as the London terminus for routes to Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex. With the coming of the railway, the inns went into rapid decline and today not one of them exists, even as a pub. A few alleyways retain the names of the old inns – like Catherine Wheel Alley.

Bishopsgate was a busy thoroughfare. It led north to the ancient Ermine Street which is now known by a number – the A10. Its southern end met Gracechurch Street at the crossroads with Cornhill and Leadenhall Street, continuing south originally to Fish Street Hill and London Bridge. When old London Bridge was rebuilt slightly further west, Gracechurch Street was ‘bent’ at the southern end to meet the site of the new bridge.

Bishopsgate today is gradually becoming a chasm of vast glass walls as high-rise offices are built along its eastern side. Few points of historical interest are to be seen today. Only the street plan remains from medieval and Tudor times, with all the memories of life in those times mainly consigned to the memories of history.

The idea that offices should be constructed in glass and steel – with a concrete shell – is, of course, hardly a new idea. Apart from the concrete, the Victorians also like to use glass and steel (or wrought iron) for their buildings. Brick was their favourite medium because the concrete techniques of today were not available. Two amazing examples of Victorian ‘glass and steel’ remain in the ward in the form of Leadenhall Market and Liverpool Street Station.

The Ward of Lime Street

This ward is rather long and thin being composed of the one street with the same name that runs through it. Lime Street is probably best known for the famous Lloyds Insurance building that stands beside it. According to John Stow, the street was so named because people made or sold lime there.

The Ward of Langbourn

This ward is in two halves, joined by the width of a single street. Its shape resembles that of a butterfly with outstretched wings. This area of study only includes the eastern half. According to John Stow, the ward derived its name from a stream that ran near or through Fenchurch Street. A ‘bourne’ is the name for an underground stream. No evidence for the stream has ever been found and there is no reason to suppose that there ever was a stream in this part of the City. Henry Harben states that there have been several alternative spellings for the ward since its name first appeared in the 12th century and none of them seems to point to any particular derivation. The streets in the ward are mainly lined with offices and shops.


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City of London (Year 3)

Above: Outline of the City of London (PINK). Each area of study is highlighted. The Bishopsgate (ORANGE) consists of the Ward of Bishopsgate, the Ward of LIme Street and the eastern part of Langbourn. Cornhill (PALE ORANGE) consists of the Ward of Cornhill, the western part of Langbourn and the Ward of Candlewick.

For ‘Year 3’ we look at five City wards, some small, some large and some with the most unlikely boundary shapes. Because these shapes are so irregular, they are grouped together for the purposes of making coherent lectures. There are two groups. One group is Bishopsgate Ward and Lime Street Ward with the eastern part of Langbourn Ward. The other group is Cornhill Ward, Candlewick Ward and the western part of Langbourn Ward.

A Brief Explanation of City Wards

The Wards of the City began in very early times – some of them having boundaries established before the Norman Conquest (1066). Wards are a survival from the medieval system of government that allowed very small areas to exist as self-governing units within the City. Each ward is presided over by an elected Alderman. Today there are 25 wards which, until 2003 had boundaries that had developed over many centuries. In 2003 a reform took place when the boundaries were altered.

Historically, the old boundaries made more sense because they were composed of whole parishes whose ancient boundaries were sometimes older than the wards themselves. The new ward boundaries are probably of use to modern administrators in the City but, for those who study the City’s history, they do not relate to history books which often mention those original ward boundaries. For this reason, the author continues to present the history of the City as related to the pre-2003 ward boundaries. It should also be pointed out that the City’s boundary with adjacent London Boroughs has also been altered since 2003.


Comment – The City of London

Having spent the past weeks catching up on various topics around Inner London, we return to the structured subjects for Know Your London. We start with the City of London – which we do every autumn term. Over the next two months, two areas of study which lie in the centre of the City will have blogs selected from the full course. The history of the City is presented over six years of lectures and this year we look at the wards for ‘Year 3’ which are all clustered around the N–S line of Gracechurch Street and the street called Bishopsgate.

To see all the topics listed for a given area of study, please go to the Webpage for Know Your London blogs. If you are reading this text in an email, then click on the BLUE heading and you will be taken automatically to the Webpage version. Look down the ‘Categories’ list (on the right of the Webpage). The two areas of study for this academic year are ‘/City-Bishopsgate’ and ‘/City-Cornhill’. Click on one of the names under ‘Categories’ on the Webpage and you will then see a list of all the related topics that have been produced so far. As the weeks go by, the two lists will become longer.


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