Above: A present day view of Fishmongers’ Hall, seen from near Southwark Cathedral. The site of their hall is beside the northern approach road to today’s London Bridge.
“Upper Thames Street – Part 16”
Fishmongers used to operate in Old Fish Street which was just north of Queenhithe (Dock). The fish was then sold to the public in Friday Street because, in Catholic England, fish was the meal that was eaten on a Friday.
Due to problems that ships had passing through old London Bridge, due to what the records call ’slackness in opening the drawbridge’ fish started to be landed at Billingsgate and the Fishmongers moved to a new site near London Bridge. It is believed that the earliest site, near London Bridge as distinct from Queenhithe, was riverside premises a short distance west of the north end of old London Bridge. The site remained the same size until rebuilding after the Great Fire. These premises were domestic and commercial, probably owned by prominent fishmongers from about 1350.
Above: The Fishmongers’ Hall shown on the Agas map of c1561. It should be remembered that this map shows the northern end of old London Bridge and the hall was a short distance to the west.
In 1364 the company began to sell their fish in Fish Street Hill, then called New Fish Street which leads north from old London Bridge. At this time there may have been halls on various sites near London Bridge. There are records of repairs to the hall in the early 17th century. On 2 September 1666 the hall was destroyed in the Great Fire. A new hall was built 1667-68, designed by Edward Jarman.
In the 1820s it was decided to build a new London Bridge on a site slightly further west of the old one. This was to allow the traffic to use the old bridge while the new one was being constructed. The new one was opened in 1831 and the old one was then demolished. The work involved the re-alignment of the streets at both north and south ends of the old bridge so that they met up with the new bridge.
The Fishmongers decided to rebuild because the new London Bridge was to pass beside the site of their old hall. The old hall was pulled down 1827 for the formation of King William Street as a new approach to London Bridge which required part of the site of the hall. The site of the present hall was the same as before but minus a 20 feet (6 m) wide strip of land on the east side.
The hall stands on the west side of London Bridge in the Ward of Bridge. The Company ranks fourth in the order of precedence of City Livery Companies, thereby making it one of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies. The Fishmongers’ Company is still an ‘active’ company. By that we mean that, unlike many companies that have long ceased to administer their trade, the Fishmongers still take an active part in controlling the quality of fish in London and, indeed, in Britain. The fish inspectors at Billingsgate Fish Market are all from the Fishmongers’ Company. All the EU regulations relating to fish in Britain are also administered by the Fishmongers’ Company.