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Structures of archaeological interest below Billingsgate Market

A Scheduled Monument in Billingsgate, City of London

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Latitude: 51.5089 / 51°30'32"N

Longitude: -0.084 / 0°5'2"W

OS Eastings: 533059.790184

OS Northings: 180627.230269

OS Grid: TQ330806

Mapcode National: GBR TF.88

Mapcode Global: VHGR0.HBFM

Entry Name: Structures of archaeological interest below Billingsgate Market

Scheduled Date: 20 December 1973

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1001993

English Heritage Legacy ID: LO 117

County: City of London

Electoral Ward/Division: Billingsgate

Built-Up Area: City of London

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): City of London

Church of England Parish: St Mary at Hill Eastcheap

Church of England Diocese: London


The Roman and medieval waterfronts below Old Billingsgate Market, 156m ESE of St Magnus the Martyr’s Church

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 19 June 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes the Roman and medieval quays or waterfronts below Old Billingsgate Market. It is situated on the north side of the River Thames, near London Bridge in the City of London.

In about 1875, building work monitored by the Corporation of London Architects Office uncovered part of the Roman, medieval and post-medieval waterfronts in the form of a sequence of revetments and embankment deposits. These include seven wooden revetments or quay structures beginning close to the street frontage and extending a short distance from the present riverfront. At least one of these revetments is thought to be the remains of the Roman quay, whilst others probably date to the medieval period. The remains of the waterfronts include several groups of oak piles. The site is also thought to incorporate one of the few early medieval docks recorded in London; another being situated at Queenhithe.

Londinium, the provincial capital of Roman Britain, was established by the Romans in the first century AD and became a thriving centre of commerce; importing and selling olive oil, wine, pottery, glass and marble. Much of this material was loaded, transported and off loaded from shipping on the River Thames. Following the decline of the Roman Empire in the late 4th century, it was not until the late 9th century that London, or Lundenburh as it was then known, was re-established as a major port under Alfred the Great. The defences were rebuilt and new wharves and waterside markets, such as Billingsgate and Queenhithe, were constructed. These would have been involved in transport and trade in fish, grain, salt and timber, and later iron and coal. In the later medieval period Billingsgate became a wholesale market and by the mid-16th century was devoted exclusively to the trade of fish. In 1872-3, the current building was built on the site in classical style to the design of Sir Horace Jones. It continued in use as a market until 1982 after which it was converted to offices.

Partial excavation and archaeological watching briefs were carried out in the vicinity of the site in 1960, 1982, 1983 and 1985. The excavations revealed a late Roman timber quay of tieback construction, a late ninth or tenth century stave built revetment up to 3m high, and front-braced revetments of 11th or 12th century date. The later forms showed evidence of the re-use of timber from buildings and boats, and may represent a continuation of the Roman and medieval waterfronts surviving under Old Billingsgate Market. The Roman finds included decorated dress fittings and pendants, leaden seals, a brass seal matrix, several ear scoops/ligulae and a flagon lid. The medieval finds included badges, dress accessories, tokens, late 14th century cloth seals, various tools, shoes, a sword with a decorated blade, and all four sections of a straight trumpet.

Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity of this monument some, such as Billingsgate Roman Baths, are scheduled but others are not because they have not been formally assessed.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Quays are structures designed to provide sheltered landing places with sufficient depth of water alongside to accommodate vessels over part of the tidal circle. The features and complexity of quays vary enormously depending partly on their date but also on their situation and exposure, the nature of the underlying geology and alluvium, and the volume and types of trade they need to handle. By their nature, quays also tend to occur in proximity to centres of trade and administrative authority, usually in locations already sheltered to some extent by natural features. Basic elements of quays may include platforms built up and out along a part of the coast or riverside that is naturally deep or artificially dredged, or along an artificial cut forming a small dock on a riverside or coast. They comprise valuable sources of information on patterns of earlier trade, authority and settlement: their development shows clearly the relationship between economic forces and technological development in adapting the natural landscape to communities' needs.

Despite some disturbance and later development on the site, the Roman and medieval waterfronts below Old Billingsgate Market survive well. The site will provide vital evidence for the riverside development of London including archaeological and environmental remains and deposits. As such, it holds potential for further archaeological investigation. The site is of particular significance as one of the few early medieval docks recorded in London.

Source: Historic England


English Heritage, Changing London: Markets, accessed from on 22nd October 2009
Greater London SMR 041857/00/00, 041856/00/00, 041859/00/00, 041861/00/00, 041858/00/00, 041860/00/00, 043356/00/00, 043361/00/00, 043358/00/00, 043357/00/00, 042996/00/00, 042995/00/00, 042997/00/00, 042998/00/00. NMR TQ38SW1694, TQ38SW1693, TQ38SW1695, TQ38SW2219. PastScape 1194423, 1194414, 1194429, 1391006,

Source: Historic England

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