Where to Shop in Tudor London

London was the biggest city in England, and getting everyone fed was a complex business! We often have modern conveniences that make storing food easier, like freezers and refrigerators. But if you were a Londoner in the Elizabethan era, you would have needed to go to the market often to procure fresh food. To streamline the shopping, certain streets became well known for a particular product. Some of these areas became known by names that reflected the goods that were sold there. For example, Fish Street was where London fishmongers displayed their wares. Some drawings depict huge fish for sale, but this may have been artistic license. Other markets may have been named for landmarks. The Stocks Market, which had stalls for butchers and fishmongers, could have been aimed for the stocks there. These stocks were the only fixed stocks in the city from the 13th century.


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons- From Hugh Alley's Complaint

London markets also had rules about who could sell goods where and on what day. Let’s take a look at the Leadenhall Market. This large market, which is still in operation today, was known for poultry and meat. The market also had a granary for poor relief, and storage space for local parades and pageants. Vendors for the countryside, referred to as ”foreigners”, were initially allowed to sell meat there on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but the Wednesday allowance was cancelled in 1564. This is likely due to the fact that this market had permanent stalls that London butchers could purchase. These butchers did not want to have competition from country butchers. Gracechurch Street market was more open to country sellers. This market had a wide variety of products from the country, including dairy products, pork and veal, and produce.

London markets continued to expand after the Tudor and Stuart period. This made it necessary to develop a system of laws and regulations to keep the business in the markets as fair as possible.

Source: Liza Picard, Elizabeth’s London: Everyday Life on Elizabethan London.

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