Book 2, Ch. 7: Billingsgate Ward

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

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John Noorthouck, 'Book 2, Ch. 7: Billingsgate Ward', A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1773), pp. 551-553. British History Online [accessed 14 June 2024].

John Noorthouck. "Book 2, Ch. 7: Billingsgate Ward", in A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1773) 551-553. British History Online, accessed June 14, 2024,

Noorthouck, John. "Book 2, Ch. 7: Billingsgate Ward", A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1773). 551-553. British History Online. Web. 14 June 2024,

In this section


Billingsgate ward.

Boundaries.; Principal streets.

The name of this ward is taken from the dock, but that is too antient to afford any certainty in tracing its etymology (fn. 1). It is situated on the river side, and is bounded on the south by the Thames; on the east by Tower-street ward; on the north by Langbourn ward; and on the west by the ward of bridge within. It extends from the the west end of St. Magnus church northward between Fish-street-hill and Pudding-lane, across Little Eastcheap, up to the back of Talbot court in Gracechurch-street; from whence by an irregular line it turns westward across Philpot-lane and Rood-lane; behind which it returns southward back to the river. The contents from Thames-street to the north, are the street of St. Mary's-hill, Love-lane, Botolph's-lane, Pudding-lane, Little Eastcheap, and a considerable part of Rood-lane and Philpot-lane, with several other cross lanes, alleys, and courts: all which are divided into twelve precincts.

Figure 8:

Plan of Billingsgate and Bridge ward

Thames street.

Thames-street is a place of considerable trade, on account of its situation near the river, the Custom-House, Billingsgate, and the several wharfs and keys for lading and unlading merchants goods: though it is impossible to overlook the inconvenient narrowness of that street, and of the avenues, leading from it down to the river.


Billingsgate which gives name to the ward is the only port for fish in London (fn. 2). It is a large water-gate, dock, or port for small vessels, laden with fish of all sorts, oranges, lemons, Spanish onions, and other commodities. It is likewise the port for Gravesend boats and wherries to take in their fares; from whence they are to depart at the ringing of a bell, which rings a quarter of an hour, to give notice of the time of high-water at London bridge, for that purpose. On the wharf is the common exchange every day at noon, for masters of colliers, and dealers concerned in the Newcastle coal trade.

Pudding lane.

It was in that narrow steep lane called Pudding lane that the dreadful fire in 1666 began (fn. 3); which lane is said by Stowe to have obtained its name from the butchers in Eastcheap having their scalding house for hogs there; and their puddings with other filth being conveyed thence down to their dung boats in the Thames. On the house where this fire began the following inscription used to be seen, though lately taken away on account of the stoppage of passengers to read it.

"Here, by the permission of Heaven, hell broke loose upon this protestant city, from the malicious hearts of barbarous Papists, by the hand of their agent Hubert, who confessed, and on the ruins of this place declared the fact, for which he was hanged, viz. That here began the dreadful fire, which is described and perpetuated on and by the neighbouring pillar, erected Anno 1680, in the mayoralty of Sir Patience Ward, knight."

Butcher's hall.

In this lane is a convenient small hall belonging to the Butchers company; in which are three handsome rooms, decorated with fret work and wainscot.

King's weigh house.

At the upper end of Love-lane in Little East Cheap, stands the king's weigh house, built on the ground where the church of St. Andrew Hubbard stood before the fire of London: which weigh-house was before in Cornhill. In this house merchandize brought from beyond the seas are weighed by the kings beam; to which belong a master, four master-porters, with labouring porters under them (fn. 4). They used to have carts and horses to fetch the goods from the merchants warehouses to the beam, and to carry them back. The house belongs to the company of grocers, in whose gift the several porters places were. Of late years little is done in this office, for want of a compulsive power; the merchants alleging it to be an unnecessary trouble and charge. Over this weigh-house, is a large room, now made use of as a dissenting meeting-house.

There are three parish churches in this ward as under.

St. Mary's at Hill.

St. Mary's at Hill, is a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and distinguished by its situation in the street called St. Mary's hill opposite Billingsgate. No certain date of the foundation of this church is known; the earliest circumstance recorded relating to it is, that Rose de Wrytell founded a chantry in it about the year 1336.

This church was not so much damaged by the great fire as to require total rebuilding; but when it was repaired, the parish of St. Andrew Hubbard was annexed to it. It is a well proportioned Gothic structure, consisting of a plain body enlightened by large windows, and a tower crowned by a neat turret. The advowson appears to have been in private hands, till about the year 1638, when it was purchased by the parish; but since the parish of St. Andrew Hubbard was united to it, the duke of Somerset, who is patron thereof, presents in his turn.

In this church is founded a divinity-lecture, to be preached every Thursday morning, endowed with forty pounds per annum, by Sir John Leman.

Annually, on the Sunday after Midsummer-day, according to antient custom, the fraternity of fellowship porters of the city of London repair to this church in the morning; where, during the reading of prayers, they reverently approach the altar, two and two: on the rails are placed two basons, into which they put their respective offerings; and being generally followed by the congregation; the money is distributed among the indigent members of that fraternity.

St. Margaret Pattens.

At the south east angle of Rood-lane stands the parochial church known by the name of St. Margaret Pattens, dedicated to St. Margaret, virgin and martyr. It is a rectory, and takes the addition of Pattens from its standing in a lane which anciently was occupied by Patten makers; but in after-times called Roodlane, on account of a rood or cross set up in the church-yard of St. Margaret, when pulled down to be rebuilt. This cross or rood was blessed and privileged by the pope with many indulgences for the pardon of their sins who came to pray before it, and to make their offerings toward the rebuilding of St. Margaret's church. But the church being finished in the year 1538, soon after the reformation began in England; some people unknown assembled without noise, in the night of the 22d of May, who broke the rood to pieces, and demolished the tabernacle in which it was erected.

This church being destroyed in the fire of 1666, it is beautifully rebuilt, and the parish of St. Gabriel Fenchurch was united to it. It is built part of stone and part of brick, and consists of a plain body, 66 feet in length, 52 feet broad, and 32 feet in height to the roof. The windows are arched, with port hole windows over them. Over the front door is a great Doric window, with a cherubim's head; and a large festoon over it; and above these is a pediment, which stretches from the steeple to the end of the church. The tower rises square to a considerable height, and is terminated by four plain pinnacles, crowned with balls, and a balustrade, within which rises a very solid spire, terminated by a ball and fane.

The gift of St. Margaret Pattens being in the corporation of London; and that of St. Gabriel Fenchurch in the lord chancellor; they each present to the united livings alternately.

St. George Botolph-lane.

In Botolph-lane is a parochial church, dedicated to St. George of Cappadocia, patron of the English nation. It is denominated St. George of Botolph-lane, from its situation on the west side, near the middle of the hill that leads from Thames-street to Little Eastcheap. It is a rectory, founded in the year 1321, and was originally in the abbot and convent of St. Saviour's Bermondsey: at whose dissolution it came to the crown; and the patronage has continued there ever since. This church when burnt down in 1666, was rebuilt of stone, and is pretty, though small: the outside is handsome, and the inside well adorned. The parish of St. Botolph Billingsgate was then annexed to it, the patronage of which being in the dean and chapter of St. Paul's; they and the crown present alternately to the united livings.


  • 1. Vid. p. 9, ante.
  • 2. Billingsgate was made a free market for fish, by the 10 & 11 W. III. c. 24. Vid. p. 286, ante.
  • 3. Vid. p. 225, ante.
  • 4. Vid. p. 247 ante.