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The strange history of Billingsgate fish market in London

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The Billingsgate market initially sold a bit of everything and only from 1500 began selling mainly fish. In 1699 a parliamentary act passed that decided that the market could sell any type of fish, or almost. In fact one type of fish was forbidden, it was the eels that could then only be sold by Dutch merchants in recognition for having helped London after the Great Fire.

At the beginning there were two markets: Billingsgate and Queenhithe, both dedicated to fish, being in fact close to the piers used by fishing boats. While Queenhithe was more important at the start, Billingsgate overtook it because its dock was in a better position for boats.

The name is said to come from some merchant called Beling or Biling. As London grew, the fish trade also grew and it was decided to build a new market on purpose.

 

This market opened in 1850, before then the market was only composed of wooden buildings and not very stable. Within 20 years the new market was already insufficient for the needs of the city and was therefore enlarged by the architect Horace Jones (also responsible for the Leadenhall and Tower Bridge market).

The building still exists today on Lower Thames Street, you can recognize it from the weather vanes and other decorations with small fish. The market was important for the London economy of the past, when the port and fishing were still important.

George Orwell worked in this market in the 1930s. The market was also famous for its foul language and the many swear words used by those who worked there.

Obviously, being in the City of London where every square metre is worth a fortune the market couldn’t stay there forever. In fact, it closed in 1982. 

The new Billingsgate market opened on the Isle of Dogs in 1982, in the middle of the courtyard is a copy of the original market bell.

Worked in many sectors including recruitment and marketing. Lucky to have found a soulmate who was then taken far too soon. No intention of moving on and definitely not moving to Thailand for the foreseeable future. Might move forward. Owned by a cat.

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History

For the first time you can visit Buckingham Palace’s gardens

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For the first time, the famous Queen’s Gardens at Buckingham Palace will be opened. Normally only the Royal Family and those invited to the Queen’s parties can see them. The reason for this decision is that this summer there will be no traditional opening of part of the building because of the pandemic and to compensate they open the gardens.

Visitors will be able to wander the garden paths and experience the calm of this garden in the heart of London. You will see Horse Chestnut Avenue, the plane trees planted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the famous lake with its bee island of Buckingham Palace. You can also have a picnic on one of the lawns. The gardens will be open from 9 July to 19 September but there are also weekend tours in April and May. You can book your tickets here

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The statue remembering the children of Kindertransport

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You might have seen the bronze monument at the entrance to Liverpool Street Station. You may not know what it is. The statue depicts the children of the Kindertransport which brought over 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland to the United Kingdom.

We can see a little girl sitting on a suitcase with a teddy bear in her hand. The boy to her right holds a satchel and a violin case. The older girl behind him looks away as they wait to be picked up and separated.

The names of the cities on a stretch of track behind them show the places of origin of the children: Cologne – Hanover – Nuremberg – Stuttgart – Düsseldorf – Frankfurt – Bremen – Munich, Gdansk – Wroclaw – Prague – Hamburg – Mannheim – Leipzig – Berlin – Vienna

Between December 1938 and September 1939, nearly 10,000 Jewish children arrived on Liverpool Street via the port of Harwich and the Netherlands. Following the attacks on synagogues and German Jews instigated by the Nazi government at the Kristallnacht from 9 to 10 November 1938, the British government allowed children under 17 to immigrate, provided they found a foster family and a benefactor willing to give a deposit of 50 pounds.

The first to come were nearly 200 children from an orphanage that had been burned down in Berlin. The German authorities allowed children to carry a suitcase and a bag, with no valuables and only a photo. No adult escorts and no train station farewells were allowed. 

10,000 children were separated and ended up in different places in Britain and few saw their parents again, many of whom died in concentration camps. A good number of the children decided to stay in Britain at the end of the war.

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The strong tornado that destroyed London Bridge

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Not many of you will know this story, but read on to find out about this extraordinary event that happened in 1091. Extraordinary not so much for having a tornado in London, but for its power.

On the morning of October 17, 1091, it seemed normal and no one was expecting a tornado. Not any  tornado, but the strongest one recorded in London. In fact, it was probably a F4 or even F5 on the Fujita scale. Incredibly destructive with winds reaching 370 km per hour!

London was then almost entirely made of wood. There was just the White Tower of the Tower of London which was about ten years old and a few masonry churches. A tornado of this type blew almost everything away. Including London Bridge at the time that was partly destroyed by the tornado but also by the Thames current, which carried it away. It was still new having been built by William the Conqueror after 1066.

The famous church of St Mary-le-Bow was badly damaged, with the roof being thrown a certain distance violently. With so much force that the nine-meter-long beams were driven into the ground and only about a meter remained outside.

The river flooded the surrounding areas and not many buildings remained standing. London Bridge was rebuilt soon after, the main bridge connecting London with the southern parts of the country. The new bridge also had a short life, in 1140 it was destroyed by a fire.

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