Borough Market – A Photo Essay

Prosecco, goat ice cream and tales of marauding Vikings are just some of the things waiting to be discovered at Britain’s oldest market.

Borough Market

Good markets are getting harder and harder to find. The traditional markets with cheap clothes, dish cloths and ‘3 for a pound’ fruit and veg are even rarer. The traditional markets were good for a bargain, but not so great for a day out. These days when you do find a market it’s far more likely to be of the artisanal type and to be expensive, but lovely for a day out.

celery
They still sell fruit and veg. But I didn’t see any dishcloths.

Borough Market is one such market. It’s been around for a long time, about 1000 years (no, my finger didn’t linger too long on the key and add an extra zero, I really did mean to type 1000).

cheese
No, this cheese hasn’t been around since the days of the original market, it’s meant to look this mouldy. Honest!

It stands in Southwark on the south side of the river close to London Bridge. This was the first bridge built across the Thames since the Romans left and was constructed sometime before the year 1000.

London Bridge
The market sprawls around and beneath the railway bridges.

I started reading up on the history of the market on the market website and found myself tantalised by a tale of Vikings and how invading Vikings were fighting Vikings hired by the home side as mercenaries. The invading Vikings tied cables to London Bridge and pulled it down. Or so they claimed. I did wonder if this was the origins of the nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’, but it doesn’t seem to be.

London Bridge
The bridges seem a bit sturdier today.

What has all this got to do with Borough Market? Well, Snorri Sturluson (he was something big in medieval Scandinavian literature) wrote the about the battle of London Bridge in a collection of sagas called the Heimskringla. In it he mentions the great market town of Southwark. The bloke who won the battle went by the name of Sweyn Forkbeard. He became King, but died a few weeks later in February 1014.

Borough Market office
The sign on the market office wall says it was established in 1756. Must be a typo.

Although the market must have had been around for a while before this, particularly if it had been there long enough to have formed a ‘great’ market town, this is the earliest known mention of it. Therefore this is the date usually used when working out how old the market is and was the date used when millennial celebrations were held for the market in 2014.

Borough Market
More fruit and veg

By the 19th century, the market had become a wholesale fruit and vegetable market which thrived until the 1970s when the New Covent Garden Market in Vauxhall took a lot of its trade. This, coupled with the rise of supermarkets, seemed to mean the end was nigh for Borough Market.

pumpkins
Yes, it was nearly Halloween, but this market’s so trendy it probably sells pumpkins all year round.

However, in the 1990s, as ‘artisanal’ foods started to become a thing, the market’s managers saw an opportunity for revival and soon an occasional food fair became a regular market open several days a month. This turned into a daily market and today, more than a 1000 years on, it’s a thriving destination marketplace selling all kinds of wonderful food and drink.

Borough Market
More than just a market; it’s a thriving foodie destination.

We spent all morning wandering and sampling. The only thing that stopped us remortgaging our houses and buying everything in sight is that whatever we bought we had to carry round with us for the rest of the day and take with us to the Ritz when we went for our posh afternoon tea.

mushroom pate
Giant mushrooms. I don’t think they were real, but who knows on a market like this?

This vegetarian mushroom pate was delicious. We tried a few samples, but it wasn’t recommended that we keep it in our bags all day and our warm room overnight, so we couldn’t buy any to take home.

mushroom pate
Mmmmushroom

There was plenty of cheese to sample too.

cheese

cheese
Cheese mountain

I just wanted to grasp that top wedge with my two hands and gnaw on it.

cheese

For the carnivorous amongst you there was plenty of meat too.

meat

And bread. In case you felt like making your own sandwiches.

bread

There were plenty of counters serving hot food like these curries sizzling away in balti pans.

curry

If you wanted to do a bit of cooking at home there were spices and oils.

spices

spices

olive oil and lavender

olive oil

And of course, it wouldn’t be an artisan food market without cakes.

cakes

Oh the cakes …

cakes

Really, the CAKES!

cupcakes

And I didn’t try one.

Only because I knew I’d be eating plenty of cake later on as part of my afternoon tea.

meringue

I didn’t have a giant meringue either.

gingerbread man

Or a gingerbread man.

I so have to go back to this market on a day when I’m not saving myself.

licorice

We did buy some licorice though so we’d have something to snack on on the train on the way home.

licorice

I mean, how could we not when there was so much choice and licorice from so many licorice loving countries?

licorice

You see that huge doorstopper hunk of licorice at the back? The girl on the stall told us that although it’s real it’s just for show, but is worth about £500. On her first week in the job she dropped it and it broke. Fortunately she was forgiven and kept her job.

licorice

And if you want your licorice in pure unadulterated from you could buy a bunch of licorice sticks.

nuts

If licorice isn’t your thing, maybe you’d prefer some dried fruit and chocolate covered nuts instead?

Turkish delight

Or some multi-flavoured Turkish delight?

And if all that munching makes you thirsty, well you could always have a cup of tea.

tea

Or some iced tea

iced tea

Or some chocolate wine

chocolate wine

Does this work? Chocolate and wine in the one drink? I like both, but together? They didn’t have samples so I didn’t get to try it.

What we did drink however, seeing as how we were being posh ladies for the weekend, was …

pink prosecco

… pink prosecco.

My first ever job was working on a market and so I KNOW that markets never used to sell pink prosecco. What on earth were we thinking assuming that everyone would be happy with a mug of stewed tea or a can of Coke? We really missed a trick there.

Apart from the pink prosecco and the licorice, my other favourite thing was goat ice cream.

goat ice cream

I didn’t fancy this at all as I think goats’ milk and cheese has a much stronger taste than cows’ milk and although I like it I didn’t think it would work in ice cream.

We sampled the strawberry and balsamic flavour and immediately bought a tub each.

It worked. It didn’t taste like goat at all.

Borough Market

We found this botanical garden style atrium at the back of the market and sat here for a while enjoying our goat ice cream.

flowers

The market sells flowers as well as food and drink, but even the flowers looked artisanal.

flowers

flowers

I SO want to go back to this market and try more of its deliciousness. I’m sure I could quite easily spend a whole day there.

bottles

What about you? Would you like to spend a day at Borough Market? Or do you know of an even better market? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Author: Anne

Join me in my journey to live a life less boring, one challenge at a time. Author of the forthcoming book 'Walking the Kungsleden: One Woman's Solo Wander Through the Swedish Arctic'.

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