Poultry, pope’s heads, and Lloyds of London

This day in London history: on Dec 31, 1600, a charter was granted to the East India Company. For years the company had its headquarters at East India House on Leadenhall Street, once the centre of a thriving poultry industry.

East India House in Leadenhall Street

The name of Leadenhall is basically as it sounds – from a grand mansion with a lead roof. The mansion, built by Sir Hugh de Neville, was eventually acquired by Dick Whittington, otherwise known as Sir Richard Whittington, Mayor of London, who then granted it to the City. The site, one of the oldest market sites is London, is still a market, and has appeared in the Harry Potter movies.

EAS_4124A proclamation of 1345 declared that the ‘strangers’ (out-of-towners) had to have their poultry stalls at Leadenhall. This segregation was due to the fact that the non-Londoners were wont to charge too much for their wares; the declaration was equally firm that residents of the city were not to join the outcasts in Leadenhall, but to “sell their poultry at the stalls [in Poultry] as of old”.

EAS_4080 Poultry was once called Scalding Alley, says John Stow, from the poulterers who dwelt there and “their poultry, which they sold at their stalls, were scalded there. The street doth yet bear the name of the Poultry”. However, even by Stow’s time, poultry stalls had given way to houses inhabited by grocers, haberdashers, and upholsterers.

Lloyds of London Image Portfolio Feb2011
Lloyds of London today

The site once inhabited by East India House is now home to another London institution – Lloyds of London, which actually began life nearby in Pope’s Head Alley, so named for a 15th-century tavern that was destroyed in the Great Fire and then rebuilt.EAS_4093One of the earliest mentions of the tavern occurs in Edward IV’s reign. There was a wager between two goldsmiths, one English and from from Alicant, to the effect that “Englishmen were not so cunning in workmanship of goldsmithy as Alicant Strangers”. There was a test of the workmanship of the two men involved and the wager was declared in favour of the Englishman.


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