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The Middle Ages

The Fishmongers of London were recognised as an organised community long before Edward I granted our first charter in about 1272. This, and other charters granted in the reigns of Edward II and III, maintained that no fish could be sold in London except by the ‘Mistery of Fishmongers’. The Fishmongers enjoyed a period of great expansion in the 14th Century. With a complete monopoly on the sale of fish – one of the chief necessities of life in the Middle Ages – the Company’s wealth and influence had grown enormously. As well as taking a prominent part in the affairs of the city, the Company had its own Court of Law (Leyhalmode), where all disputes relating to fish were settled.

The 15th Century saw the Company gradually losing its monopoly, and with it the immediate involvement with the buying and selling of fish lessened. The connection was maintained, however, and fish and fisheries remain a central part of the Company’s present day role. Today we are one of the few ancient Livery companies still intimately linked to our historic trade.

Laying the foundations

As the Thames riverbank was gradually extended with man-made ground for the wharves and warehouses of medieval marine traders, one long slice of land between Thames Street and the river became the domestic and commercial premises of three prominent fish merchants and Lord Mayors, John Lovekyn, Sir William Walworth and William Askham who grew their premises to include a great hall, large enough for the gathering of a newly-important Livery Company with access from both the street and the waterway, this building was secured in 1444 for the Fishmongers’ Company, who had sole use of its wharf until 1666.