Billingsgate. Steel engraving. Drawn and engraved by Carter. From Eighty Picturesque Views of the Thames and Medway.

Text accompanying the engraving

The view which now meets the astonished gaze at once impresses the mind with the prodigious extent of the commercial interests of Great Britain. The numberless vessels moored in the pool seem, in the mazy winding of the stream, to become a dense forest of lofty masts, beyond which the eye cannot penetrate. The average number of British ships and vessels lying in the river and docks is estimated at 13,000 to 14,000, and for which 3000 to 4000 barges and other small craft are employed in loading and unloading. Nearly 3000 barges and other craft are engaged in the inland trade, and 3000 wherries and small boats for passengers. About 10,000 labourers are employed in lading and discharging ships, and 8000 watermen in navigating the wherries and small craft. About 20,000 coasting vessels annually enter the port of London; 7000 of which, it is calculated, are laden with grain, 6000 with coals, and 7000 wit various goods. The value of merchandize annually received and discharged is computed at between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000, and the official value of goods warehoused is about £19,000,000. The scene of this enormous traffic occupies a space of more than four miles in length, reaching from London-bridge to Deptford, and from 400 to 500 yards in average breadth, consisting of the upper, middle, and lower pools and the space between Limehouse and Deptford; the river also averaging in depth about twelve feet; the navigation of which, exclusive of the constant arrival and departure of the numerous vessels, is now annually obstructed by about 11,000 voyages, performed by various steam-boats. It is calculated that, including the imports and exports, as well as the receipts from the inland markets, &c., that a sum of £120,000,000 worth of property is annually moving to and from the metropolis. London comprises 1,453,662 inhabitants, and 178 parishes, which extend from east to west, that is from Poplar to Knightsbridge, seven miles and a half in length, and in breadth, from north to south, or from Islington to Walworth, about five miles; the circumference of the whole being computed at about thirty miles, including an area of 12,000 square acres, of which the Thames occupies about 1120, leaving 11,880 square acres as the space employed by the buildings and streets, the latter of which, including the lanes and courts, comprise about 8000. Resuming our course on the river, we observe the ancient fish-market of Billingsgate on the left, and the the magnificent building of the Custom-house, stretching in lengthened Une its mass of stone architecture, the river front extending 488 feet, with a fine wharf, skirting the Thames. The first stone was laid in 1813, and the whole building was completed in 1817, after designs by Mr. David Laing and Mr. Smirke. In 1268 the half-yearly amount of the customs for foreign merchandize was only £75. 6s. lOd.; since which it has rapidly augmented, until, at the present period, the annual revenue exceeds £9,000,000.

Other images and discussions of Billingsgate

Text and formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the University of California Library and the Internet Archive and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]


Fearnside, W. G. Eighty Picturesque Views of the Thames and Medway, Engraved on Steel by the First Artists. London: Black and Armstrong, [n.d. after 1837]. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California at Berkley Library. Web. 30 March 2012.

Last modified 1 May 2012