Cheapside, actually West Cheapside, is derived from the old English word “chepe” for market. The street names in the area are filled with clues as to what was bought and sold in medieval times, for instance Poultry, Bread Street and Milk Street.
The goldsmiths in the City worked and traded between Friday Street and Bread Street. Chaucer relates that Cheapside apprentices were badly behaved: “At every wedding would he sing and hop, and preferred the tavern to the shop.”
The City’s water supply ran in a conduit under Cheapside, and the Standard fountain at St Mary-le-Bow ran with wine when Edward III’s son, the black Prince, was born in 1330. The conduit was discovered by Museum of London archaeologists before the building of No 1 Poultry, and an inscribed slab marks its entrance in the pavement outside Tesco Metro.
Cheapside continued to be a major shopping area, rivalling the West End well into the 19th and 20th centuries. After the destruction of World War II it declined as a shopping destination, but in the 21st century the construction of One New Change saw a revival of the true function of Cheapside as a place to shop.
A guest post by Roy Stephenson, Head of Archaeological Collections and Archive at the Museum of London.
For more information about The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels, an exhibition about an incredible hoard of treasure discovered on Cheapside, visit www.museumoflondon.org.uk/cheapside.