The last bulk shop in London

The Old Fish Shop at Temple Bar, 1846
Mention “bulk shop” to anyone today and they think of ordering large quantities of goods online, but the original London bulk shops were built to replace the dangerous jettied shops after the Great Fire in 1667.  Since goods could not be displayed behind leaded panes, shopkeepers were to use hinged shelves or counters attached to the shop-front, rather than using stands which took up too much of the path.  Above the shelf they were later ordered to maintain a roof, at least half way across the footpath, to protect pedestrians from rain.  Soon they were directed to allow paupers to sleep under these roofs and the narrow eleven inch shelves were replaced with twenty inch ones so that the beggars did not roll off during the night.

The last bulk shop a poulterer's in Gilbert's Passage, Clare Market
There were many of these bulk shops in the area of Temple Bar to the north of the Strand and several were bookshops.  The Old Fish Shop at the top was taken over by Reeves and Turner, booksellers, but the building came down when Temple Bar was removed. The last bulk shop, a poulterer's in Clare Market, was destroyed in 1878.

Clare Market (top) on the edge of 6 acres of sordid courts and alleys replaced in 1882 by the Law Courts 


  1. So interesting! I think the streets then must have been a nightmare to negotiate! Even worse than today.

  2. It is surprising that a law was made to give the homeless permission to sleep in front of shops. Nowadays they are moved on!

  3. Fascinating! Something I didn't know about. :)

  4. The lower part of a traditional shopfront beneath the window is called a stallboard, harking back to these early shopfronts.

  5. That's really interesting. Thank you.