OCCUPY London 2011

Occupy London activists camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral will today be given 24 hours notice to remove their tents and equipment before high court proceedings are issued, the City of London corporation said yesterday.

Occupy London, which arrived in the churchyard on 15 October, last week rejected a request to scale back part of its camp to allow better fire engine access. The notice applies to tents standing on public highways.

THE GUARDIAN – Wednesday 16th November 2011

The Occupy London protest is not the first to have upset the good people of St Paul’s. There were similar ructions in 1345. Then the dispute was not about anti-capitalism but about fruit and veg… and chickens.

Medieval Gardnener

There is little known about the supply of fruit and vegetables in English towns in the mid 14th century…

“It seems to have been a small trade entirely in the hands of a few countrymen or local gardeners who brought their produce into the towns and sold it for what they could get.”


There was a supply of fruit and vegetables in London from the gardens of the City’s great houses. The gardeners would sell their masters’ produce – ‘pulses, cherries, vegetables and other wares to their trade pertaining’ near the gate of St Paul’s Churchyard. The local gentry, the clergy and apparently even God himself didn’t like this one bit. They thought that the fruit and veg market was…

medieval vegetable market

“…a nuisance to the priests who are singing Matins and Mass in the church of St. Austin, and too of St Paul’s Churchyard and to God, as also, to other persons passing there both on foot and horse others, both clerks and laymen, in prayers and orisons there serving back; as well as to the people dwelling in the houses of reputable persons there…etc etc.

The corporation claims the encampment obstructs the public highways around the cathedral, and is seeking to remove tents and other structures from the area. The two sides are expected in court this week.

THE GUARDIAN – Monday 21st November 2011

The gardeners weren’t the first traders to upset the burgers of London. At Eastertide 1345, poulterers found themselves looking at a new regulation from the Mayor.

Leaden Hall Market

“Whereas heretofore folks bringing poultry to the City have sold their poultry in lanes, in the hostels of their hosts, and elsewhere in secret, to the great loss and grievance of the citizens, and at extortionate prices, and to the enhancement of the said poultry;— we do command, on behalf of our Lord the King, that all strange folks bringing poultry to the City, shall bring the same to the Leaden Hall, and there sell it, and nowhere else on pain of forfeiting the poultry, and going bodily to prison, there, at the discretion of the Mayor and Aldermen, to remain.”

The Mayor didn’t want a crowd of scruffy chicken men clogging up the lanes and courtyards of his fair city with their noisy, noisome birds so he found them a place where he could keep an eye on them all, men and chickens, Leaden Hall, now in Gracechurch Street.

Old St Pauls

Having noticed the firm treatment dished out to the poulterers, on the 24th August 1345 the gardeners decided to stake a rightful claim on the area by St Paul’s Churchyard with a petition to the Mayor…

“Unto the Mayor of London shew and pray the Gardeners of the Earls, Barons, and Bishops, and of the citizens of the same city. May it please you, Sire, seeing that you are the chief guardian of the said city, and of the ancient usages therein established, to suffer and to maintain that the said gardeners may stand in peace in the same place where they have been wont in times of old; in front of the Church of St Austin, at the side of the gate of St Paul’s Churchyard, in London; there to sell the garden produce of their said masters, and make their profit, as heretofore they have been wont to do; seeing that they have never heretofore been in their said place molested, and that, as they assert, they cannot serve the commonalty, nor yet their masters, as they were wont to do:—as to the which they pray for redress.”

Fine words butter no parsnips, or “pulses, cherries or other wares to their trade pertaining” when it comes to that and 6 days later the Mayor replied…


By reason of which petition, on the Friday next after the Feast of St Bartholomew, there were assembled in the Chamber of the Guildhall of London, John Hamond, the Mayor, Roger de Depham, Simon Fraunceys, John de Caustone, and certain others of the Aldermen; which Mayor and Aldermen seeing that the place aforesaid, opposite to the said church of St. Austin, near the gate of St Paul’s Churchyard, is such a nuisance to…the people dwelling in the houses of reputable persons there, who by the scurrility, clamour, and nuisance of the gardeners and their servants, there selling pulse, cherries, vegetables, and other wares to their trade pertaining, are daily disturbed; order was given to the said gardeners and their servants, that they should no longer expose their wares aforesaid for sale in that place, on the peril which awaits the same.

Although the Mayor condemned the gardeners in terms similar to those used today against the Occupy London protest… too much noise, too much confusion and too much inconvenience to priest and pedestrian alike, he did offer them an alternative site…

It was agreed that all gardeners of the City, as well aliens as freemen, who sell their pulse, cherries, vegetables, and other their wares aforesaid, in the City, should have, as their place, the space between the South gate of the Churchyard of the said church and the garden-wall of the Friars Preachers at Baynard’s Castle, in the said city: that so they should sell their wares aforesaid in the place by the said Mayor and Aldermen thus appointed for them, and nowhere else.

The site of Baynard’s Castle is now on Queen Victoria Street in Blackfriars.

For all his fiery talk the Mayor did recognise the trading difficulties faced by the gardeners and the poultry men and offered them an amicable solution that was to the benefit of the traders and St. Pauls Church. It would appear that 666 years later the chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral are thinking along the same lines…

St Pauls

“At each step of the legal process the chapter will continue to entreat the protesters to agree to a peaceful solution and, if an injunction is granted, will then be able to discuss with the protesters how to reach this solution.

“Theirs is a message that the chapter has both heard and shares and looks forward to engaging with the protesters to identify how the message may continue to be debated at St Paul’s and acted upon.”

A statement on the St Paul’s Cathedral’s website – 29th October 2011

Let’s hope so.

— from Martyn Day

Credit: The painting of the medieval vegetable market from norwich-market.org.uk. The print of the medieval gardener is from Wageningen Digital Library.