Cheapside is a street in the City of London, the historic and modern financial centre of London, which forms part of the A40 London to Fishguard road. It links St. Martin’s Le Grand with Poultry. Near its eastern end at Bank junction, where it becomes Poultry, is Mansion House, the Bank of England, and Bank station. To the west is St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s tube station and square.
Cheapside is the former site of one of the principal produce markets in London, cheap broadly meaning “market” in medieval English. Many of the streets feeding into the main thoroughfare are named after the produce that was once sold in those areas of the market, including Honey Lane, Milk Street, Bread Street and Poultry.
In medieval times, the royal processional route from the Tower of London to the Palace of Westminster would include Cheapside. During state occasions such as the first entry of Margaret of France (second wife of King Edward I), into London in September 1299, the conduits of Cheapside customarily flowed with wine.
During the reign of Edward III in the 14th century, tournaments were held in adjacent fields. The dangers were, however, not limited to the participants: a wooden stand built to accommodate Queen Philippa and her companions collapsed during a tournament to celebrate the birth of the Black Prince in 1330. No one died, but the King was greatly displeased, and the stand’s builders would have been put to death but for the Queen’s intercession.
On the day preceding her coronation, in January 1559, Elizabeth I passed through a number of London streets in a pre-coronation procession and was entertained by a number of pageants, including one in Cheapside.
Meat was brought in to Cheapside from Smithfield market, just outside Newgate. After the great Church of St. Michael-le-Querne, the top end of the street broadened into a dual carriageway known as the Shambles (referring to an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market), with butcher shops on both sides and a dividing central area also containing butchers. Further down, on the right, was Goldsmiths Row, an area of commodity dealers. From the 14th century to the Great Fire, the eastern end of Cheapside was the location of the Great Conduit.