Culture

The Wizarding World of Leadenhall Market

2 Mins read

From the centre of Roman London to one of the city’s main markets, Leadenhall holds a history full of twists and turns – and magic.

Roman settlement of Londinium; manor house for Knights and Lords; meat, game, poultry, and fish market; and now, home to boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and pubs.

Over twenty centuries, Leadenhall Market has had its purpose transformed several times. What few know, however, is that in one of its passages, a scene from Harry Potter was filmed.

The scene in question is in the first of eight films and is very short, lasting less than 30 seconds. In it, Hagrid takes young Harry through the market corridors towards the Leaky Cauldron pub, where there is a portal to Diagon Alley.

Off-screen, the old covered market is located in the City, London’s financial centre. It’s the favourite space for the neighbourhood’s suited professionals to relax at lunch or after a day of work, but it doesn’t usually appear on the city’s basic tourist itineraries, as it is not close to other attractions.

A Leadenhall Market aisle in London. Green walls, yellow columns and red ceiling. A few people walk past.
Tourists take their photos in the passage, oblivious to the film location [Natália Magalhães]

At the Lamb Tavern, during lunchtime on a Tuesday, a group of guys who work in the area had the same reaction when I asked if they knew about a scene being filmed there: “What?!?!”

One of the five had a vague memory. “I know it was Harry and Hagrid in it,” James Evans comments. Appalled, his friend Adam Holmes adds: “We’ve been coming here every week for years. How did I not know that? Am I a legitimate Brit?”

In Bull’s Head Passage, the black-walled Leaky Cauldron is actually the white-walled Glasshouse Opticians Shop. It wasn’t until I saw two girls looking genuinely excited to take photos in front of an optician’s shop that I realised there was something intriguing about it.

A comparison of the location in real life (an optician's, with white walls) and in the Harry Potter scenes (a pub, with black walls).
Glasshouse Opticians and a scene from Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone [Natália Magalhães | Warner Bros Studios]

“It’s funny because we are a normal optician shop, like any other. The clinic has been here since 1984, but because of a single scene we constantly see people stopping by to take photos. And this happens for how long now? Twenty years?” Querenha Boix, who works at Glasshouse, tells me.

“The biggest flow of people is during the summer, but I think it’s only the most passionate fans who end up here.”

A couple standing in front of the shop where a scene of Harry Potter was filmed
Lisa and Christoph Meyer [Natália Magalhães]

On a Saturday afternoon, Lisa and Christoph Mayer, with their children Nele and Leander, quickly passed by Leadenhall Market to take their photo, too.

“We’re spending the weekend in London, visiting the film’s locations because the boys love them,” Lisa explains. “We’ve been to the most obvious places already and only found out about here after a lot of research.”

While I was there, I saw one themed walking tour happening, which can be considered an exception. However, among the various companies that promote these tours, very few include Leadenhall Market in the itinerary.

A group of people standing in front of a white shop in Leadenhall Market, listening to their guide about Harry Potter behind-the-scenes secrets.
Only some walking tours of London visit this spot [Natália Magalhães]

Joel Robinson, from London with a Local, explains: “Our tours are designed so that they’re accessible to all budgets, so we travel on foot around the key areas in Westminster. Deviating the path so much for such a short scene, from just one film, it’s not worth it.”

According to the locals, whether you’re a hardcore fan or a tourist spending more time in the city, Leadenhall Market is worth a visit.

After all, history, architecture, good food, boutiques, and a film location, all in one place.

“Can we find this in London?” asks Harry Potter, as he walks through the colourful aisles for the first time. “If you know where to go,” replies Hagrid, smiling.


Featured image by Natália Maria de Oliveira Magalhães.

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