In september 2017 we went on our first England & Wales trip. One of the locations I was really looking forward to was the ‘Fruit Exchange’ although I was told the entry would be a difficult one. As in, climbing up scaffolds & going down fire escapes which had to be done just before daylight hit because this location is smack in the middle of a big city. Well, lets put it this way…we failed…because of me. I got onto the first bit of scaffolds quite simply but then noticed a police car at the traffic light so I had to wait. Then a man was looking right at me, probably wondering if he was so drunk that he was seeing things and it took forever for him to walk away…and by then…I had lost my nerve. I was shaking and didn’t dare to go any further because suddenly the little voice inside my head was whispering ‘you do realise that you have to go down later also right?’
So yeah, we failed. The rest of the trip was fun and all…but I was a bit sad to have missed the main reason for going in the first place. Then came January 2019. I was talking to a friend from the UK over facebook messenger and he casually mentioned having visited the Fruit Exchange only a month or or so prior. I was intregued and started questioning him because as far as I knew, the pace had been sealed. Turned out that the main renovation of the front bit was done and that there was now a way in through the active building. I mentioned it to my travel buddy and his response was priceless: ‘Let me quess, you are already looking at plane tickets?’ He knows me too well…because indeed…I was. And two weeks later, yep you guessed it right, we were in England and I finally got to see the location!
A little bit of History
Grade II listed, it was built ca. 1888 as a railway goods depot for the London and North Western Railway (to serve Exchange Station on Tithebarn Street) and was converted into a fruit exchange in 1923 by James B. Hutchins.
It became the main trading point for fruit within the city and dealt with the majority of fruit imports. Hundreds of people would cram into the excgange halls and bid for fruit which had just arrived from all around the world.
Warehouses directly behind it were used to store the fruit sold at the exchange.
The biggest challenge was finding the right way in as quiet as possible because underneath it was an active pub, which was already open and we could hear people talking inside. With a bit of navigation help from our friend we got inside the building and found the main auction hall. The smaller hall was right behind it. We decided to split up, each would start at one of the auction rooms. The first 20 minutes I was not at ease at all. Mainly because you could litteraly hear what people in the bar were talking about but a little later my nerves calmed down and I could then finally enjoy the dust and the decay.