Fleet Street

Fleet Street is a long road in central London, the name of which is often used as a metonym for the British newspaper publishing industry. It is named after the River Fleet, one of London’s largest subterranean rivers which now flows under the city through underground culverts, eventually meeting with the River Thames.

However, modern Fleet Street is somewhat different to the public consciousness of the area; as it is no longer the home of the British press industry. In 2005, the last remaining press office, the internationally renowned Reuters, followed a trend that began in the 1980s and moved from Fleet Street. There are currently no national publications being produced at Fleet Street, yet the association with newspapers and journalism continues.

Fleet StreetFleet Street is now best associated with the law, as it is home to the four Inns of Court; Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. The Inns of Court are essentially associations and meeting places for law profession, as well as setting rules of governance for the industry as a whole. As a result, many lawyer and barrister offices are located in and around Fleet Street – yet the name has yet to change from being associated with the press, and rather to the more correct law association.

A good explanation for this may be that, while Fleet Street has had no publishing houses on it since 2005, it was the home of the publishing industry for nearly 500 years. It is incredibly difficult to re brand a street when the history begins in 1500, the rough guidance year given for the first printing shop arriving.

There are many reasons the publishing industry abandoned Fleet Street, though the most often cited are increasing costs of London production and size problems, as well as the occasional rumor of the somewhat incestuous nature of having rival newspapers working so closely together. The Sun newspaper, a British trash tabloid, was the first to abandon Fleet Street in the 1980s; secretly moving to Wapping, where the newspaper could be produced cheaply and in much larger grounds. Most of the British publishing industry is now in Wapping, or the nearby Canary Wharf.

However, there are still some publishers working from offices in Fleet Street – though they are no longer the British daily newspapers which gave the street its reputation. The French-owned international news and photograph agency, Agence France Presse, is still based there; as is Wentworth Publishing, manufacturers of numerous courses and training aids.

There is also the chance that, one day, the publishing industry will return to its spiritual home of Fleet Street. Although originally following the crowd and decamping to Canary Warf, the daily newspapers The Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph recently moved back in to inner London and are now only a few minutes from Fleet Street. In 2006, the Press Gazette made what was to be an unsuccessful move back, though they were forced to vacate again a short while later. However, these changes do prove that the heart and soul of British publishing still lies within Fleet Street, meaning the lawyers and barristers may have to wait for their own associated area of London.