Wednesday 13 October 2010

Know your market

More from London Exhibited in 1852, namely a list of markets. It includes some places which - to my astonishment - I don't believe I've ever heard of before. It also details the rather complicated system for irrigating and airing Billingsgate market in the 1850s (but you may wish to skip that bit). It's astonishing, really, how many of these places still exist, in one form or another.


The markets of the metropolis are not what a stranger would expect to find when he visits so large and wealthy a city. Some of them are, by their ill construction, ill ventilation, ill location, and total want of sanitary regulations, disgraceful to a civilized nation; and there are not wanting persons—even in respectable positions in society—to defend and uphold those nuisances which have incontestably been proved to be injurious and demonstrably fatal to society. The corporation of the city of London have not shown that alacrity which might naturally have been expected of enlightened men. It may be well for those who live in suburban villas and country mansions to deprecate comforts and health for those who, toiling all the day, have been less fortunate in the commercial world than themselves; however, the necessity of legislative interference, is now insisted upon, that the abomination complained of should be expelled from the heart of this great and populous metropolis.
    Billingsgate Fish Market is in Lower Thames Street, adjoining the western side of the Custom House; it has its own port for the landing and sale of all kinds of fish on a most extensive scale. Fish from all parts of the coast and from foreign ports are here sold. The lobster from Norway is a most valuable article of import; a very large sum annually is remitted by the salesmen for this fish alone. This market is under strict, yet judicious management by city authority, and all tainted fish unfit for human food is destroyed, and the vendor fined for his attempt at imposition. This market is an exception to the foregoing remarks; it has lately been much improved by the city architect, Mr. Bunning, who has attended strictly to its ventilation, drainage, and sanitary regulation. This object is effected by mechanical means. Mr. Bessemer, the engineer, has constructed a centrifugal machine for exhausting the air: it consists of two discs of iron, each eight feet in diameter, and having a central opening of half that size, and placed on a shaft, 2 ft. apart from each other, and attached by eight radial partitions, forming a series of segmental chambers around the axis; a communication is established between the central openings of this disc and the place to be exhausted, by several underground channels branching off to different points, where openings are formed for the inlet of the air, while the external diameter of the discs communicate with an air shaft leading upwards above the roof of the building, where the foul air is dispersed. When a rapid rotary motion is communicated to the disc the air contained In its segmental chambers immediately acquires centrifugal force, and escapes at the outer edge of the disc, while new portions of air rush to the centre of it, from all the numerous inlets before referred to, and thus fill up the vacuum formed by the escape of it at the periphery ; so that a continuous and powerful action is kept up, carrying out of the market at least 50,000 cubic feet of foul air per minute, the space previously occupied by which is immediately reoccupied with fresh air from the open front next the river.
    Upon this same centrifugal principle Mr. Bessemer has recently patented a pump of the most powerful description, for lifting and forcing water, which is here applied for the supply of water for washing the market; and filtered water for cleaning the fish, and the general use of the market people, is also supplied by means of this small though powerful pumping machine. Two tons of water per minute are lifted 35 ft. high from filters in the bed of the Thames, and from thence delivered into a fountain In the upper market; 1¾ ton per minute of unfiltered water is lifted from the Thames, and passes in a constantlv-flowine stream along a series of gutters formed at short Intervals along the whole surface of the market, and covered over with gratings, so that the drainage from the numerous fish-stalls, uniting with the water flowing in these gutters, is immediately carried off, while 1 ton per minute of water is in like manner distributed throughout the lower market, from which it is again pumped out by the tame apparatus, and discharged into the Thames.
    The quantity of water raised, it is said, by this small pump, is 77,000 imperial gallons per hour; and at the price charged by the water companies, would exceed 4000l. per annum. Notwithstanding there are four different elevations to which the water has to be raised in such vast quantities, and that some part of it is filtered, some in the state of ordinary Thames water, and the other part consisting of the foul drainage water from the lower market, one apparatus deals with these different masses of water without any intermixture ; and the entire apparatus consists only of one single revolving piece, having no no rubbing surfaces, and fitting closely nowhere except at its axis, and is contained in a cast-iron case, and without any reciprocating parts whatever, not even the alternating motion of a valve ; nay more, the same axis on which the centrifugal water discs are fixed, nerves also for the axis of the large air disc used for ventilation; and thus by the simple rotation of one revolving piece all the effects before referred to are produced, motive power being applied from a very simply-constructed oscillating steam engine of 16-horse power, the fly-wheel of which is made broad enough to carry a gutta-percha strap, passing over a drum in the centrifugal pump shaft, and thus communicating a sufficiently rapid motion.
    Bloomsbury Market, in Bury Place, Bloomsbury, is for the sale of provisions generally, but of very small extent.
    Borough Market, Southwark, is for the sale extensively of provisions generally, particularly of potatoes. The best potatoes in the south part of the island are grown in Kent, and have a lucrative sale in this market.
    Borough Market, Southwark, is for the sale of hops, the greatest part of which are the growth of the counties of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey.
    Brooke's Market, in Brooke Street, Holborn, a very small market for the sole of provisions generally.
    Covent Garden Market, opposite St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, is within an extensive square piece of ground, and of great antiquity. The eastern and northern angles of the margin of this market are Plazza and capacious mansions above erected by Inigo Jones, architect to Charles I. and II. This market is the property of the Duke of Bedford, and yields a large annual revenue after payment of contingent expenses. The late Francis, Duke of Bedford, in 1830, reconstructed and built the present market from the design and under the superintendence of Mr. Wm. Fowler, architect, at a cost of 50,000l. It consists of three sides of a quadrangle, with a Doric colonnade around it, supported by granite columns, and is undoubtedly a finely-conceived design, and a credit to the metropolis. Its arrangement is admirable, in such divisions as are suitable to the salesman, the purchaser, and the visitor. The productions of the hot-house, and of the growth of those who spare no expense in producing the finest fruit in all seasons of the year, and flowers, herbs, and vegetables of the best kinds, are here exhibited for sale. The promenade in the avenue, in which the best fruit shops are situated, is desirable and gratifying to the visitor; above the entrance on the eastern extremity are galleries for the sale of plants and flowers of a superior description.
   Carnaby Market, near to Broad Street, Golden Square, is now but a small provision market.
    Corn Market, Mark Lane, is an elegant structure, the front being of the Greek style; in the interior are suitable offices for business, the hall also having those divisions and stands necessary for the purposes of showing the different kinds of grain and seeds, and effecting the sale of the same. The sales of wheat in this market have a considerable influence on the prices in the provinces, as well as regulating the demand and import of the foreign merchant.
    Clare Market, in the parish of St. Clement's Danes, approximate to the south-west corner of Lincoln's Inn Fields, is for the sale principally of butchers' meat, also for the sale of vegetables, tripe, dogs and cats' meat. Clare Market, although smaller than others, is not less a nuisance. There are about twenty-six butchers in and about it, who slaughter from 350 to 400 sheep weekly in the market, or in the stalls behind, and in cellars. There is one place only in which bullocks are slaughtered. The number killed la from fifty to sixty weekly, but considerably more in winter, amounting occasionally to 200. The number of calves is uncertain.
    Cumberland Market, York, or Clarence Street, on the east side of Regents Park, is for the sale of hay, straw, and other articles.
    Farringdon Market, adjacent and on the west side of Farringdon Street, City (late the Fleet Market), erected on this site about thirty years since, occupies 1½ acre of ground. The structure is indifferently applicable, although the situation is most desirable, particularly for drainage, being on a slope. It is for the sale of vegetables, butchers' meat, fruit, &c.
    Finsbury Market, near Finsbury Square and City Road, is for the sale of provisions; now little in use.
    Fitzroy Market, a small one at the northern end of John Street, Tottenham Court Road, is for the sale of butchers' meat and vegetables.
    Greenwich Market, Greenwich, is for the sale of provisions generally.
    Honey Lane Market, on the north side of Cheapside, is for the sale of provisions; almost extinct, by being built upon for the purpose of founding a city school.
    Hungerford Market, in the Strand, near to Charing Cross, is for the sale of fish extensively, fruit, vegetables, and butchers' meat. The design and construction of this market is by Mr. Wm. Fowler, it is of the Italian character, and cheerful and interesting on the water-side exterior. Covent Garden is by the same architect. The upper part of the market consists of three avenues, with shops on each side; the whole roofed in. It has now become a market in which much business is done, and of great convenience to the west-end residents; it is the thoroughfare to the Suspension Bridge, across the Thames.
    Hoxton Market, Hoxton Town, north-east of the City of London, is for the sale of provisions generally.
    Hutchinson Market, Houndsditch, is a market for general provisions, but in little use; intended for the Jews in this quarter.
    Islington Market, was intended to be upon a most convenient and extensive scale, to relieve that of Smithfield, for the sale of cattle of all kinds. An immense amount of money has been expended by a Mr. Perkins, but his praiseworthy object was defeated by the influence and intrigue of the city of London, and is for the present used as a laystall.
    Leadenhall Market, the first turning on the right, east from Cornhill, is for the sale of poultry, dead and alive, also for the sale of the hides and horns of cattle; calves and pigs only are here slaughtered; upon an average there are thirty-five to forty salesmen, who kill upon an average from 300 to 100 sheep per week, and occasionally some of them slaughter as many as 300 to 400 sheep each per week.
     Leather Market, Bermondsey, on the Southwark side of the Thames, is an important market for the sale of leather.
    Lumber Court, Seven Dials, is for the sale principally of fish, and also for vegetables and butchers' meat
    Mortimer Market, a very obscure market in Tottenham Court Road, is for the sale of provisions, and is a convenience for the neighbourhood.
    Newgate Market, abutting on the south of Newgate Street, is most extensive for the sale of carcase and retail butchers' meat; adjacently is Tyler's Market, of a similar description; Newgate Market, so important for the extent of its business, is yet one of the nuisances in the city of London. The slaughterhouses for sheep are almost exclusively in cellars underneath the shop where the pieces or joints are sold in retail. The access to these cellars is by steps, over which a board is occasionally placed, to act as an inclined plane, for the animal to slide down ; more frequently a much more summary process is had recourse to, the animal is seized by the butcher, and pitched headlong into the cellar by main force, where, unable to rise from broken limbs, or other injuries sustained by the fall, they lie awaiting their turn to be slaughtered. In this market poultry is also sold.
    New Exchange, Clothes Market, in Hounsditch, is for the sale and barter of all kinds of goods, particularly old clothes bought by the Jew crier in his purchases made daily in the various streets of London.
    Newport Market, Great Newport Street, west of Long Acre, is for the sale principally of butchers' meat. In this market and its neighbourhood there are from forty to fifty butchers, together with slaughtermen and drovers. They kill upon an average from 300 to 400 bullocks weekly, from 500 to 700 sheep, according to circumstances, and from 50 to 100 calves; the number of the latter varies very much; 1000 to 1100 sheep have been known to be killed in one week, and many more bullocks than at the present time. As many are killed in the country, and are brought in by the railways.
    Old Clothes And General Market, Houndsditch, is for the sale and barter of all kinds of goods, particularly old clothes. It is a Jews' market.
    Oxford Market, on the north side of Oxford Street, near John Street, Portland Street, is a small market for the sale of vegetables and butchers' meat.
    Orange Market, Duke's Place, Houndsditch, is an extensive market for the sale of oranges; large fortunes have been made in this market.
    Portman Market, Marylebone, near Paddington, is for the sale of hay and straw, also for butter, poultry, butchers' meat, and other provisions.
    Rag Fair, and Old and Second-hand Clothes Market, Petticoat Lane, now called Middlesex Street, Minories, is for the sale of the refuse of the metropolis.
    Smithfield Market, the great area, the great mart of business for its purpose, and the great nuisance of the metropolis. It is situated near what may be called the heart of the city of London; it is bounded on the north by St. John Street, on the south by Giltspur Street, on the east by Long Lane, and the west by Cow Lane; these are leading streets in and out of this market, in this market the most lucrative and the largest business is transacted for the sale of all kinds of cattle, milch cows, pigs, horses, mules, asses, dogs, and goats in the world; hay and straw, &c are also sold largely.
    The salesmen of Smithfield market, of whom there are about 160, may be described as commission agents, to whom the farmers and others who fatten cattle consign their stock, of which they now transmit some portion by railway. They receive from 2s. 6d. to 4s. per head for the sale of oxen and cows; from 10s. to 15s. per score for sheep and lambs; and 1s. per head for calves. In Smithfield there are seven bankers, who are cither salesmen or butchers, and are generally connected with those trades. The principal supply of live cattle for the consumption of the metropolis is from the northern counties. Smithfield is not only the chief market for the supply of the inhabitants of the metropolis, but is a market of transit for the southern counties—the transactions amounting to the enormous extent of 7,000,000l. sterling, annually. In 1846, there were sold of beasts, 226,132; sheep and lambs, 1,593,270; calves, 26,356; pigs, 33,531. There are many slaughter-houses in the neighbourhood of this market, as well as in the surrounding neighbour hood, all of which are much complained of.
     Spitalfields Market, to the right of Bishopsgate Street and Norton Folgate, is a large market for vegetables, particularly for potatoes, and for poultry, butchers' meat, and fruit.
    St. George's Market, on the left of the upper end of Oxford Street, is for the sale of butchers' meat; there are in its vicinity numerous stalls for vegetables.
    Shepherd's Market, May Fair, south side of Curzon Street, is for the sale of provisions generally, is a convenience for this genteel neighbourhood, and is not a nuisance.
    Whitechapel Market, east of Aldgate, City, is an extensive market for the sale of butchers' meat, and for the sale of the Jews' killed butchers' meat; carcase butchers deal here to some extent. Many slaughter-houses here and in Aldgate are at the backs of the houses, to which there is no access but through the front shop. The animals, however infuriated, have to be forced, usually by the tail-twisting process, into these huddled-up slaughter-houses. There is a large market carried on in the road of hay, straw, &c
There are many public streets, especially in crowded neighbourhoods, where open public highway stalls exist, permitted by the parish authorities, and by the police, for the accommodation of a large and poor population, but they are under strict regulation to keep the peace, and not to offer obstruction to the foot passengers.
    There are also extensive markets or fairs in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, for the sale of all descriptions of cattle, milch cows, pigs, horses, mules, asses, dogs, goats, hay, straw, and grain of all kinds; at Croydon, in Surrey ; Romford, in Essex ; and Southall and Uxbridge, in Middlesex, &c, &c.
    Thus there are in the metropolis thirty-six markets, some of which are designed with taste, others more the effect of accident in their arrangement. Those for the sale and slaying of cattle ought, for the health and safety of the immediate residents, to be removed out of London


  1. In your blog for 13th October you described various markets and for Clare Market referred to "...dogs and cat's meat..."

    My great-grandfather was described in the 1881 census as a "cats meat salesman"; he was from Richmond in Surrey but by then living in Portsmouth, and I know from my own father that his father (my grandfather) also sold cats meat from a cart or handcart in Portsmouth.

    I am interested in doing some further research on the trade because it doesn't seem a very lucrative source of earning a living, and indeed grandfather was shown in the same 1881 census as a fireman on the railway; perhaps he later inherited the business. He certainly did well becaus he left my father some property.

    So, to the point - have you any idea what a cat's meat salesman was? Hawking dodgy meat for pets is what it sounds like......?

    John Butcher
    (Quite co-incidentally, also a steam railwayman, at the Mid-Hants Railway, hence the email address)

  2. Yes, cat's meat men were familiar street-sellers in the Victorian period, hawking food for pets (largely horsemeat) door-to-door, which was known as 'cat's meat' but I think would have been fed to dogs as well. See my website,, then look in Professions folder, then Service industry, then you'll find a few passing mentions of the trade, and a drawing. It would not be a very lucrative trade!