“The ground was covered, nearly ankle deep, with filth and mire: A thick steam perpetually rising from the reeking odies of the cattle.”
–Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
The Smithfield Market of 1830s London was a ‘live’ meat market and it remained so until 1855, when the ‘live’ market was moved further north to Islington’s Copenhagen Fields and then, in 1868 the current building was opened as a ‘dead’ meat market which it remains today – as the last surviving historic wholesale market in central London.
The new structure was designed by City of London Corporation Surveyor Sir Horace Jones, architect of Billingsgate and Leadenhall markets and Tower Bridge. Together with the meat and poultry markets, the General Market makes up the grandest procession of market buildings in the country. They were designed to be cooler inside than out, with a combination of open ironwork to let the air and light in and louvered roof to keep the sun off.
The Smithfield General Market is a public asset, owned by the City of London Corporation, which has lain empty and largely unused for some 15 years.