Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Smithfield Market - EC1

Hearing visitors to London say that they want to visit all the markets - Spitalfields, Columbia Road, Portobello, Smithfield.  I always wonder if they realise that Smithfield Market is not full of chi-chi clothing stalls or organic chocolate brownies - but is rather a working wholesale meat market.  Hopefully when they get there though, they end up loving this area as much as I do.  Whilst the current market building is a magnificent Victorian structure, its stands on a site that has seen the meat trade being plied for over 800 years.  In the days when London was a walled city, Smithfield lay just outside the city wall on the banks of the River Fleet and as such was perfect grazing land for livestock gathered for sale.  Also used as site for public gatherings and more gruesomely executions (Smithfield saw the demise of William Wallace - and the less you think about how he died the better...ouch) the area around the market is so dense with London history it's almost palpable.  As well as the heritage of this place and the wonderful architecture (market buildings and associated structures included) it is also home to one of my favourite caffeine-refuelling stations, Dose Espresso (now in larger premises), plus great restaurants and of course a short walk to the wonderful Barbican Centre.  I had a brief and fairly uninspiring stint at a new media agency nearby and I used to tube it to Farringdon and walk through Smithfield every morning when the traders were sluicing out the blood from their stalls - quite a way to start a working day (and to be honest probably the high point).  I have always loved Farringdon and Clerkenwell and the area is getting better by the day - particularly around the junction of St John St and Clerkenwell Road (I give you the Modern Pantry, St Ali and the Zetter Townhouse to name but three must-visit spots).  For those of you of the clubby persuasion in the early 2000's (and beyond) you will have seen this area at all hours whilst stumbling in or out of Fabric (I may have thrown a shape or two there myself...).  I always loved the proximity of this establishment to the meat market - maybe it was because it gave it a 1980's New York vibe.  As always in a big city, some of the wonderful market buildings have been threatened with demolition by *gnashes teeth* property developers, especially given the proximity to the ever encroaching City, but fingers crossed it looks like the threat has been averted - except for the demolition of some buildings in the cause of f*cking Crossrail (go here for further rants).  Anyway - if you haven't been to Smithfield or Farringdon, do yourself a favour and head there this weekend, take the time to wander around the beautiful main market building, make sure you check out the church of St Batholomew the Great (which has existed here in some form since the 12th century) and just take a moment to think of all that has gone on in this particular pocket of this amazing city.

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