london's smithfield meat market -- 10/29/19
Today's selection -- from Girl on the Block by Jessica Wragg. London's Smithfield Market is the largest wholesale meat market in the UK and has operated since medieval times:
"In the UK, many trace the meat industry that we're familiar with back to Smithfield Meat Market in central London, maybe the most famous meat market in the world. Once the site of medieval tournaments in the fourteenth century and public executions throughout the Middle Ages (during Mary Tudor's reign of England from 1553 to 1558, more than two hundred heretics were burned on its grounds), the market has been trading in farm animals for more than eight hundred years, By the mid-1800s, more than one and a half million sheep were being brought to Smithfield from rural farmlands each year for sale and slaughter. Sheep, cattle, and pigs roamed the streets, and the excrement, blood, and guts of those slaughtered covered the cobblestones of the open-air market.
|Smithfield from the "woodcut map" of c. 1561, illustrating its proximity with open fields to the west, and cattle pens by the city|
"Eventually Victorian-era Londoners realized that this might not be the best thing for public health, and the market was brought indoors. The structure that was built in the late nineteenth century remains today: a huge cathedral like roof atop slate and carved stone that covers six hectares of London soil.
"In the beginning, Smithfield was the only place to purchase meat in London. Skilled butchers worked long hours to satisfy the bustling city's insatiable appetite for meat, and during the Second World War, army butchers were trained under Smithfield's roof. Today you can visit between the hours of two and seven o'clock in the morning and watch bleary-eyed chefs trudge through the grotty-Iooking stalls to buy meat. The butchers are easily discernible by the amount of claret on their overcoats, whereas the owners of the stands sit in tiny offices with Styrofoam walls, their coats perfectly crisp and clean."