Smithfield Meat Market is located to the west of the financial district of London often called ‘The City’. You will find it at the junction of St John St (the road that leads to Islington) and Charterhouse St (the road that leads to Holborn Circus).
I used to work less than 100 meters from this bustling market when I was employed by a big advertising agency.
The first thing you notice is its amazing architecture. The main building is built around a huge, colourfully-painted iron arch. A wide pedestrian road cuts through the middle of the market from St John St to the parking space near St Bart’s hospital. To the south of the market is an area that used to house cattle before slaughter. These days it is a park with an underground space for cars and ambulances.
Although the main business of the market is still meat, the upper floors of the market have been turned into trendy offices, for trendy web-companies. Razorfish CHBI used to have offices there before they went bankrupt.
There is another building; adjacent to the gaudily-coloured Victorian building is a drab grey structure, presumably built in the 60s. Lacking the main building’s charm, this ugly part of the market is strictly functionalist.
The market keeps strange hours. Smithfield is the main meat-processing site in the whole of London, so they have to supply the city’s restaurants. They are just finishing their butchery when most city-folk get to their offices.
In the morning it’s a smelly place. As the last vans and trucks drive off with their cardboard boxes over-full of meat products, the ground around the meat market is strewn with miscellaneous body parts. There is a smell of blood and death that is strong enough to turn vegetarians militant.
By lunchtime the cleanup has begun. Men with white suits and pressure hoses can be seen blasting every surface, inside and out. A huge white dumper truck carries away all the refuse and giblets to some unknown refuse site. It’s not a pleasant experience if you get caught behind this vehicle in a traffic jam.
By the evening, the place is deserted. The butchery will not begin again until the next morning. Most of the people around are clubbers; the area has two of London’s biggest clubs (Fabric and Turnmills).