by Teresa Thomas Bohannon
Markets.—London contains nearly 40 markets for cattle, meat, corn, coal, hay, vegetables, fish, and other principal articles of consumption. The meat-markets are of various kinds—one for live animals, others for carcases in bulk, and others for the retail of meat; some, also, are for pork, and others principally for fowls. The New Cattle Market, Copenhagen Fields, near Pentonville, built, in 1854, to replace old Smithfield Market, covers nearly 30 acres, and, with outbuildings, slaughterhouses, &c., cost the City Corporation about £400,000. It is the finest live stock market in the kingdom. The present Smithfield Market, near the Holborn Viaduct, for dead meat and poultry, is a splendid building, 625 feet long, 240 feet wide, and 30 feet high. Wide roads on its north, east, and west sides, accommodate its special traffic. A carriage road runs right through it from north to south, with spacious and well ventilating avenues radiating from it. There are in this market no less than 100,000 feet of available space. It has cost upwards of £180,000 already. There are underground communication with several railways, to bring in, right under the market, meat and poultry from the country, and meat from the slaughterhouses of the Copenhagen Fields Cattle Market. Newgate Market, as a market, no longer exists. Leadenhall Market is a depôt for meat and poultry. At Whitechapel there is a meat market also. The minor meat markets require no special note here. Billingsgate, the principal fish market of London, near the Custom House, was greatly extended and improved in 1849. It is well worth visiting any morning throughout the year, save Sunday, at five o’clock. Ladies, however, will not care to encounter its noise, bustle, and unsavoury odours. The fish arriving in steamers, smacks, and boats from the coast or more distant seas, are consigned to salesmen who, during the early market hours, deal extensively with the retail fishmongers from all parts of London. The inferior fish are bought by the costermongers, or street-dealers. When particular fish are in a prime state, or very scarce, there are wealthy persons who will pay enormously for the rarity; hence a struggle between the boats to reach the market early. At times, so many boats come laden with the same kind of fish as to produce a glut; and instead of being sold at a high price, as is usually the case, the fish are then retailed for a mere trifle. Fish is now brought largely to London by railway, from various ports on the east and south coasts. The yearly sale of fish at Billingsgate has been estimated at so high a sum as £2,000,000.
Covent Garden Market (connected by Southampton Street with the Strand) is the great vegetable, fruit, and flower market. This spot, which is exceedingly central to the metropolis, was once the garden to the abbey and convent of Westminster: hence the name Convent or Covent. At the suppression of the religious houses in Henry VIII.’s reign, it devolved to the Crown. Edward VI. gave it to the Duke of Somerset; on his attainder it was granted to the Earl of Bedford; and in the Russell family it has since remained. From a design of Inigo Jones, it was intended to have surrounded it with a colonnade; but the north and a part of the east sides only were completed. The fruit and vegetable markets were rebuilt in 1829–30. The west side is occupied by the parish church of St. Paul’s, noticeable for its massive roof and portico. Butler, author of Hudibras, lies in its graveyard, without a stone to mark the spot. In 1721, however, a cenotaph was erected in his honour in Westminster Abbey. The election of members to serve in Parliament for the city of Westminster was held in front of this church: the hustings for receiving the votes being temporary buildings. The south side is occupied by a row of brick dwellings. Within the square thus enclosed fruit and vegetables of the best quality are exposed for sale. A large paved space surrounding the interior square is occupied by the market-gardeners, who, as early as four or five in the morning, have carted the produce of their grounds, and wait to dispose of it to dealers in fruit and vegetables residing in different parts of London; any remainder is sold to persons who have standings in the market, and they retail it to such individuals as choose to attend to purchase in smaller quantities. Within this paved space rows of shops are conveniently arranged for the display of the choicest fruits of the season: the productions of the forcing-house, and the results of horticultural skill, appear in all their beauty. There are also conservatories, in which every beauty of the flower-garden may be obtained, from the rare exotic to the simplest native flower. The Floral Hall, close to Covent Garden Opera House, has an entrance from the north-east corner of the market, to which it is a sort of appendage as a Flower Market. Balls, concerts, &c., are occasionally given here. The Farringdon, Borough, Portman, Spitalfields, and other vegetable markets, are small imitations of that at Covent Garden.
Malt liquors.—The beer and ale consumed in the metropolis is, of course, vast in quantity, though there are no means of determining the amount. If, by a letter of introduction, a stranger could obtain admission to Barclay & Perkins’s or Truman & Hanbury’s breweries, he would there see vessels and operations astonishing for their magnitude—bins that are filled with 2,000 quarters of malt every week; brewing-rooms nearly as large as Westminster Hall; fermenting vessels holding 1,500 barrels each; a beer-tank large enough to float an up-river steamer; vats containing 100,000 gallons each; and 60,000 casks, with 200 horses to convey them in drays to the taverns of the metropolis!
Shops and Bazaars.—The better-class London retail shops, for wealth, variety, and vast number, are among the greatest wonders of the place. They speak for themselves. The wholesale establishments with which New Cannon Street, Wood Street, and the south side of St. Paul’s Churchyard—noticeably the gigantic warehouses of Messrs. Cook & Co.—abound, if, by a letter of introduction, an order of admission can be obtained, would strike a stranger—in spite of less external display, save as regards size—as more wonderful still, so enormous is the amount of their business operations, and of capital incoming and outgoing.
There are about 7,400 streets, lanes, rows, &c., in the metropolis. From Charing Cross, within a six miles radius, there are something over 2,600 miles of streets. As regards trades generally, it is hard even to get anything like an approximate notion of their numbers. As the Post Office London Directory says, new trades are being added to the list every year. Thus, we are told, 57 new trades were so added in the year 1870. But to specify a few, there are, say, about 130,000 shopkeepers, or owners of commercial establishments, who carry on more than 2,500 different trades. Loss of much of London’s shipping trade, &c., has indeed driven hundreds of emigrants of late from our east-end waterside neighbourhoods. But London has gone on growing all the same, and trade with it. Among these trades are, without counting purely wholesale dealers, about 2,847 grocers and tea dealers, 2,087 butchers, 2,461 bakers, 1,508 dairymen, &c., 2,370 greengrocers and fruiterers, more than 595 retail fishmongers, 891 cheesemongers, (this computation does not include the small shops in poor neighbourhoods which sell almost everything,) 2,755 tailors, (not including about 500 old-clothesmen, wardrobe-dealers, &c.,) about 3,347 bootmakers, about 450 hatters, and so forth. All these are master tradesmen or shopkeepers, irrespective of workmen, foremen, shopmen, clerks, porters, apprentices, and families. We may add, that in the pages of that very large book the London Post Office Directory, no less than 52 columns and over are occupied by the long list of London publicans.
The principal Bazaars of London are the Soho, London Crystal Palace, (Oxford Street,) and Baker Street bazaars, to which should be added the Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly, and the Lowther Arcade, (famous for cheap toys,) in the Strand. The once celebrated Pantheon, in Oxford Street, is now a wine merchant’s stores. Many small bazaars exist.
The Bazaar system of oriental countries, in which all the dealers in one kind of commodity are met with in one place, is not observable in London; yet a stranger may usefully bear in mind that, probably for the convenience both of buyers and sellers, an approach to the system is made. For instance, coachmakers congregate in considerable number in Long Acre and Great Queen Street; watchmakers and jewellers, in Clerkenwell; tanners and leather-dressers, in Bermondsey; bird and bird-cage sellers, in Seven Dials; statuaries, in the Euston Road; sugar-refiners, in and near Whitechapel; furniture-dealers, in Tottenham Court Road; hat-makers, in Bermondsey and Southwark; dentists, about St. Martin’s Lane; &c. There is one bazaar, if so we may term it, of a very remarkable character—namely, Paternoster Row. This street is a continuation of Cheapside, but is not used much as a thoroughfare, though it communicates by transverse alleys or courts with St. Paul’s Churchyard, and, at its western extremity, by means of Ave-Maria Lane, leads into Ludgate Hill. Paternoster Row, or ‘the Row,’ as it is familiarly termed, is a dull street, only wide enough at certain points to permit two vehicles to pass each other, with a narrow pavement on each side. The houses are tall and sombre in their aspect, and the shops below have a dead look, in comparison with those in the more animated streets. But the deadness is all on the outside. For a considerable period this street has been the head-quarters of booksellers and publishers, who, till the present day, continue in such numbers as to leave little room for other tradesmen—transacting business in the book-trade to a prodigious amount. At the western extremity of Paternoster Row a passage leads from Amen Corner to Stationers’ Hall Court, in which is situated Stationers’ Hall, and also several publishing-houses.
Mudie’s Library.—While on the subject of books, we may remind the visitor that the most remarkable lending library in the world is situated in London. Mudie’s, at the corner of New Oxford Street and Museum Street, affords a striking example of what the energy of one man can accomplish. At this vast establishment the volumes are reckoned by hundreds of thousands; and the circulation of them, on easy terms, extends to every part of the kingdom. The chief portion of the building is a lofty central gallery, of considerable beauty.
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