Meat, Commerce and the City
reormers attacked the treatment o cattle by drovers who prodded their stockthrough the City streets. Indeed, the pressure to remove the cattle market romthe heart o the City had been unrelenting.Such a ‘splendid’ work as the Metropolitan Cattle Market was the culmina-tion o a decades-long struggle to uproot the live cattle market rom its historicgrounds in the heart o London. By the nineteenth century, the old live cattlemarket had acquired the status o a ‘nuisance’ and was so described by CharlesDickens in
in 1837 as ollows:
… covered nearly ankle deep with lth and mire; and a thick steam perpetually rising rom the reeking bodies o the cattle, and mingling with the og, which seemed to restupon the chimney tops, hung heavily above … Countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawk-ers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds o every low grade, were mingled together in adense mass: the whistling o drovers, the barking o dogs, the bellowing and plunging o beasts, the bleating o sheep, and the grunting and squealing o pigs; the cries o hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on all sides, the ringing o bells, and theroar o voices that issued rom every public house; the crowding, pushing, driving,beating, whooping and yelling; the hideous and discordant din that resounded romevery corner o the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty guresconstantly running to and ro, and bursting in and out o the throng, rendered it astunning and bewildering scene which quite conused the senses.
Understandably, Londoners in the City and surrounding parishes wanted thisscene removed rom their midst. But butchers and cattle salesmen resisted theuprooting o their businesses rom the center o the metropolis to the suburb o Islington, and their resistance was not easily overcome. Between 1800 and 1851,over a dozen bills and petitions passed through the committee rooms in Parlia-ment only to stall or disappear altogether. Te removal o the market was slow,arduous, and sometimes erratic, but eventually innovation overcame traditionand the Smitheld ‘nuisance’ disappeared rom the City in 1855.Te market in Islington that replaced Smitheld was a resplendent andrationalized space that embodied the latest technology. Its design incorporatednew technologies in ways that signaled the arrival o the modern industrializedcity. Leading other large metropolitan areas in Europe and North America, Lon-don transormed its organic provisioning system into a mechanized operationthat accommodated new requirements or commerce and public health. Froma reliance on human and animal networks it moved to activities powered bysteam, gas, and electricity. Tese new mechanized networks connected London’smodern meat markets in ways that improved speed and sanitation.Te relocation o London’s live cattle market illustrated how cities modern-ized in the nineteenth century. Food markets, the heart and soul, i not stomach,o urban centers were central and visible representations o urban communities.Troughout history, cities appeared as provisioning entrepôts, oen located near