When culture can suck the blood out of a neighbourhood
Plans to redesign Smithfield meat market as a tourist haven will destroy the soul of the site
Smithfield is a corporeal place, a bit of the city that is all about bodies. At its heart is the meat market, the City of London’s last surviving central wholesale market, smelling of steely blood. Around it is a connective tissue of nightclubs, which fill up with swaying bodies at about the same time as the trucks full of carcasses and the meat porters arrive. South is St Bartholomew’s Hospital, founded 12 years after the Battle of Hastings. And the “Smooth Field” was once the site of executions. Hundreds were hanged, burnt or boiled alive there.
But plans to move the meat market to Dagenham and transform the buildings into “a vibrant, exciting and welcoming new destination” as part of the City’s cultural quarter threaten to crush what makes this neighbourhood so special. Smithfield was the perfect place for a night-time neighbourhood because the culture of early-opening pubs and cafes was already in place, residents were sparse and space was plentiful in the cavernous disuse...