Smithfield Market

Lonely Planet review

Smithfield is central London’s last surviving meat market. Its name derives from 'smooth field' where animals could graze, although its history is far from pastoral as this was once a place where public executions were held. Visit the market before 7am to see it in full swing.

Built on the site of the notorious St Bartholomew’s Fair, where witches were traditionally burned at the stake, this is where Scottish independence leader William Wallace was executed in 1305 (there’s a plaque on the wall of St Bart’s Hospital south of the market ending with the Gaelic words 'Bas agus Buaidh' or 'Death and Victory'), as well as the place where one of the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt, Wat Tyler, met his end in 1381. Described in terms of pure horror by Dickens in Oliver Twist , this was once the armpit of London, where animal excrement and entrails created a sea of filth. Today the surrounding area is a very smart annexe of Clerkenwell and full of bars and restaurants, while the market itself is a wonderful building designed in 1868 by Horace Jones (who also did Leadenhall Market and Tower Bridge).