At The Smithfield Market Public Enquiry
Behold the winged lion on the Holborn Viaduct looking down protectively upon the Smithfield General Market, as – over at the Guildhall – the Public Enquiry that will decide the fate of this magnificent building designed by Horace Jones, the architect of Tower Bridge, reaches the end of its second week.
I went over yesterday as SAVE Britain’s Heritage began to outline their proposal which seeks the renovation of the building and its reopening as a retail market, in opposition to the plan by Henderson Global Investments which entails demolishing the structure and retaining only the facade as an apologia for three disproportionately-large office blocks that would sit behind it.
When I arrived, Chris Costelloe the Director of the Victorian Society, was championing the significance of the General Market as an integral part of the grandest procession of market buildings in Europe and its use as a market hall as intrinsic to the distinctive character of Smithfield, an area of cultural significance both within London and nationally. He gave no quarter to the developers’ advocates who maintained that retention of the old facades upon their new blocks was itself a form of conservation and were eager to refute the suggestion that the neglect of the building in recent years was in any sense deliberate upon their part.
“The public hasn’t been given enough information to envisage the potential of the market,” Clementine Cecil, the Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, explained to me afterwards, “It’s a classic situation – a building is boarded up and thus its architectural and historical significance is concealed.”
Yet Clementine was able to supply me with the photographs below that reveal the beautiful forgotten interior of the last market structure designed by Horace Jones after he had designed Central Smithfield, Leadenhall and Billingsgate. He rose to the engineering challenges posed by this problematic site, suspended over a railway line and upon a slope, with ingenuity and flair, devising hollow “Phoenix columns” that were strong enough to support the vast open roof while minimising the weight of the edifice.
If you care about the future of Smithfield, I urge you to join the audience at the Enquiry and demonstrate by your presence the importance of preserving London’s oldest market. The Smithfield Market Public Enquiry is open to the public at the Basinghall Suite, accessed via the Art Gallery, at the Guildhall in the City of London from 10am daily. There are four days remaining for the enquiry, today Friday 21st February and next week, Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th and Friday 28th February – the latter being the culmination of the enquiry with final submissions.
The vast dome at the heart of the Smithfield General Market
The magnificent roof span of an avenue in Horace Jones’ General Market
Horace Jones’ ingenious lightweight hollow “Phoenix columns” that support the roof span
A trading avenue within the General Market
About 40% of the Fish Market will be demolished as part of Henderson Global Investment’s plan
This part of the Fish Market could get demolished and reconstructed with an office block on top
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