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David Hoffman At Smithfield Market

February 27, 2014
by the gentle author

Photographer David Hoffman visited Smithfield Market in November 1989 under commission by New Statesman & Society. In the event, only David’s black and white pictures were published in the magazine but he shot thirteen rolls of colour film, and today I publish a selection of these photographs of Smithfield for the first time.

“It took me two weeks to get permission from Mr Noakes, Market Clerk & Superintendent,” David explained, “I visited three or four nights until eight in the morning and then I went for a huge fry-up at the Cock Tavern.”

“The men who worked in the market were a really friendly, happy bunch – rough and ready,” he recalled fondly, “a few lumps of fat came flying and hit me on the neck, but nothing evil.”

“It was a privilege to go to Smithfield and take these photographs – I love the way the culture of the market has evolved organically from the needs of the buyers and the sellers over centuries, rather being organised from the top down.”

Photographs copyright © David Hoffman

The Smithfield Market Public Enquiry concludes tomorrow, Friday 28th February, with final submissions from 10am at the Basinghall Suite (accessed through the Art Gallery) at the Guildhall in the City of London.

You may also like to take a look at

Sarah Ainslie at Smithfield Market

At the Smithfield Market Public Enquiry

12 Responses leave one →
  1. February 27, 2014

    A visual if what I remember and so relevant to the recent noisy outcry following similar displays in butcher windows! Having trained at Westminster College, part of my Trainee Management period involved visits to Billingsgate (any photos) and Smithfield. It was a noisy, bloody and sexist environment enhanced by the full English, at a ridiculous time, in a pub! I think I may have had to have been squirrelled away, being the token female. I declined a pint!

  2. Walter Blackstock permalink
    February 27, 2014

    The New York Times on Feb 25th carried an article on Smithfield Market, “Battle overLondon Market Raises Development Issues”. Search NYT on Smithfield Market.

  3. February 27, 2014

    DELICIOUS — when fried and cooked!

    Love & Peace

  4. February 27, 2014

    For equally wonderful photos of lost carnivorous glories, have a look at the search “doisneau photos les halles” on google images. The Paris meat market captured by Robert Doisneau c. 1953.

  5. Ellen in NEW England permalink
    February 27, 2014

    Where is this work done now?

  6. February 27, 2014

    Smithfield – yes my uncle Eric was a porter there. Arrived home very merry one xmas with half a carcass on his shoulder having brought it home on the bus. Remember my mum and auntie drinking lots of sherry and trying to hacksaw it into oven sized bits in our little kitchen in Manor Park.

    Neal Slavin did some amazing portraits of porters in his Britons book, there were more shots in the show he did than ended up in the book though but this one is still a corker.

  7. Sarah Correia permalink
    February 27, 2014

    The controversy over this was written up in yesterday’s New York Times. I was very pleased to see it there having recognized the name of the market from your blog. That and I wonder if it’s exposure here is part of what caused the reporter to write it up in the Times. Good work!

  8. Raspberrypip permalink
    February 27, 2014

    OMG! looks like a massacre … Enough to turn you into a vegan, if it wasn’t for the smell of bacon cooking.

  9. February 27, 2014

    Fascinating photos. The first one reminds me of the Danish drama The Bridge where one of the assailants wore a pig’s mask!

  10. Gary Arber permalink
    February 27, 2014

    While looking at this item an interesting question came into my mind :-
    How many stomachs digested the total mass of meat on show that night ?
    Any takers ?

  11. February 28, 2014

    Great photographs.

  12. Neil Bartlett permalink
    February 26, 2018

    My old man was a poultry salesman at Smithfield for years and I was so lucky to have gone to work with him during school holidays back in the late 60s and 70s. He never swore at home so it was quite enlightening to experience another side to him as he became a part of the wonderful and memorable characters all winding each other up, and the customers of course. Such comeradery, unbelievable humour, such offensive language and such respect. Even the miserable ones became legends. Went back recently to take some snaps and was horrified to find the Cock Inn closed and being stripped bare. Wonderful article, thanks for bringing back childhood memories.

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