The City of London Corporation has unveiled early ideas for the redevelopment of the Smithfield Market following the proposed relocation of the meat market to Dagenham Dock along with Billingsgate and New Spitalfields. The work of architecture practice Studio Egret West, the new designs see the Grade II*-listed East and West Smithfield buildings and Grade II-listed Rotunda transformed for public and commercial use including removing some of the modern additions to the market buildings, such as loading bays and cold rooms, to reveal the elegance of the original Victorian structure and create four large, clear “halls” under the oversailing roof. While there’s been a meat market on the site since the 12th century, the Victorian-era markets buildings, featuring ornate iron frames, were built between 1866 and 1883. Members of the public are able to share their feedback on the initial concept drawings via the website, www.wholesalemarkets.co.uk/smithfield until 4th September.

Famously associated with Leadenhall Market, Old Tom was a gander who for several decades was a popular figure at the City of London marketplace.

Said to have been born in the late 1790s, he was brought to London among a massive contingent of birds from the Continent the aim of being fattened up for the market block.

The story goes that when the time came for the chop, however, Tom did a dash and apparently held off his pursuers for several days, avoiding becoming one of the 34,000 hapless geese which were apparently slaughtered in a two day period. His doggedness in defying the blade led to sympathy among the workers at the market who decided to let him be.

Feed on tidbits from local inns, Tom took up residence and became something of a favourite among those who worked there. He apparently lived to the the ripe old age of 37 or 38-years-old and when he died in 1835, such was the love for him, that Tom lay in state at the market to allow people to pay their respects before his burial at the market. His obituary was published in The Times, referring to him as the “chief of geese, the poulterer’s pride”.

Old Tom is mentioned on a plaque at the entrance to Leadenhall Market (pictured) which tells something of his story and there’s also a bar within Leadenhall Market itself which serves as a memorial – Old Tom’s Bar.

Some also believe that the two identical statues of a small boy grappling with a goose (pictured below) which sit atop the former Midland Bank headquarters building, located at 27 Poultry (and now hotel called The Ned) – just a few hundred paces from the market, also commemorate the gander.

The website of The Ned, however, suggests the statues, designed by Sir William Reid Dick for the architect Edwin Lutyens was actually inspired by Boethus’ famous sculpture of a boy playing with a goose which can be found in the Vatican.

Maybe it’s both?

PICTURES: Google Maps

Covent-GardenA quiet moment in one of Covent Garden’s covered arcades. For more on the history of Covent Garden, see our earlier post here.

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Covent-Garden4Take your chance to ‘meet under the mistletoe’ this year at Covent Garden, thanks to the designs of renowned  production designer Michael Howells. Howells, whose previous credits include fashion shows for the likes of Alexander McQueen as well as sets for films including Nanny McPhee and theatre productions such as Chariots of Fire, has come up with a design featuring more than 40 “mistletoe chandeliers” of up to 3.5 metres in size, each of which is adorned with almost 700 glistening berries.  The chandeliers are united by more than 320 metres of garlands while about 100,000 pealights are suspended inside the historic Market Building. Outside, London’s biggest hand-picked – and richly decorated – Christmas tree once again stands in the piazza.  For more on Covent Garden, see www.coventgarden.london.  PICTURES: Courtesy of Covent Garden.

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