Victorian London - Markets - Hungerford Market

[demolished 1860, for Charing Cross Station, ed.]

see also Henry Holland Burne in The Early Years of Queen Victoria's Reign


Is built on the model of a Roman Basilica, or Hall of Justice. The idea is felicitous, for justice is regularly done every day in this convenient market. A popular superstition attributes freshness to the fish purchased here, and it is supposed by many that the lobsters are caught clinging to the piers of Westminster Bridge, while the shrimps are picked up at low tide in the mud of the Savoy. The same vague error prevails as to the freshness of vegetables, which are thought to be imported from the gardens on the banks of the Thames.
    There is a suspension bridge in course of erection across the Thames for the exclusive use of the basket-ladies who attend this market, but unless it is very rapidly completed the probability is that the market will be finished first.

Punch, Jan-Jun. 1841

Hungerford Market was for many years a disgrace to the metropolis: as a market, it existed in name only, and was altogether a nuisance. The present elegant and convenient structure was erected from designs by Mr. Fowler in 1831 and 1833. It consists of three grand divisions. The upper one forms a quadrangle, flanked by colonnades with dwellings and shops. The centre, or great hall, a lofty building, is formed of four rows of granite columns, with arches springing from them to support the roof; both quadrangles are appropriated to the sale of butcher's meat, poultry, fruit, vegetables, butter, eggs, &c. The lower quadrangle, the descent to which is by a spacious flight of steps, contains the fish-market: this is also a large quadrangle; at the lower end of which a wharf or quay, with convenient landings, has been formed. Hungerford Market is altogether one of the greatest improvements the metropolis has experienced. Its opposition to Billingsgate has been hitherto ineffectual; and as a rival to Covent Garden it has entirely failed, to the great regret of all the respectable residents in its vicinity, arising from the very improper manner in which it is conducted.* (* This cause of complaint no longer exists.) The establishment of a good fish-market here has, however, proved a great convenience to the public. The formation of floating piers at the quay, to facilitate time arrival and departure of the numerous steam-boats that start from hence during the summer every quarter of an hour, for the City, Westminster, and Vauxhall, and at other times for Greenwich and Woolwich, are advantages for which the public are indebted to the spirited proprietors of Hungerford Market.
    The markets for hay and straw are held three times a week in Cumberland Market, near the Regent's Park; Portman Market, Paddington; at Smithfield, Whitechapel, and Southwark.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

HUNGERFORD MARKET. Built 1680; rebuilt 1831; and so called from the family of the Hungerfords of Farleigh Castle, in Somersetshire.  ... The first stone of the present market was laid June 18th, 1831, and the market opened July 2nd, 1833- (William Fowler, architect). ... It is of too general a character and attempts too much in trying to unite Leadenhall, Billingsgate, and Covent-garden Markets.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

Hungerford Market, in the Strand, near to Charing Cross, is for the sale of fish extensively, fruit, vegetables, and butchers' meat. The design and construction of this market is by Mr. Wm. Fowler, it is of the Italian character, and cheerful and interesting on the water-side exterior. Covent Garden is by the same architect. The upper part of the market consists of three avenues, with shops on each side; the whole roofed in. It has now become a market in which much business is done, and of great convenience to the west-end residents; it is the thoroughfare to the Suspension Bridge, across the Thames.

London Exhibited in 1852, 1852

Millbank Prison is only approached by land, in the case of the unfortunate convicts who are taken there. The visitor instinctively avoids the uninteresting route down Parliament Street, Abingdon Street, and the dreary Horseferry Road, and proceeds to the prison by water.
    We will suppose him to do as we did, take the boat at Hungerford Stairs, with which view, he must pass through the market of the same name, which is celebrated for its penny ices ("the best in England"), and its twopenny omnibuses (direct to the towns styled Camden and Kentish Town), and also known as the great West-end emporium for fish (including periwinkes and shrimps), flesh, and fowl. This classic spot was formerly remarkable for its periwinkle market, the glory of which, however, has now altogether departed.
    The "SPACIOUS HALL," in which the periwinkle traffic was once carried on, is now, as a very prominent placard informs us, once more "TO BE LET." When the Cockney taste for periwinkles appeared to be dying out, the hall in question was made the receptacle for various models, which possessed no sort of interest to the sight-seer; after which it was converted into a "Mesmeric Saloon," which took an equally slight hold on the public mind. Then it was the site of various other failures, and recently it became a Registration and Advertisement Agency, but, as it was imposible to descend any lower in the scale of inutility, it was, on this scheme being abandoned, finally closed, and there is now some probability of its exterior being turned to advantage as a hoarding for the exhibition of external rather than internal placards.
    Passing along the arcade, with its massive granite pillars, we notice the "Epping House," celebrated for Epping and other provincial butters so skilfully manufactured in London. Then suddenly our eyes and noses are attracted by the "HOT MEAT AND FRUIT PIES", exposed on a kind of fishmonger's board, in front of an open window, which also exhibits an announcement to the effect that there is a "Genteel Dining-Room Up-stairs."
    Then come the poulterers' shops, with the live cocks and hens in coops, and the scarlet combs and black plumage of the birds peeping through the wicker-baskets at the door, while dead geese, with their limp fluffy necks, are hanging over the shelves of the open shop.
    At the corner is the grand penny ice shop, the "Tortoni's," of Hungerford. Boys are feasting within, and scooping the frozen syrup in spoonfuls out of the diminutive glasses, while black-chinned and dark-eyed Italians are moulding their "gaufres," in large flat curling irons, above a portable stove.
    Before reaching the bridge we notice a row of enterprising fishmongers who are speculating in the silvery salmon, the white-bellied turbot, the scarlet lobster, the dun-coloured crab, and the mackerel with its metallic green back, and who salute the passers-by, as they hurry to catch the boat, with subdued cries of "Wink, winks!" or "Any fine serrimps to-day!"
    The subterranean music-hall at the southern extremity of the market, promises unheard- of attractions for the evening. The Dolphin and Swan Taverns, on either side, used to be rivals, in the days when holiday-makers, in the absence of steam-boat accommodation, used to drink and smoke, and pick periwinkles, on the roofs "commanding a fine view (of the mud) of the river," and fancy the stench was invigorating and refreshing, as they sparingly threw their halfpence to the mud-larks, who disported themselves so joyously in the filth beneath.
    Carefully avoiding the toll-gate, we proceed along a narrow passage by the side, formed for the benefit of steam-boat passengers. The line of placards beside the bridge-house celebrates the merits of "DOWN'S HATS", and "COOPER'S MAGIC PORTRAITS", or teach us how Gordon Cumming (in Scotch attire) saves his fellow-creatures from the jaws of roaring lions by means of a flaming firebrand.
    We hurry along the bridge, with its pagoda-like piers, which serve to support the iron chains suspending the platform, and turn down a flight of winding steps, bearing a considerable resemblance to the entrance of a vault or cellar.
    On the covered coal barges, that are dignified by the name of the floating pier, are officials in uniform, with bands round their hats, bearing mysterious inscriptions, such as L. and W. S. B. C., the meaning of which is in vain guessed at by persons who have only enough time to enable them to get off by the next boat, and who have had no previous acquaintance with the London and Westminster Steam Boat Company. The words "PAY HERE" are inscribed over little wooden houses, that remind one of the retreats generally found at the end of suburban gardens; and there arc men within to receive the money and dispense the "checks," who have so theatrical an air, that they appear like money-takers who have been removed in their boxes to Hungerford Stairs from some temple of the legitimate drama that has recently become insolvent.
    We take our ticket amid cries of "Now then, mum, this way for Creemorne!" "Oo's for Ungerford ?" "Any one for Lambeth or Chelsea?" and have just time to set foot on the boat before it shoots through the bridge, leaving behind the usual proportion of persons who have just taken their tickets in time to miss it.

Henry Mayhew and John Binny, The Criminal Prisons of London, 1862 

Old and New London, c.1880