“Catering Meats Smithfield”

Here is a section of West Smithfield, at the North West corner.

West Smithfield, North side

Work is in progress to redevelop these buildings. You can see the scaffolding on the right. This is the General Market.

I was standing outside the “Citigen CHP”. This is the unlikely location of a power station.

“The large scale community energy system is made up of a central power station and district heating network.  Natural gas fuelled by the CHP plant is located near Smithfield Market and supplies heat and cooling to ten of the City’s properties by an underground pipe network spanning over two miles.” says the website of Edina, a supplier of specialist equipment to such schemes.

It is also above the railway lines. Trains rumbled, and the pavement vibrated. A concrete mixing lorry arrived and skilfully backed into the space vacated by the previous concrete mixing lorry, who, equally skilfully, moved out of the space and departed, while workers in bright red and yellow clothes moved the barriers, in synchronism with the movement of the lorries.

The building in the centre of my drawing is “Catering Meats Smithfield”. The sign is still legible. On the right is a building that looks a bit more like a music hall than a commercial market. It has wood panels and a marvellous pineapple on the roof. The roundel on the gable says “1881”.

Whilst I was sitting on the kerbstone, putting on the colour, a man jogged past, right to left, wearing running kit. He stopped and came back. He said “It makes me happy to see you painting”. He said it very simply, a statement. The emphasis was on the word “happy”. It makes me happy to see you painting. Happy, as opposed to any other emotion.

I said, “Thank you”. Then he ran on, and I continued painting the colours. It made me happy that by being there I’d somehow given something to someone else. It made me happy that he’d said it, that he’d bothered, that he’d paused in his run and came back to utter his simple sentence. But expressing all that was complicated. So I just said, “Thank you”.

Here is work in progress:

This drawing took just over two hours. 30 min pencil, about an hour pen, and another 30+ min for the colour.

Here is a list of my drawings of Smithfield so far, click the writing to see more information:

Alexandra Road Estate, Camden

I cycled to the North West of Regent’s Park, in search of the Alexandra Road Estate. This estate is a truly astonishing work, testament to the vision and social ideals of the Camden councillors and architects who made it happen.

I cycled past the large and stately houses of Queens Grove, Marlborough Road, Loudoun Road, going north, uphill. I went left on Boundary Road, which is the north edge of Westminster and the south Edge of Camden. There on the right I glimpsed brutalist concrete. This is it. But the side road I followed, Rowley Way, led downwards into a disappointing loading bay, with barriers, delivery drivers and much disorganised parking. It was hot, and I’d cycled what felt like a long way. Then I remembered that this was a 1960s development. There must be a podium level, above the cars. There was. I looked for, and found, the slope upwards.

Rowley Way, Alexandra Road Estate

At the top of the slope was another world. A long village street led into the distance, with tranquillity, with greenery, and with concrete benches. People walked about immersed in conversation, leading children. Two lads sat on a bench, chatting and looking at their feet. Everywhere, there were trees, bushes and flowers. The street was tiled with red terracotta tiles. Each side the flats sloped up, looking irregular, like houses I have seen built into the hill in Crete.

I walked all along the tiled street, pushing my bike. There were concrete benches, but from those the view would give directly onto someone’s home, so I didn’t feel that would be good manners to sit down and draw there. Many features I recognised as typically 1960s: wood-marked concrete, thick iron railings, slabs of exposed concrete, round stairwells. The flats were all interlocked, so it was not clear where one flat started and the next stopped. It was most intriguing architecture. There were ledges, and low doors, gardens on ledges, and stairways climbing high up right to the roof.

At the end of the street, there was a small tiled public area, with a tree, and a viewpoint, and more concrete benches. Here I had a view of the end of the terrace of flats.

“..monoliths of tower blocks..” behind the Alexandra Road Estate.

I particularly enjoyed the way that the architect had made that walkway protrude at the end of the block, to provide a viewpoint, a special place. I didn’t go up there. To the north, there were the tall monoliths of tower blocks. Trains rumbled. The railway line is immediately behind the terrace I was drawing.

The architect of the Alexandra Road Estate was Neave Brown, of the Camden Architecture Department. It was designed in 1968 and built 1972-78. The construction was controversial. Inflation was 20% at times in the seventies, and so costs went up. Neave Brown fought hard to complete the scheme, and he prevailed.

There is a wonderful description of the estate and its history on the Municipal Dreams website on this link:


Here are maps showing where it is, click to enlarge.

Here is work in progress on the drawing:

Here is the map on the entrance to the estate. Click to enlarge it.

Smithfield, North side

Today, approval was given for the redevelopment of the Smithfield site to turn it into the new Museum of London. Whereas some of the architecture will remain on view, the activities of the meat market will cease. So I went out in recent days to try to show some of the activity in the meat market.

Here is the clean-up, in the afternoon.

Grand Avenue, Smithfield. A worker hoses down the floor.

Here is a lorry parked on the North side, ready to deliver meat in the morning. Note the huge meat-loading bays. This one is labelled 5. These loading bays will not be there when it is redeveloped, so I was keen to draw them now.

Meat loading bay 5 and delivery lorry, Smithfield. I forgot my glasses, which is one reason why it is a bit sketchy.

Here is a general view from Charterhouse St, looking East. In this drawing, you can see three eras: the meat market 1880s, the Barbican towers, 1970s, and the new Crossrail station, which is nearly finished, 2020s.

Smithfield, Barbican towers, Crossrail station.

You can see loading bay 5 in the distance, and loading bay 7 nearer.

There is a huge collection of bollards in this area, whose job is to keep the heavy goods vehicles from crushing people on the pavement. Many of them have dates on. The one immediately to the right of the traffic lights is not a bollard, but an imposter. It is a thin metal case and encloses some water-control device. It is labelled “Thames Water”. The real bollards are sturdy cast iron. Many of them have clearly been wounded in action, but they stand firm, doing their job. I hope they are retained when the site is redeveloped.

Here is work in progress on the drawing.

A street sweeper came by at the pen stage. He gave his approval. He said he didn’t paint himself, but he liked to look at paintings and drawings.

Here is a list of my drawings in this area:

Poultry Market, Smithfield EC1

This is a view of the Poultry Market, sketched today from the South side. You see East Poultry Avenue going off to the right.

East Poultry Avenue, Smithfield EC1

This is a working Meat Market. It was completed in 1963 to replace the original 1880s market which had been destroyed by fire in 1958. The “A London Inheritance” site has a moving description of the fire in their article about Smithfield.

The 1960s dome of the Poultry Market, image (c) City of London. My drawing was done from the centre right edge of the photo, looking left.

There is an amazing dome across this part of the market. I tried to find a place where I could see it. It just shows at the top of the buildings in my drawing. It spans the whole of the market area, and is supported only at its edges. Here is a picture taken from articles about redevelopment of the site.

The 1963 design is by TP Bennett and Son.

This whole structure will be refurbished to make the new Museum of London.

The drawing took about and hour and a half. The colours are Phthalo Turquoise, Fired Red Ochre, and Perylene Maroon, with some Mars Yellow for the dome, and Pyrrol Orange for the traffic signs.

The Foundation Stone of the 1960s part of Smithfield. This stone is inside the loading bay on the North side. You can see the hexagonal glazing reflected in the stone, on the right.

Here are other drawings I have done in the area:

The Fish Market West Smithfield EC1

This building is at the Westernmost side of Smithfield Market. It is a corner of the former Fish Market, built in 1886.

The former Fish Market, Smithfield, at the corner of Snow Hill and West Smithfield.

I thought I’d picked a good place to stand and draw. But no. When I was about 10 minutes in, I realised that there was a more-or-less constant stream of cars queuing for the traffic lights. They queued for several minutes then they went off. There was much to observe about this. A surprising number of cars were playing loud music with their windows open, assuming, I guess, that everyone would enjoy their choice of music. And I thought modern cars switched their engines off when stationery? But evidently I am mistaken about this. No-one switched their engines off. Except one person.

A motorbike came up to the red light, a black Kawasaki. The rider was all in black, with a black helmet. The black helmet inclined slightly. I took it as a greeting. Then a gloved hand switched off the engine. I smiled at the helmet and nodded my thank you. Then the lights changed, the engine ignited, and the bike moved off. If that was you, thank you.

Here is a plaque that is on the side of the building I drew. It is heavy marble, somewhat damaged, and the inscription is hard to read. I transcribed it as best I could.

As you see, the marble plaque has been damaged and repaired. An adjacent part of the building likewise has been repaired in the same way, with little square and rectangular sections. Much erosion and damage has occurred elsewhere the building and not been repaired. So what is this? Could it be very early damage? If I were to guess, I’d say it was bullets, or shrapnel, damage. What happened?

Here is work in progress on the drawing.

The drawing took 2 hours: 30 mins pencil underdrawing, 45min pen, 45min colour. The colours are: Fired Red Ochre (DS), Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Transparent Pyrrol Orange (DS), and a tiny bit of Mars Yellow (DS).

The plaque shown in the drawing: “This Market was opened on November 7th 1888 by the Right Honourable Sir Polydore de Keyser K Lord Mayor, James Perkins Esq Chairman of the Markets Committee, John Edward Sly Esq Chairman of the Central Markets Sub Committee.”

Here is a collection of all the drawings I have done of Smithfield:

Making Sketchbook No. 8

..the same size as Sketchbook No. 6

The sketch of Smithfield Grand Avenue was on the last page of Sketchbook No. 7. I decided to make Sketchbook No. 8.

I have been gifted some old music scores, hardback, which, by a happy coincidence, are exactly the same size as Sketchbook No. 7.

And I have watercolour paper in sheets.

So I looked carefully at the construction of the score, and used a combination of “coptic binding” and an improvised sewing method incorporating ribbons, to sew the watercolour sheets together. Then I removed the music from the score, and put in the watercolour paper. Here are some pictures, click to enlarge:

The size of the sketchbook is about 10inches by 7inches. The paper is Arches Aquarelle, 300gsm with a slight rough surface called “cold-pressed” or “NOT”. I used PVA glue, which may or may not have the required durability. Time will tell.

The covers are the Novello and Company Limited edition of J.S. Bach Mass in B Minor, written in around 1737. This edition was published in 1908, containing edits by Mr Otto Goldschmidt in 1908, and Arthur Sullivan for the Leeds Festival in 1886. Mr Sullivan writes, in the “Editorial Notes”:

The few marks of expression used in this edition were inserted by me for the performance of the Mass at the Leeds Festival of 1886. I have employed them very sparingly, so that the breadth and grandeur of the work might not be impaired. They are indications of degrees of force, rather than of expression. In every case I have been guided by the character of the music or by the meaning of the words.” Arthur Sullivan, October 1886

I found out more about this Arthur Sullivan. He is the Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan, the duo who wrote many comic operettas, still performed today: HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado, to name but three. Sullivan wrote the music and Gilbert wrote the words.

As well as these operettas, Sullivan was a prolific composer of serious music. He wrote the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” and the anthem “By the Waters of Babylon”, which he composed when he was 8. He wrote incidental music for Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, which was “a sensation”. I wonder if it is still around. This Leeds Festival, for which he annotated the score of the Bach Mass, was clearly a big event. Wikipedia tells me:

In 1886 Sullivan composed his second and last large-scale choral work of the decade. It was a cantata for the Leeds Festival, The Golden Legend, based on Longfellow’s poem of the same name. Apart from the comic operas, this proved to be Sullivan’s best received full-length work. It was given hundreds of performances during his lifetime, and at one point he declared a moratorium on its presentation, fearing that it would become over-exposed. Only Handel’s Messiah was performed more often in Britain in the 1880s and 1890s. It remained in the repertory until about the 1920s, but since then it has seldom been performed; it received its first professional recording in 2001.

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, June 9). Arthur Sullivan. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:05, June 11, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Arthur_Sullivan&oldid=961665340
The beginning of the Mass in B Minor by J.S. Bach.


I later made another sketchbook using lighter weight 185gsm paper. See the page on this link.

For information about all the different sketchbooks I use, see this link.

Grand Avenue Smithfield EC1

Here is the entrance to Grand Avenue, Smithfield.

It’s the entrance to the working meat market, sketched in the afternoon when there is little market activity. The trading takes place 2am to 7am.

See the wonderful life-like dragons either side of the entrance high up!

Here is work in progress:

I was struck by the proliferation of notices fastened to the market.

This is a whole instruction book written on the walls. Then we come to the notice board:

Notice Board at the Lindsey St entrance of Smithfield Meat Market.

Here on this notice board is a whole timeline of concerns and instructions, layered. At the back we are alerted to the potential danger of terrorists. In the top left hand corner the Food and Hygiene Act is invoked on fading yellow paper. This is partially obscured by simpler and recent instructions to stay 2m apart. And the future appears too: the notice on top is about the proposed redevelopment.

Here’s the map:

Here’s where I was drawing my picture:

Sightline of the drawing

The West and East Market was designed by Horace Jones, and built by Browne and Robinson, as the carved stones proudly declare. The East Market was refurbished in 1997.

More of my drawings of Smithfield are on the links below:

Online Life drawing – Andrea

Yesterday I participated in another online life drawing session with London Drawing. The model was Andrea: @andrea.morani_lifemodel on Instagram. Andrea was in his studio in Italy. The 200 or so people drawing him were distributed across the world.

More online Life Drawing sessions:

Smithfield East Market EC1 from Long Lane

Here is Smithfield East Market on the corner of Lindsey Street and Long Lane.

This is a a wonderful building, with, as you see, paraboloid domes. It was built as a meat market in 1866-68 to the designs of Horace Jones (1819-1897), architect to the City of London. It has been a meat market ever since, and continues to operate, even through the current pandemic.

You see the glass canopy which allows goods to be unloaded under cover. Today is Sunday. This view would be impossible on a weekday. There are large refrigerated delivery lorries which arrive, often from Scotland. The driver sleeps in the cab.

Here is work in progress on the drawing. It took about 1hour30mins. The colours are Mars Yellow, Phthalo Turquoise, and Fired Red Ochre.

I am making a series of drawings of Smithfield:

The Red House and The Triangular Building, Smithfield EC1

Here is another view of The Triangular Building, drawn previously. On this view you can see the magnificent cold storage block, behind. The cold storage block is called “The Red House”. It is now dilapidated, but still magnificent. A discordant rail, carrying cables, goes horizontally across the front, function taking severe precedent over aesthetics. There’s a weird orange tube coming from one of the boarded-up doors. But still it stands. Come quickly and admire it, before it is covered up, and then transformed into something else.

The Triangular Building in front of the Red House, Smithfield, EC1

The Red House was completed in 1900. It “was designed by Andrew Murray or the City Engineer, David James Ross” 1.

Extract from a 2003 Report by English Heritage. See footnote 1.

I attempted this drawing on 4th June. However a heavy goods vehicle appeared exactly in my sightline, so I abandoned it and drew a different view. Today I returned to have another go. Being Saturday, there is less traffic today.

Here is work in progress. As you see, it rained. But I was in a doorway, and so sheltered. The doorway was that of “Urban Golf”, which accounts for the odd pictures you see in the background of the first image.

Map showing the location of The Red House. The arrow shows my sightline. Map credit: © OpenStreetMap contributors

Note 1: NBR File no: 92219, NGR: TQ 3161 8163, Reports and Papers B/013/2003, Report by Joanna Smith and Jonathan Clarke, Photographs by Derek Kendall and Nigel Corrie. The document in full is on the following link as a pdf (53 pages).

An extract from the 2003 Report by English Heritage. See footnote 1.
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