Smithfield Market will celebrate its 150th birthday medieval-style this summer with a two-day festival inspired by the ancient Bartholomew Fair.
London’s iconic meat market will team up with the Museum of London for a jam-packed programme of music, food, performance and family entertainment over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
It will be the second major event of the Culture Mile strategy, a bid by the City of London Corporation, Barbican Centre, Museum of London, LSO St Luke’s and Guildhall School of Music & Drama to transform the stretch between Farringdon and Beech Street into a bustling cultural hub.
Details remain sketchy, but organisers say activities will be inspired by the original Bartholomew Fair, a three-day cloth fair that began at Smithfield in the 1100s, and grew to become one of the largest in the country, drawing merchants from all over Europe to buy and sell cloth before it was banned in 1855. The fair is considered the forerunner for today’s August Bank Holiday.
On 25 August the market will throw London’s Biggest Birthday Party with games, party food, rides and a special area for families with under 5s, while 26 August is reserved for a traditional Sunday Lunch with a communal feast from the very best market produce.
Though there has been a market at Smithfield for around 900 years, the current site was officially opened in 1868 following a comprehensive redevelopment by acclaimed architect Sir Horace Jones.
Museum of London director Sharon Arment promised they would be marking the milestone with “the biggest birthday party you’ve ever been to”.
“Smithfield is a buzzing, vibrant area with a market history stretching back 900 years and this weekend will showcase the best of it,” she said.
Gregory Lawrence, chairman of the Smithfield Meat Traders Association, said traders were looking forward to celebrating the market’s place in the Capital’s history.
“Working at Smithfield is a way of life. Many of us have never known anything else, having started here as sixteen year old apprentices,” he said.
“We work through the night to provide meat at affordable prices to London and the South East, as the Market has done since long before the buildings were constructed.
“We are looking forward to celebrating 150 years of the Victorian Market with our friends and neighbours and the wider community and to showing people what the area has to offer.”
Cover image by James Ketteringham.