Transforming Smithfield Market

Rediscovering Smithfield Market in London

The famous Smithfield Market is located in the City of London, a key feature amidst what has been recently coined the ‘Culture Mile;’ the new home for contemporary culture in the ancient heart of London’s working capital. Its neighbours include St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, St. Pauls Cathedral and the Barbican.

Records of the market date back to as early as the 12th Century, wherein 1174 the area was noted to be an open-air horse and livestock market at ‘Smoothfield.’ When authorities banned the slaughtering of animals within the City walls in 1381, the market was relocated just outside to Smithfield, where it remains today, some 640 years later. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the market moved under cover and was elaborately designed by Victorian architect Sir Horace Jones. Completed in 1868, the design of the general marketplace incorporated cutting-edge Victorian technology. This included the ‘Red House;’ the noted to be one of the very first refrigerated cold storage units in the country, which was powered by an adjoining engine house. Two wings of the market were constructed over underground railway sidings to allow for livestock to be transported directly into the building by steam train and originally, the layout of the market allowed for approximately 162 stalls.

Currently, only a small area of the original market is still in use, with approximately 44 stands currently active. Smithfield’s remains the only significant wholesale market to have yet to relocate outside of the city, but its significant downsizing may be down to the tricky logistics of transporting goods through the capital. As it is hard to abandon the immense history behind the location of the market, (and the building itself), the General Market is set to be redeveloped as the new home for the Museum of London. Being a Grade II listed building, it is important that the heritage of the site is preserved and acknowledged in its refurbishment.

PointSCAN visited the market in March 2020 to capture a 3D laser survey of the iconic glass roof. Quintessential of Victorian architecture, the roof is a mix of mansards and louvres, making for a highly intricate and sophisticated design that would be difficult to measure manually. PointSCAN was able to produce high-quality measurement data and 360 degrees visual of the site from one visit, without the need for scaffolding or working at height. This not only protects the structural integrity of the building but additionally does not cause any risk to the surveyor. 3D laser surveys additionally allow for the smallest designs to be recorded within the collected scan data, meaning that heritage sites, like Smithfield’s, can be restored to their original details.

The West Smithfield Museum of London is set to open in 2024.