Consultations of residents of Barking & Dagenham about plans to create a new home in their borough for three of London’s most famous historic wholesale food markets are to begin this week.
Billingsgate, New Spitalfields and Smithfield markets, which have existed in parts of the capital for centuries, would move to a single location at Dagenham Dock under proposals launched by their owner, the City of London Corporation.
The new market buildings would be built on the site of the decommissioned Barking Reach power station, which the City purchased from Barking Reach Power Ltd in December 2018. The City says this would secure the futures of the markets, improve “operational, environmental and sustainability standards”, and bring new jobs and businesses to the area, assisted by rail connections and being next to the Thames.
Council leader Darren Rodwell has welcomed the City’s plan, saying the arrival of the markets “promises to bring a huge economic boost to the borough” and that his administration’s priority will be “to make sure that local people have the skills and training to take advantage of the employment opportunities that will arise”. Local MP Jon Cruddas told On London last month that there is considerable local excitement about the scheme.
Billingsgate, which has existed as a fish market in various forms since the 16th century, has been based in Poplar, close to Canary Wharf on land owned by Tower Hamlets, since 1982. It originated at Billingsgate Wharf near Lower Thames Street and was formally recognised by an Act of Parliament in 1699. Past employees have included the writer George Orwell and the gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray.
The history of Smithfield as a livestock market can be traced back to the 10th century, and its present home on Charterhouse Street was established by parliament through the Metropolitan Meat and Poultry Act of 1860, though some of its buildings have in more recent times been converted for different uses. Its official name is London Central Markets and it is the only wholesale market that still occupies its original site.
Fruit and vegetables have been sold at New Spitalfields from a site in Leyton, close to the edge of the Olympic Park, since as recently as 1991, though its “old” predecessor was based in Tower Hamlets, just outside the City’s boundaries. It dates from Charles I’s decision to grant it a royal charter in 1638.
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