Smithfield Market

In 1174 the site was described by William Fitzstephen, clerk to Thomas à Becket, as 'a smooth field where every Friday there is a celebrated rendezvous of fine horses to be sold, and in another quarter are placed vendibles of the peasant, swine with their deep flanks, and cows and oxen of immense bulk.' It is thought that the name Smithfield came from a corruption of 'smeth field' Saxon for 'Smoothfield'. The City of London gained market rights under a charter granted by Edward III in 1327. When a grant of a market was made, either to an individual or a municipality, it was usual to allow the grantees the right of taking fixed tolls in view of the expenses necessarily involved in erecting, maintaining and supervising the market. In 1852 the Smithfield Market Removal Act was passed and the live cattle market was relocated to a new site at Copenhagen Fields in Islington. In 1860 the City of London obtained an Act of Parliament (The Metropolitan Meat and Poultry Market Act of 1860), allowing the construction of new buildings on the Smithfield site. Work began in 1866 on the two main sections of the market, the East and West Buildings.

These buildings were built above railway lines which had newly connected London to every other part of the country, enabling meat to be delivered directly to the market. The buildings, designed by City Architect Sir Horace Jones, were commissioned in 1866 and completed in November 1868 at a cost of £993,816. The Metropolitan Meat and Poultry Act also authorised the development of the Poultry Market which opened in 1875. This building was subsequently destroyed by a major fire in 1958 and was replaced by the current building in 1962. Further buildings were added to the market in later years, the General Market in 1883 and the Annexe Market in 1888. The original layout of the East and West Market buildings was 162 stalls which were easily accessible to customers as they were open on most sides. Today, the refurbished buildings accommodate just 23 units in the East Building and 21 in the West which, rather than being of a uniform size, have been tailored where possible to the tenants requirements. Units are divided into a number of temperature controlled areas. Customers are able to walk along the central avenues choosing from the goods on display. If, however, they want to take a closer look inside the shop they must be dressed in clean protective clothing in order to comply with hygiene regulations. ​

Smithfield Today

The current operational Market consists of 3 Grade 2* listed buildings. The East and West Market Buildings were renovated in the 1990s to meet the current hygiene standards, costing more than £70 million. The City of London and all 42 meat trading premises have obtained full approval by the Food Standards Agency to operate under EU Hygiene regulations, 853/2004. Therefore, Smithfield is a world leader and sets the benchmark in terms of what a modern market should be, complying with both national and European standards. More than 100,000 tonnes of meat and allied products pass through Smithfield each year. Buyers include butchers, restaurateurs and caterers, as well as members of the public. In addition to meat and poultry there are also cheese, pies and other delicatessen products available for purchase.

Information On the Market

Smithfield Market is located in the City of London and is close to landmarks such as the Barbican, St Paul's Cathedral and St Bartholomew's Hospital. The nearest tube stations are Farringdon and Barbican - the market is only a few minutes walk from each.

Opening Times

The markets at Smithfield are open MONDAY to FRIDAY from 3am but are closed on Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays. Although some selling takes place until mid-morning, to see the market at its best and find the full range of stalls open, visitors and buyers should arrive by 7am. Business customers wanting to pre-order should contact their chosen suppliers to arrange collection/delivery times.


Parking is available at the Rotunda car park which has 495 parking spaces including six designated electric vehicle charging bays. There are loading bays for vans and lorries around the market. There is also a goods lift to carry stock into the car park if required. Market customers get a special car park rate of £1.50 per visit per day if they enter the car park after 2.30am and leave by 9am. However visitors should also remember that Smithfield is within the Congestion Charge Zone which starts at 7am.

Contact Smitfield Market

Opening hours:

MONDAY to FRIDAY from 2am
Closed on Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays.

Administrative offices

Smithfield Market Tenants' Association
225 Central Markets
London EC1A 9LH
Tel: 020 7248 3151

Superintendent's Office
East Market Building
London EC1A 9PQ
Tel: 020 7332 3092