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London food markets

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The London markets are exceptional in more ways than one... Since London's needs and size are so great it has many specialized markets instead of one huge general mar­ket, and the wholesale prices of goods in the London markets set the standard of prices for most of the country, for it is in these markets more than in any others that home produce and foreign produce meet.

Smithfield, just east of Farringdon Street, is London's chief wholesale meat market, and here soon after midnight, when there is little other traffic, streams of lorries arrive from the docks with Argentine, Australian and New Zealand chilled meat which must be disposed of if possible within two days of its leaving the ships' cooling-chambers. The retail butchers arrive about 6 a. m. with their vans to make their purchases, and the business of the market is nearly over by the time most of us are having our break­fast. Although this market is very ancient — it is a City meat-market under a charter from Edward III1 — it has been modernized, and there is plenty of space for showing the meat and for vans to move in and out.

The market for live [laiv] British cattle is at Islington once famous for its dairy farms. The market and slaughter­houses were established in 1855, close to the yards of the railways that convey the cattle from the Midlands.

Billingsgate Market, with a history that runs back to the Dark Ages [...] handles on the average over five hun­dred tons of fish a day; but its site, just below London Bridge is now so cramped that there is little room for carts and lorries, and a great deal of the work has to be doneby the costly method of human porterage. There are about1,400 licensed fish-porters, who have a great rush of work between6 and 8 a. m., when the fishmongers come for their day's supplies.

Leadenhall PoultryMarket lies only a quarter-mile north Of Billingsgate, handy for the many retailers who sell bothfish and poultry. Around it have gathered rows of poultry-shops which make a tremendous show at Christ­mas-time.

Vegetables, fruit and flowers are bulky and on the whole very perishable, so their marketing depends in a high degree upon transport. Yet Covent Garden, London's best-known market, lies among narrow streets, theatres and publishing houses just north of the Strand, a long way from the main railway termini. A century ago, when it sold the produce of Fulham and Battersea market-gardens to a smaller London its little square was sufficient, but its' business now overflows into the neigh­bouring streets. The busiest hours, however, are between 3 and 6 a. m. when streams of lorries arrive with vege­tables, fruit and flowers picked the evening before, and when the greengrocers bring their vans to make the day's purchases. Cornish flowers brought by night-express train to Paddington are on sale less than twelve hours from their gathering. About a million tons of produce are handled every year in the market and neighbouring streets, and much of this is sent out to shops far beyond the limits of London. But every increase in the trade of Covent Garden Market now tends to slow down its movement, and its removal to a larger site has often been mooted.

Since 1928 some of the load on Covent Garden has been taken by a new wing of Spitalfields ['spitlfi:ldz] Market, which is well placed to supply the many restau­rants of the City with vegetables and fruit. It is near the Docks and very close to the Bishopsgate Station of the L.N.E.R.,2 and can therefore receive imported produce and the fruit and vegetables of East Anglia. In this market large cargoes of well-graded fruits can be sold by samples which come up into the auction rooms by means of lifts; this makes for speed of sale and saving of transport — the only means by which London can cope with the increas­ing supplies that its growth demands. In 1934 a Large flower-market was added.

Stratford and King's Cross Markets ore excel lent exampies of Railway Age enterprise, for both are on sidings unit at both of them large quantitiesof potatoes, celery, peas, rhubarb and the like from Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and East Anglia are rapidly disposed of. Very earlyevery morning; a long train known as the "Vegetable Express" rumblesinto Stratford out of the East-Angliannight, and by the time school bells are ringing its freight is on sale In greengrocers' shops all over East London.

(J. F. P. Thornhill. Greater London. A Social Geography)


1 Edward HI, King of England (1327—1377)

2 L. N. E. R. —London North-East Railway


I. Say it in English:

Мясной рынок; рынок скота; продажа на рынке; тонны товара; цены на товары; через рынок проходит в среднем около пятидесяти тонн рыбы в день.

II. Insert prepositions:

The wholesale prices... goods... the London markets; the business... the market is nearly over; the market... live Brit­ish cattle; flowers are... sale less than twelve hours... their gathering; chilled meat must be disposed... if possible... two days... its leaving the ships' cooling-chambers; the fishmon­gers come... their day's supplies; large cargoes of well-graded fruits sold... samples which come up... the auction rooms by means of lifts.

III. Answer the following questions:

1. How are the London markets exceptional? 2. In what London markets do they sell live cattle? meat? fish? vege­tables? fruit? flowers? 3. What handicaps efficient marketing at Covent Garden and in Billingsgate Market? 4. What shops and retailers are mentioned in the description and what is the business of each of these retailers? 5. Why is it just at Christ­mas time that poultry-shops make a tremendous show? 6. What vehicles are mentioned in the description? What goods do they carry? 7. What train is called the Vegetable Express? 8. Which are the busiest hours in most markets and why?

IV. Speak briefly of each of the markets described in the texts.

V. Give a detailed description of the market (or markets) of your town. Use the vocabulary of the text.

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