TQ 3181 NE Smithfield Poultry Market
Poultry market. 1961-3 by T P Bennett and Son, structural engineers Ove Arup and Partners, job engineer Jack Zunz. Reinforced concrete frame, with external cladding of dark blue brick. Reinforced three-inch concrete shell paraboloid roof clad in copper, with circular rooflights, and surrounded by individual copper-clad gable roofs on all four sides. Square plan, with double-height market hall in centre flanked to north and south by delivery bays; first floor gallery with offices on all four sides; basement cold storage and public house (the Cock Tavern).
The exterior is a remarkable piece of `pop architecture', that is absolutely `of its time'. Nine-bay facades to north and south with hexagonal lozenge lights, resembling those found in pavements lighting basements, with full glazing in metal frames to first floor. Clerestorey glazing at sides under the individual roofs. Clerestory glazing on all sides under projecting copper-clad shell. The market is entered under the canopies to either end. There are no formal doors to the market itself. These are concrete frames with infill glazing; that to east forms a physical link with the listed meat market of 1866-7 by Horace Jones. Good, consistent 1960s' style lettering to doorways, such as to the Cock Tavern in the basement. Commemorative plaques dated 1962 on east wall.
The interior is a particularly striking composition. The market hall is set out with stalls, all with blue fascias and contemporary-style signage, forming a strong period composition, that forms an entity with the tile and formica surrounds to the balcony fronts and outer walls. The entrance is tiled, with patterned end walls and timber handrail. The interiors of the offices, basement store and of the Cock Tavern are not of special interest.
Smithfield was developed as a meat market in the 1860s, after a separate market for live cattle was built off the Caledonian Road, Islington. The present Poultry Market was built to replace that of 1873-5 which burned down in 1958. The shell dome, conceived with Ove Arup and Partners, was reported to be the largest of its kind in the world when constructed, with a span of 225 feet by 130 feet x 60 feet high, and built at a cost of £1,800,000. A complex system of more than one thousand preformed plywood shuttering sheets were used in the construction, each one a different shape. Shell construction was first introduced to England in the late 1930s, with the building of Doncaster Municipal Airport (demolished) and the Wythenshawe Bus Garage. Experiments in shell domes only began after the war, however, and were exemplified by the nine relatively small ones at the Brynmawr Rubber Factory, Wales. Shell concrete domes were a pleasingly aesthetic way of achieving large, uninterupted spans using relatively little steel. They were thus eyecatching yet relatively cheap, and the technique was adopted here for speed of construction. While shells used in industrial premises are rarely set over interesting buildings, those in markets could form the basis of an attractive composition. However, the opportunity was not grasped, except here. The result was `the most efficently equipped centre for the exchange of dead meat in Europe' (Architects' Journal, 21 August 1963.)
The Builder, 2 December 1960, p.1025
Architect and Building News, 7 December 1960, pp.726-7
Interbuild, January 1961, p.3
Civil Engineer and Public Works, January 1963, p.11
Architects' Journal, 21 August 1963, p.369
Industrial Architecture, August 1963, p.536