It was the play area of London, a place where joustings and tournaments took place.
Wat Tyler, one of the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt, met King Richard II at Smithfield. He was stabbed during an altercation with the Lord Mayor of London and subsequently died.
During the reign of Mary Tudor, some 200 were burnt here for their religious beliefs and opinions.
In 1305 Scottish revolutionary Sir William Wallace was put to death at Smithfield.
A livestock market has been on this site since the Twelfth Century. In 1174 it 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 corner are placed vendibles of the peasant, swine with their deep flanks and cows and oxen of immense bulk”.
It was also the location for Bartholomew Fair – an annual three day fair established in 1133 by the nearby monastery of St Bartholomew. It was originally for merchants trading in cloth and over time it became the biggest cloth fair in the country. Over the centuries entertainments and side shows took over from the trading, and although it lasted for 700 years it was suppressed in 1855 for violence, drunkenness and debauchery.
The market covers almost 10 acres, of which six and a half acres are covered by buildings.
Sir Horace Jones, the City Architect, was given the challenge of designing the new building in the 1860s. He carried out the task so well that he later went on to design both Billingsgate and Leadenhall markets, but his pièce de résistance was Tower Bridge.
MONDAY to FRIDAY from 2am (visitors and buyers should arrive by 7am to find full range of stalls open) Closed on Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays.