Sunday, 7 October 2012

Memories of Caledonian Road Market: Sepia Saturday 215

 
I'm updating this post for this weeks Sepia Saturday, which shows a picture of a crowded street in Glasgow. Sadly I have no pictures of my own for this prompt, but my father created a picture of his own with these words.

This was one of the things I found amongst my mother's things. It was something my father wrote in response to a request from a local journalist about memories of Islington. His memories would have been from the 1920s up until after the Second World War.


We lived in Kentish Town, virtually on the doorstep of Caledonian Cattle Market. It was a huge rectangular built area with cattle pens surrounding a centre white tall building. When the market was not in use for the cattle, half of the area was allowed for an open market where you could buy almost anything. Stalls displayed bric-a-brac, paintings, vases, old jewellery, metal goods, pottery, pots and pans, food, chickens, live and dead rabbits, live cats and dogs, furniture, carpets and clothes.

An excellent place for bargain hunters and sometimes very lucrative for collectors who wanted information about an article they were looking for. Lighting for the stalls was by Kerosene lamps. Two burners supplied by a centre bowl and air pressurised. As the years progressed glass bowls were introduced over the burners and gas mantels instead of naked jets but there was something warm and old fashioned about the naked lights when they were burning.

It must not be forgotten that the Caledonian was primarily a cattle market complete with pens on the outside, south side were the slaughter houses etc. I remember as a lad from 15-18 years old going to work every morning up York Way into the market square and being confronted by herds of charging bulls and cows and sheep being driven from Kings Cross Sidings to the market or slaughter shed and the nearer they approached the sheds the more frenzied they became and I
used to flatten myself up against the railings to avoid being caught in the surge. I used to think that the animals could sense or smell the slaughterhouse.

At the eastern end (Pentonville Road) were a number of firms dealing with offal etc and it was quite a common sight to see tripe being prepared for distributors. As the years went by the flow of cattle became smaller and only the pen remained but the general market continued to well after World War 2.


I found this picture, from creative commons, of the market itself to give you an idea of the layout.

 

For some more pictures of this market and other London markets of the time, you could look here.

12 comments:

Little Nell said...

What a wonderfully detailed description - as good as a picture any day! How funny that your father describes the gas mantels so carefully and Bob too has picked up that theme from the prompt picture.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

I enjoyed the description of the market, could almost smell it! Well, not quite. But it does remind me of Colman lamps, which I've used frequently out in the woods or in a non-electric home, not so frequently.

Wendy said...

If your father's words come even a fraction close to what it was really like, the market must have been a visual feast.

boundforoz said...

I had never thought about England in terms of cattle markets but of course they are a very necessary part of the chain of food production. Interesting that they introduced a bit of multi-tasking and used the site for a different kind of market as well.

ScotSue said...

How wonderful to have your father's such vivid description of the market. My grandfather worked at the cattle market in Poulton-le-Fylde Lancashire, a small town near Blackpool.

Jo Featherston said...

A great word picture. I remember going to the Hereford stock markets when we visited English relatives in the district and an uncle was selling a few pigs or calves.

Bob Scotney said...

Your father's description of the market is first class. Glad you found the picture (I use creative commons a lot).

Kristin said...

I enjoyed the description. It made me wonder how much cleaning up had to be done to turn cattle stalls into regular market stalls.

Patrica Ball Morrison said...

This was of special interest to me with the Caledonian explanation. Near by to us in Minnesota is a small town named Caledonia. I have seen that name in travels around the county and believed it went back to ancient times. I need to learn more about it's source. You are living an adventurous life, good for you.

La Nightingail said...

The comment about your father flattening himself against the railing to keep from being caught by the cattle reminded me of a time I was driving a narrow country road & suddenly found myself in the middle of a herd of cattle heading for their feeding tough. Suddenly I had cows in front of me, cows behind me, & cows on both sides of me all mooing & bellowing away. All I could do was continue to inch along & keep blowing my horn till I was finally clear of them. It was a bit unsettling, but I laughed afterward.

Mike Brubaker said...

A creative spin on the theme photo to use a word picture. Recently I bought an reprint of an old map of East London for some research. It's astonishing how many small industries and markets were mixed among the tenement houses and retail buildings. The smell and odor must have been overwhelming.

Joan said...

Linda, for a word-smith, you gave me the best kind of picture. From the kerosene lanterns to the surge of cattle to the description of the buildings. Great.