London’s Hidden Cow Railway


I was talking to a lovely lady called Maggie recently at a party, and she told me about the catacombs beneath Charterhouse Street by the Smithfield Meat Market. The access premises was once called The Slaughterhouse Gallery. The longest cavern beneath it was bricked up to block the entry to a disused underground traintrack which brought living cattle to the slaughterhouse.

The cattle were killed and prepared for market and then hoisted up to the weighbridge positioned just above the slaughterhouse. They were weighed and then taken to the market opposite. Maggie took over the weighbridge office in 1983, and the basement caverns in 1986, and has lots of old photos. The underground cavern is still the same as when it was the Gallery. The site is now owned by Club Gascon.

Incidentally, Smithfield now seems to have been saved from the developers, which is good news given the site’s historical importance for London.

2 comments on “London’s Hidden Cow Railway”

  1. Jan says:

    Yes that is interesting did i ever tell you about the refridgerated building in Smithfield its on the edge of SMithfield market facing the stalls which when it was finally decommissioned and they decided to defrost it had permafrost running halfway beneath the market. Then the authorities started to get a bit panicky thinking that some bug from yesteryear could have been released from the ice which could play havoc with the meat supplies coming into town. The building is quite an attractive place still there (or was when i left town) and was created to house the meats which came into London on the early refridgerated ships from south America. By the way did u get my letter about London bridge and a few other bits i’m sorry i had to revert to snail mail but whilst Toms been on his world travels i had to use my library time to catch up with him on face book – hes back home now and will doubtless kick me off his facebook connections !!! So should be able to communicate as per usual. Have got some good stuff about 7 sisters and Also Holland park hope u r well jan

  2. admin says:

    Hi Jan – Yes, I got the letter – sorry for the delay in replying. All lovely stuff as usual. I knew there had been a permafrost problem with Billingsgate but not Smithfield. I once had to do a photoshoot in the basement freezer for the ST, and a butcher arrived who was an old pal of the butchers who worked there. They let him skin a rabbit for old times’ sake.

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