Want to know how to navigate the Victorian Web? Click here.
Demolition of Hungerford Market: View looking towards the Strand (p. 705)
On the opposite page we give an Engraving of a London ruin. It is a ruin, however, consequent upon a system of improvement in the metropolis which is becoming more prevalent every day, and which, in the shape of new streets, new hotels, railway termini, and new bridges, will go far to take away from the capital of Great Britain the reproach of meanness in its general aspect. The disappearance of Hungerford Market, the débris of which our illustration represents, is perhaps not a subject of much, if any, regret. It was architecturally insignificant from an art point of view; its general characteristics were not exciting or even gratifying to any of the senses; while as a thoroughfare from the Strand to the river and the suspension-bridge which spanned the water between Middlesex and Surrey, it was by no means so convenient as might have been supposed by those who had not tried it. On its site there is about to rise a grand West-end Metropolitan Railway terminus, which, as it is asserted that it will concentrate most, if not all, the principal railways of the kingdom into one important focus, will no doubt present architectural features commensurate with its pretensions.
The ancient character of Hungerford as a market has now finally departed from it. The structure which has been recently demolished occupied the site of a market-place built in 1608 by Sir Edward Hungerford, the last of a wealthy race of that name, to whom belonged the estates and castle of Farleigh, in Wiltshire. Having squandered his patrimony, in the hope of retrieving his fortunes, he obtained from Charles II, a Royal Charter to convert his town house and grounds into a market. In 1685 Sir Stephen Fox and Sir Christopher Wren were joint proprietors of the market estate; and at that time there stood in its centre a lofty hall, within which was placed a bust of one of the Hungerfords, and bearing an inscription to the effect that the market had been erected for the public good. It seems, however, to have failed as a speculation; but the old hall and a colonnade remained until about 1830, when a project for adapting the site to the purposes of a market, which was to rival Covent Garden as a fruit and vegetable dépôt, and Billingsgate as a fish market, was set on foot, and the late building was erected. It consisted of two quadrangles and a large central hall, with a fair frontage to the river, and, on the whole, sufficient accommodation for the purposes for which it was designed. It was opened for use in July, 1833.
In 1851 a large exhibition-hall and bazaar-gallery was built beneath the upper portion of the structure. Whatever hopes of its success as a market were entertained they were never realised, for neither Covent Garden nor Billingsgate suffered eclipse; and as a central dépôt for the sale of provisions it soon degenerated so far as to contain one or two good fishshops and perhaps one representative emporium for the various articles of vegetables, poultry, butcher meat, and cheese and butter. For the rest, there was a dreary makeshift aspect even in the corridors of the quadrangles, where articles of real use were sold; but about the central hall these clung a number of those extraordinary expositions of cheap prints, picture-frames, walking-sticks, shells, and sticky sweet-stuffs, from which by some inexplicable means certain people appear to obtain livelihoods in forlorn parts of the metropolis, so that when a prosperous penny ice-shop was opened, notwithstanding its own innate dinge, it gave an air of prosperity to the place which it had never possessed before. The adventurous dispenser of the penny ices took pity on the poor hall, which had been opened for half a dozen purposes, and advertised as adapted to a hundred more, and having fitted it up after the fashion of a fifth-rate foreign café, threw it open as an annexe to his establishment for the consumption of his confections, and even added to its melancholy attractions a band of two violins, a harp, and an octave flute, which disturbed or assisted, according to their idiosyncrasies, the digestions af the consumers, who were thinly scattered over the area.
But the car of the great railway Juggernaut has passed over the whole space and laid it desolate, as may be seen from our Engraving, which is taken from a point river-wards, and looking towards the Strand; the steeple of St. Martin’s Church and the dome and ball of the Electric Telegraph Office peering over the houses, the back view of which occupies the centre of the picture, while the first arches of the London Bridge and Charing-cross Railway, which crosses the river at this point by a viaduct which is to supersede the Suspension-bridge, are to be seen creeping close up to the verge of the great thoroughfare which leads from Trafalgar-square to Temple-bar.
Related Material (before and after)
- Old Hungerford Bridge by James Abbot McNeill Whistler (etching, 1861)
- Charing Cross Railway Bridge, Station, and Hotel (1865)
- London improvements: Hungerford Pier on the Thames Embankment (1869)
Transcribed and added, with links and extra paragraph breaks for ease of reading, by Jacqueline Banerjee, Editor-in-Chief, The Victorian Web. You may use the image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Internet Archive and the Kahle/Austin Foundation and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.
The Illustrated London News. Vol. 41. 27 December 1862. 704-06. Internet Archive. Sponsored by the Kahle/Austin Foundation. Web. 3 January 2022.
Created 3 January 2022