After the Deptford Dockyard closed in 1869 it lay empty until the Corporation of London established the Foreign Cattle Market in 1871. The article below from 'The Morning Post' Tuesday 8 November 1870 shows that the process by which the market was established was not entirely simple and straightforward. The dockyard was not the preferred site and it had already been sold to a third party. Some Common Councilmen preferred other sites and some were entirely opposed to the Corporation establishing such a market at all.
In the event the City of London's Foreign Cattle Market was established in 1871 and operated until the 1st World War. In the time that it was open over 4 million sheep and cattle were landed and slaughtered on site. The Foreign Cattle Market is the setting for 'The Gut Girls' by Sarah Daniels. The site was requisitioned for military use in 1914. After the war frozen and chilled meat largely replaced live imports and the Foreign Cattle Market did not reopen. The site is nowadays known as Convoys Wharf.
COURT OF COMMON COUNCIL
PROPOSED FOREIGN CATTLE MARKET
PROPOSED FOREIGN CATTLE MARKET
Yesterday a special Court of Common Council was held in the Long Parlour of the Mansion House - the Lord Mayor presiding — for the purpose of receiving a report from the Markets Committee with reference to the erection of a new foreign cattle market. There was a large attendance of members, and the subject appeared to excite a great amount of interest.
Mr J F BONTEMS brought up the report of the committee, in which they stated that from various communications they had had, both with the late and the present Government, and the experience they had obtained from the proceedings in Parliament in relation to the cattle plague and the course to be pursued with respect to the importation of foreign cattle, they were strongly impressed with the belief that there existed a fixed determination on the part of the Government and of a large majority in the Legislature to have a market for the sale and slaughter of foreign animals coming from scheduled countries, entirely separate and distinct from the Metropolitan Cattle Market, and the question to be determined by the Court of was whether the new market should be provided and erected by the corporation or by some other body, and, after a very full and careful consideration of all the circumstances of the case, they had arrived at the conclusion that it would be to the credit as well as to the advantage of the corporation that they should provide a market the sale and slaughter of foreign animals pursuant to the powers and provisions for that purpose contained in the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, 1869. Assuming that the court agreed with them in this conclusion, the next point to be considered was that of the position in which the market should be placed. The committee considered that the site between the Surrey Commercial Docks and her Majesty's Victualling-yard would have been the most suitable place; but the Lords of the Council having declined to give their assent thereto, the committee were of opinion that the next best course would be to establish the proposed new market upon a portion of the late Royal Dockyard at Deptford, containing an area of about 22 acres, and having a river frontage of about 1,012 feet; and they recommended that they should be authorised to take the necessary steps for effecting the purchase of the freehold estate and interest in that property from Mr. Austin for the sum of £91,500, the corporation taking upon themselves the engagements entered into by Mr. Austin for the construction of a gas-house and the erection of a wall to divide the property from the victualling-yard and from the of the dockyard sold to the trustees of the Evelyn Estate.
Mr Deputy CHARLES REED MP and Mr Deputy BURNELL presented petitions against the site selected by the committee, and in favour of a site on the northern side of the Thames. These petitions were signed by meat salesmen and butchers in Hackney and the eastern part of the metropolis.
Mr RUDKIN and Mr JAMES BREWSTER presented petitions from salesmen and importers of foreign animals and carcase butchers, approving of the site selected by the committee, and requesting the court to take immediate steps to construct the market. They stated that the site proposed had peculiar advantages over any other site whatever. It had direct railway communication with the New Meat Market at Smithfield, was a mile and a half nearer that market than any other site known to the petitioners, and was by direct roads placed in communication with that market without the necessity of crossing any draw-bridges.
In reply to questions that were put to him, one of the petitioners in favour of the site said he did not think the statement that it was in direct railway communication with the Meat Market was true. He, however, stated that the south side of the river was easier of access than the north, and that there was a railway at the victualling-yard, which was at one and of the dockyard, and that large quantities of meat were supplied to the victualling-yard for the use of the army and navy.
In moving the adoption of the report, Mr BONTEMS, the chairman of the committee, described the circumstances under which the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act was passed. He remarked that the home growers of cattle were always opposed to the free importation of foreign cattle, and that the visitation of the cattle plague gave them an opportunity which they never had before of urging upon the Government the necessity of erecting a market for the slaughter and sale of foreign animals. In the result an act was passed which formed the subject of the reference to the Markets Committee, and under that act the corporation had the option of erecting the new market, and if the corporation did not make market by the 1st of January, 1872, it fell to the Metropolitan Board of Works to erect it, and to do so out of the public rates, as the local authority for the metropolis. Certain advantages would be conferred upon the corporation if they made the market, which they would lose if they failed to do so. They would have the power of increasing the tolls at the other market to compensate them for the 1oss of the foreign cattle. No doubt one of the great objections to making the new market was the probable cost of it, but if the court examined the matter closely they would find that it would pay itself. There was at the end of the report a table showing the amount that would be raised at the Cattle Market at the increased rates, supposing the corporation erected the new market, and that table showed an estimated increase of £4,300 per annum. He thought this had been rather over-stated, but he contended that the increase of tolls would make up for the cattle taken away. During its 12 years of existence there had been a total loss on the cattle of about £110,000. Last year the loss was the smallest that it had been (£3,000), and it was to be hoped that there would soon be a profit instead of a loss. There was a considerable quantity of land unlet, and there would probably be an increase of British animals. The estimated cost of the new market was £160,000 which, compared with the cost of the Metropolitan Cattle Market, £469,000, was a comparatively small amount. To meet that expenditure there would be the landing and wharf dues and other charges. The present charges at Odam's Wharf, the principal wharf at which foreign cattle were now slaughtered, were 5s 6d for beasts and 9d for sheep. That was rather higher than the ordinary charge, owing, he believed, to Mr Odams having been obliged to go to a considerable expense in a hurry; but the corporation would not find it necessary to make a charge anything like that in order to render the market a paying concern.
If all the foreign cattle and sheep had been sent to the cattle market during the last three years had been landed at a market on the bank of the river and charged for at Mr Odams’ s rate, the revenue produced would have been nearly £42,000 a year. The interest of £100,000 would be £8,000 a year, and, allowing another £8,000 for the expense of management (that being the cost of managing the market at Copenhagen-fields), there would he a total outlay of £16,000 against a revenue of £40,000 so that there a reasonable prospect not only of making the new market pay, but of helping them to pay off the debt on the old one. (Hear, hear.) It was not their desire that there should be two markets, which would be an inconvenience to the trade, but the erection of a second was forced upon them, and the only thing that could he done was to make the best of a bad bargain. They were not legally bound to purchase the site or erect the market, but it would be remembered that they petitioned in favour of Mr. Forster’s bill which subsequently became law, and against that of Lord Robert Montagu, so that there was a moral obligation upon them. He knew that some members of the court were opposed to making this market, but he would ask them if they were prepared to abrogate their functions, and let the Metropolitan Board of Works take up the matter. Mr Bontems then referred to the various sites that had come under the notice of the committee. The objections to those on the northern side of the river were that in some instances the frontage was not sufficient, that in others the distance was too great, and that in other cases the roadway crossed swing bridges, would cause a delay in the traffic. The committee had in the first instance selected a site between the Surrey Docks at Rotherhithe and the Victualling-yard at Deptford the cost of which would have been from £50,000 to £70,000, but it did not meet with the approval of the Privy Council. They then considered that of the other sites that of the late dockyard at Deptford was the most desirable, and they accordingly put themselves in communication with Mr. Thomas Phipps Austin, the gentleman who had became the purchaser from the Government of that portion of the dockyard which had a frontage to the river. The price paid by Mr Austin was £75,000 and it might appear a considerable premium to pay him £91,500; but Mr. Austin purchased the property with the idea that by cutting it up and dividing the frontage into different wharves he would realise a handsome profit out of the transaction. It was very likely he would have done so, and he had a right to be fairly paid for the responsibility and risk he had undertaken. The committee still thought that the site would be cheap at the price they would have to pay. The place would be very suitable for the market, and there was, besides, a quantity of machinery that would be most useful. There were also some buildings, and if they could be utilised there would be a considerable reduction in the estimate of £160,000.
In conclusion, he moved that the report be adopted, and that it be referred back to the committee for execution.
Replying to Mr Deputy De Jersey, Mr BONTEMS said, with respect to railway communication, that both the London, Brighton, and South Coast and the South-Eastern Railway Companies had intimated that in all probability they would be able to connect the dockyard with their lines, and he did not consider that would cost the corporation anything.
Mr J T BEDFORD said that he with many others repudiated the idea of making this market. It was utterly unnecessary for any possible purpose except that of raising the price of food and putting money into the pockets of the landholders of this country. That was the object of the bill from first to last. If they drew a line round the metropolis, and said that cattle might come in but might not go out alive, they would do away with necessity for a new market, which would be a ruinous undertaking. They were at the mercy of the Privy Council as to the charges that might be made, and the cattle that would go to the new market would be taken away from the existing market in Copenhagen-fields. They were losing £12,000 a year by their markets, and the very name of a new market gave them a financial shudder. (Laughter) It was madness to make a new market; and why were they going to do it? For fear somebody else might have the opportunity. Mr. Bontems said the Metropolitan Board of Works would do it if the corporation did not, because they were the local authority. Well, they knew the days of the Metropolitan Board of Works were numbered-—(laughter)——and if the corporation erected the market as the local authority, they would have the rates to fall back upon, but at present they would have to fall back upon the City's cash. Let them take high ground. This was a bill to raise the price of the food of the people, and therefore they ought to repudiate the whole measure and fallback upon their parliamentary rights, and defy any one to build this market without their consent. Why? Because the corporation had raised £400,000 to build a market under an Act of Parliament which said that no other market should be built within seven miles of St. Paul's. They raised that large sum of money, and then another Act of Parliament was brought in to repeal the first. It was a mistake altogether, and he said again there was no necessity for another market. It was step towards the old abolished system of protection, and he hoped they would not undertake it. He begged to move that the report lie on the table.
Mr. T. S. RICHARDS seconded the amendment. He remarked that among 27,000 animals at Mr Odam’s wharf since the 7th of September there had been only one case of disease.
Mr Deputy BURNELL spoke in favour of a site on the Isle of Dogs.
Mr. LAWLEY remarked that the Privy Council had sanctioned the corporation recouping itself for the loss incurred at Islington. The act was not a protection measure brought in by any one party, but was concurred in by both Whigs and Tories.
Mr. FRICKER spoke in favour of the adoption of the report.
Mr Deputy FRY said he had no objection to the recommendation of the report, but he thought it should be insisted upon that the corporation should be at no loss in respect of the new market.
Mr RUDKIN expressed his approval of the report and of the site selected.
Mr GAINE thought the site at Deptford Dockyard the best, but he was strongly of opinion that there was no necessity for another cattle market.
Mr BONTEMS having replied, The amendment was negatived on a show of hands by a large majority.
Mr Deputy BURNELL moved, as a further amendment, to agree with the report except so much of it as referred to the site at Deptford Dockyard, but this amendment also was negatived, and the report was then adopted, and referred back to the committee for execution.