London – Markets – Fruit & Veg


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This is the second part of our article on the early provision consumption of London – the article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Read other posts in the London series

London – Markets – Fruit & Veg

The fruits and vegetables consumed in the metropolis are principally produced in the environs; and it is calculated that there are upwards of 6000 acres of ground cultivated as gardens within twelve miles of the metropolis, giving employment to 30,000 persons in winter, and three times that number in summer. It is the opinion of the intelligent author of the Pomarium Britannicum, that gardening has conferred a great blessing on the metropolis, in the prevention of pestilential diseases, by making cleanliness a matter of profit, and giving a ready sale and liberal price for the soil, which might otherwise be suffered to accumulate.

Numerous calculations have been made of the annual consumption of food in the metropolis, but this is not easily ascertained with any degree of accuracy, as, although we may know the number of cattle and sheep, yet we have no means of learning their weight, which, by the modern improvement in feeding, has been considerably increased. Of the quantity of cattle sold in Smithfield market, we have the most accurate returns, and find that in the year [1822], the numbers were 149,885 beasts, 24,609 calves, 1,507,096 sheep, and 20,020 pigs. This does not, however, by any means form the total consumed in London, as large quantities of meat in carcases, particularly pork, are almost daily brought from the counties around the metropolis. It would appear that the inhabitants of London have become more partial to mutton than formerly, for the quantity of cattle consumed has not increased in proportion to that of sheep; the quantity of cattle sold at Smithfield in the year 1701, being 88,304, or more than half the number sold in [1822], while the number of sheep was only 480,000, or less than a third sold in the latter year. The total value of the cattle sold in Smithfield is calculated at £8,500,000. It is supposed that a million a year is expended in fruit and vegetables; the consumption of wheat amounts to a million of quarters annually; of this, four-fifths are supposed to be made into bread, being a consumption of 64 millions of quartern loaves every year in the metropolis alone. Until within the last few years the price of bread was regulated by assize, and it may afford some idea of the vast amount of money paid for this ‘staff of life,’ when it is stated, that an advance of one farthing on the quartern loaf formed an aggregate increase in expense for this article alone, in London, of upwards of £13,000 a week.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery


Further reading and external links

Cheapside and London Retail Trade in the 18th Century

Sholto and Reuben Percy