Today I visit Broadway Market and the Cat & Mutton Pub. Broadway market, a charming eccentric street lined with boutique stores, restaurants and cafes in London’s Hackney. Also on Saturdays the street plays host to its name sake a popular street market.
Historically before London began to sprawl outwards Hackney remained rural villages until the 18th century. Kings, courtiers and the upper classes had homes here. It was a place to enjoy fresh country air outside London and hunt. As the area began to develop the kings moved further out and the middle and working classes moved in.
At either end of Broadway Market are two popular public areas Regent’s Canal and London Fields.
The Cat & Mutton pub is on the corner of Broadway Market and London Fields. Today London Fields is a public park and lido.
London Fields was originally ‘Lammas land’, on which local people had a right to graze sheep and cattle between August and April, until the late nineteenth century. This was historically a traditional trading route for the transportation of produce and livestock from surrounding counties to Smithfield meat market in the City. Also its reputedly one of the burial places for victims of the Great Plague of 1665.
Although the reason for all the sheep references in street and places names is London fields looks like a shoulder of Mutton on a map. And was once known as mutton fields or park. London fields is taken into public ownership in 1872 after failed attempts to develop housing here.
There is evidence of a public house at the top of the current Broadway Market, adjacent to London Fields as early as 1731 and it is shown on Roque’s Map of 1769. By 1790, the Cat and Shoulder of Mutton Public House marked the end of a row of buildings along the south side of Mutton Lane now Landsdowne Drive.
The area has been a popular weekend destination for working Londoners for centuries. Outside the Cat and mutton pub an activity that would break multiple laws today remained popular for over 300 years – pig swinging.
Each week, visitors would take a pig being herded through London Fields heading towards Smithfield meat market. Grease a pigs tail, then take turns trying to swing it around their heads. Pigs were smaller then and they still probably failed. A swinging pig squealing at high pitch would most likely sound like an air raid siren.
Finally in 1849, music and dancing licences become granted to Cat and Shoulder of Mutton Public House. So pig Swinging eventually becomes replaced with singing and dancing.
Broadway Market had originally become named Duncan Place since 1811. Houses and shops on Broadway Market had been substantially developed as today by 1847. Also earliest records of a street market date back to 1835 . It became known as the Broadway in 1881 and was renamed Broadway Market after the market in 1937.
The street peaked in popularity in the Edwardian Era. But fell in to slow and steady decline as a shopping and entertainment area after the Second World War and although a few fruit and flower stalls struggled on until the 1990s the market all but disappeared.
Rising property prices across London gave the dilapidating Broadway Market fresh appeal to developers at the beginning of this century. However a form of preservation order imposed on the area in the 1990’s thwarted any plans of significant change.
A new farmers market established early in 2004 has transformed Broadway Market. A “posh” street market with many critics brought many new visitors to the street. Today the business conducted each Saturday would probably exceed in multiples the combined market takings of the entire 1990’s.
The Cat & Mutton Pub
The Cat & Mutton Pub is a big pub with very high ceilings. It has been welcoming locals and visitors for over 300 years. Today the ground floor is a traditional pub. Good selection of beers and during the summer visitors enjoy sitting outside opposite London fields. They serve food and each Sunday have a roast.
Also upstairs up a tall spiral staircase is a cocktail bar. With great views overlooking London fields you will find many of the pubs punters up stairs. Its definitely worth a visit. The dress code in Hackey is hipster and the cat & Mutton is no exception.
THE CAT & MUTTON PUB 76 BROADWAY MARKET E8 4QJ
For further details and opening times check out the pubs website www.catandmutton.com