Sports, leisure and the Arts Smithfield Conservation Area

Smithfield and its buildings today

Historically, the predominant building type was food markets. Few of these are still standing, and those that are have been converted to other uses. Principal amongst them is the retail fish market, which is now the Craft Village. This building, significant among indoor markets, was an extension to the original retail fish market constructed during the 1890s.

An iron frame supports a roof which is 50% glass to provide good illumination. Offices with projecting windows, associated with the original market stalls, were at high level, and these have been converted to craft workshops. So too has the ground floor, which has a well illuminated two-storey central space with sub-tropical trees.

Other market buildings are also of interest. The wholesale fish market on High Street was built in two phases by different architects in 1873 and 1879. It is characterised by elaborate gables with corbelled or overhanging brickwork, and carved stone panels in the arches over the wrought iron gates. The stone carvings showing maritime scenes were by Bonshill and William Skeer. The roof was removed when the refrigeration in the basement was shut off in the 1970s and a portion of the ground floor space was at one time used for a garden centre.

The Smithfield Market Hall on Swan Street is a two-storey stone building dated 1858. The detail around the main entrances takes its inspiration from the architecture of classical Greece, and each principal semi-circular arch has a bull's head carving on the central large key block. Originally a meat market, it soon became a vegetable market, and in recent years has been a training workshop for the Greater Manchester Youth Association.

Buildings to the south of the conservation area, closest to the commercial heart of the regional centre along Oldham Street, Market Street and Church Street, are larger and of later date than the rest of the area. The contrast is especially noticeable around Turner Street and Back Turner Street, where there are some very small-scale houses dating from the Georgian period, subsequently converted or used for commercial purposes. Numbers 35-37 Thomas Street are a pair of these houses, converted and also largely rebuilt in recent years.

The City at 133 Oldham Street was originally two private dwellings built before 1782 by two cotton manufacturing brothers. By 1800 the premises were combined and used as a public house, then known as the Prince of Orange, the character probably depicted in the sculpted plaster panel at first floor level. The ground floor front of the inn is decorated with numerous carved timber panels.

No. 29 Swan Street is a Ruskinian Gothic-style building in orange-red brick with stone dressings. It has coloured bricks in the arches over the windows, with projecting stone hood-moulds, and also an overhanging oriel window at first floor level. Some of the stonework is richly carved in a leaf pattern, which forms both horizontal cornice banding and decorating near the windows. No.1 Piccadilly, an unusual building with elevations constructed mostly of cast iron, is now painted in bright colours.

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