Tuesday, June 19, 2012

City of London sale of Foreign Cattle Market, 1926

The article below gives a potted history of the City of London's acquisition, ownership, closure and eventual sale of the Foreign Cattle Market at Deptford. It first appeared in The Times on Saturday 13th March 1926. Before becoming the Foreign Cattle Market the site written about was the Royal Dockyard opened by Henry VIII in 1513 and closed in 1869. The discussions of the Court of Common Council prior to the acquisition of the Market are set out here.

After being sold to the War Office it continued to be known as the Foreign Cattle Market, but by the time the Ministry of Defence sold it to News International in the early 1980s it had become known as Convoys Wharf. 

The War Office's reasons for buying the site are not entirely clear as apart from its use by US forces during the latter part of the Second World War, the site appears to have been leased out during most of the half century that the military owned it.

The adjacent Victualling Yard mentioned in the piece would normally be referred to as the Royal Victoria Victualling Yard, and is now the site of the LCC / GLC built Pepys Estate.




The arbitration in connexion with the sale of the Foreign Cattle Market at Deptford by the City of London to the War Office has been concluded and the award taken up by the Corporation. the whole market, which consists of 27 acres of land, an extensive river frontage of over 1,000ft., with substantial jetties and a system of roads and railways, is to pass to the government for £387,000. In addition the Corporation will receive 5 per cent. interest on the purchase money from January, 1924. No order has been made for costs, and both sides, therefore, will pay their own.

Some years ago the Corporation offered to sell the whole estate for £250,000. The War Office, however, thought the price too high. Before the arbitrator (Mr JD Wallis) the Corporation asked a substantially larger sum.

The history of the Foreign Cattle Market at Deptford is interesting from the commercial and financial points of view. it marks the rise and fall of an enormous business. When this country found itself unable to feed its population, cattle from overseas began to come in. They were days before the world mnew anything of refrigeration, and the cattle had to be brought over alive.

As owners of the live cattle market at Islington, to which foreign animals were at that time consigned, and of the London Central Markets at Smithfield, the Corporation in 1867 resolved to enter into negotiations with the Government in respect to legislation, then contemplated, for the prevention of the introduction into Great Britain of contagious diseases among animals by prohibiting or regulating the importation of foreign animals, and offered to provide a market for the reception and store of foreign animals, and to appropriate funds for that object without recourse to the imposition of rates for the purpose, other than might be derived from the tolls and rents of the market itself.

The representations of the corporation, though not immediatley successful, were finally accepted by the Government, and by the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, 1869, the Corporation was made the exclusive local authority in and for the Metropolis in respect of foreign animals, with power to appoint inspectors, and also to provide, erct, and fit up wharves, lairs, sheds, markets, houses, and places for the landing, reception, sale, and slaughter of foreign animals, subject to its providing and opening for public use a market before January 1, 1872.

The site of the Admiralty at Deptford was acquired and the market opened in 1871, the cost being, with enclosing walls, £94,000. Between that date and 1889 the original site was extended to the present 27 acres. Railways were put down, roads made, and three fine waterside jetties constructed. Altogether about £500,000 was spent. A large trade was done; cattle came from Canada, the United States of America, and South America. deptford thrived and the whole neighbourhood became involved in the subsidiary trades which arose from the treatment of hides and offal.

Then, slowly but surely, came refrigeration, and afterwards the knowledge of how to "chill" meat; and side by side with the scientific development restrictions had to be imposed -"the embargo"- to meet the trouble caused by disease. Trade fell off. Whereas in 1907, 184,971 cattle and 4,950 sheep were imported through the market, the figures in 1912, dropped to 21,547 cattle and 1,193 sheep. by the last-named year the losses on trading had become so considerable that the corporation had to make drastic retrenchments, though the market was never actually closed until the war.

How far refrigeration was helped forward by the embargo will never be settled. Deptford still thinks the embargo killed the trade, but the ordinary man, looking at the evidence, will probably feel that refrigeration was bound to win.

Shortly before the war the position was such that the Corporation had entered into negotiations with the Government for the sale of the property. The Royal Victualling Yard being next door, the obvious buyers were the Government, and they had expressed onofficially their interest. Negotiations were proceeding when war broke out. The Lord Mayor immediately sent a telgram to the Government placing the property unreservedly, and at once, at the disposal of the authorities. The offer was accepted and within three days the War Office took posession. Deptford became under Major Millman, a great supply base, sending hundreds of thousands of rations to the troops in France and other theatres of war. The railways were improved and the site was adapted to the requirements of the several Expeditionary forces.

Later the Corporation let the property to the War Office for £10,000 a year as long as the exigencies of the country demanded it, and five years from the termination of the war, giving the Secretary of state the right to purchase on six months' notice, and reserving interest at 5 per cent. on the purchasing money if negotiations lasted more than six months. it is this clause which gives the 5 per cent. on the figures of the arbitration.

According to the latest available accounts there is an outstanding debt on the market of £170,000, the major part of the capital expenditure having been dealt with by sinking fund.

The Times, Saturday, Mar 13, 1926; pg. 12; Issue 44219; col F

1 comment:

  1. After WWI the War Office were put under Parliamentary pressure to lease part of the yard to Messrs. Palmers and Messrs. Convoy's to increase employment opportunities in the area. Though exactly how the site was shared or divided up is an interesting question.