Butcher Row, Reading
A Description of 1808

John Man (circa 1808) described the Butcher Row division of Broad Street in Reading thus, "Leaving the Market-place, I turned up a narrow street, on my right hand, formed by one broad street being divided into two, by a row of houses built longitudinally, nearly half its length. There was a proposal made, some years ago, by some of the inhabitants of the town, to purchase and take down the whole row, which might then have been done at a small expence, several of the houses being in a dilapidated state, but the scheme getting vent, most of the tenants purchased their own houses, and rebuilt many of them, thus putting it out of the power of the schemers to remove them, as proposed; however, they still flatter themselves, that this improvement may take place prior to the millennium, if not within a century or two. Near the entrance of this street is a handsome new-built Market-house, for butchers' meat, poultry, butter, eggs & co. It is a long square, communicating with the Market-place at the north-eastern extremity, and divided into two compartments by a row of butchers' shops running along the middle, from one extremity to the other; fronting which is another row, with a passage between them. In the other division is the fowl-market; both are very well supplied on the Saturday, which is the general market day here, though there is another on Wednesdays. Possessed of so convenient a market-house in nearly the heart of the town, it is astonishing that the greengrocers, and others, should be permitted, in the manner they do, to obstruct the highways with their stalls, which are to be seen in every street, with baskets of potatoes, and other vegetables, placed on the foot-ways, for those who choose to tumble over them, in addition to the nuisance arising from their refuse, being left to rot in the streets. This, and the opposite, street is so narrow, that two carriages cannot pass at a time in either of them; on which account the footways are obliged to be proportionally narrow, notwithstanding this, many of the shopkeepers have been allowed to throw out bow-windows to their shops; these, overhanging the path, oblige the foot-passengers to walk the greater part of the way in the high road, among carts and carriages, but if this is attended with difficulty and danger, he is amply compensated by the great pleasure he must feel on viewing, as he goes along, the different slaughter-houses on either side the way. Here, he may see the patient ox, after a life of labour and toil, for the benefit of the human race, ignominiously and brutally dragged by the horns to the slaughter: there, another just expiring, from a blow directed by an unerring arm, and from the blood which flows like a torrent from his severed windpipe, while the air resounds with his groans. In another part he may behold the unfeeling butcher twisting the tail and screwing down the head of the innocent calf, still moaning after its dam, while the fatal knife is piercing his throat: or the harmless sheep, and bleating lamb, almost flayed alive, and their entrails torn out, as a reward for having clothed their ungrateful masters from their own backs. Add to this, rivers of blood flowing in the kennels, and then say, if any inconvenience can be too great to undergo for such a gratification? I mean as to a Readingensian, whose sensibilities do not appear to me to be of the finer sort, otherwise I should think a sight like this would not be suffered in the heart of so great a town; as for myself, I must confess my feelings are not yet sufficiently callous to allow me to partake of such scenes with pleasure: I therefore made the best of my way to the end of the broader part of the street."


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