Give or take a century, and there’s a millennium of history in the Cowcross name. If now it seems whimsical, it comes from plain-speaking: Cowcross Street started as somewhere cattle were shooed along towards the market, a place cows quite literally crossed. It started in 1123 and the market, as well as the nearby Smithfield cattle and horse market, swiftly sculpted the fortune of its surroundings; by the 13th century, butchers had sprung up too. Pubs followed, and soon the area was busy with food and drink.
Later, Booth’s gin – once the Queen’s tipple – set up their Cow Cross Distillery in the 1740s. When the Metropolitan Railway opened in the mid-1800s, other business flourished including, curiously, the curing of bacon – the Danish Bacon Company were smoking some 60,000 rashers a week from 1909 and they didn’t move until the ‘80s. Meanwhile, R. S. Murray and his local sweet-shop made a name with Murray Mints. Cowcross has countless stories of highs and lows, of poets and highwaymen, but food has long fed these streets.