This great leather, or rather hide market, lies in Weston Street, ten minutes’ walk from the Surrey side of London Bridge. The neighbourhood in which it stands is devoted entirely to skinners and tanners, and the air reeks with evil smells. The population is peculiar, and it is a sight at 12 o’clock to see the men pouring out from all the works. Their clothes are marked with many stains; their trousers are discoloured by tan; some have apron and gaiters of raw hide; and about them all seems to hang a scent of blood.
The market itself stands in the centre of a quiet block of buildings on the left-hand side of Weston Street, the entry being through a gate way. Through this, a hundred yards down, a small square is reached. Most of it is roofed, but there is an open space in the centre. Under the roofing are huge piles of fresh hides and sheepskins. There is no noise or bustle, and but few people about. There are no retail purchasers, the sales being almost entirely made to the great tanners in the neighbourhood. The warehouses round are all full of tanned hides; the yards behind the high walls are all tanneries, with their tens of thousands of hides soaking in the pits. Any visitor going down to look at the Bermondsey hide-market should, if possible, procure beforehand an order to visit one of the great tanning establishments. Unless this is done a visit to the market itself will hardly repay the trouble of the journey, or make up for the unpleasantness of the compound of horrible smells which pervade the whole neighbourhood.
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