St George's Market, Belfast, Northern Ireland
A Fascinating History
Hustle and bustle is still the order of the day for St George's market. Gone are the rows of horse drawn carriages waiting at the doors, now replaced with the motorised vehicles of today. Inside little has changed, spacious and light with glazed roofs supported by 70 cast iron columns. Many of today's traders are descendant's of families who stood here on 20th June 1890, when the market first opened. Indeed the memorabilia seen in the grand Victorian entrance would have you believe that the market has had a chequered past. Originally opened to sell butter and eggs, it also housed a slaughter house, and soon became famous for the sale of meat and poultry.
Today, walking through the tired, faded wrought iron gates, originally painted in holly green, you would be forgiven for thinking yoou are back in the Victorian times. The ladies no longer wear long dresses or ornately decorated hats, but are dressed casually in jeans and jackets. They still carry their prized bargains and speciality items not available elsewhere.
The market now sectionalised, still sells butter and eggs, and has several award winning butchers stalls. You can still buy pigs trotter's and lambs hearts, but also wild boar and venison. Game stalls are prolific at this time of the year with rows of pheasants, their plumage of strong vibrant colours gently swaying with the breeze. Rabbits looking fierce, hang by their feet in pairs.
Several traders sell beautiful hand crafted chocolates. The delicious aroma of coffee follows you except where it meets the fish counters. Here you watch where you walk as the ice melting combined with the fish scales makes progress slow. The pungent smell getting up your nose, whilst the aggressive look on many a fish head questions whether you should eat fish at all.
Head towards the centre of the market, where traders, selling luscious Italian olives and sun blush tomatoes give way to rows of intricate jewellery and clothing. The home bake stalls beckons, and tempts you with steaming pies full of the promise of spring and summer harvests. The cakes, so delicately decorated that you stand and look in awe. Vegetables gathered from local farms, some of which are a mystery. Huge leeks, and onions the size of footballs, stand in a row, proud to display the name "organic".
To the right are the familiar delights of the crepe stalls, variations such as banana and chocolate, or strawberry and cream tempt you further. Such decadent flavours to lose oneself in.
People are sitting at tables. Listening to the music provided by the musicians, oblivious to all around them. People drinking coffee, eating hot, steaming beef stew or flavoursome bowls of vegetable soup. This is market life and such a glorious sight to behold.