While walking through the market, I noticed long rows of very scary hooks lining the walls. I asked the husband, who, being British, is an automatic Expert On All Things British, what the hooks were for.
"I don't know...probably for hanging up wares, like vegetables."
Now, I may not be an Expert, but I doubted that brussel sprouts needed such a formidable claw to be displayed. So I found an image of Leadenhall in its glory years, and lo and behold:
Luckily, the hooks are now only ominous reminders of the hundreds of beasties hung out in the element, which presumably is a perfectly safe and incredibly attractive way of displaying meat products. The Victorians thought so, which is why they spoke so highly of Leadenhall:
Leadenhall Market is the greatest market in London for the sale of country-killed meat, particularly beef, and was till lately the only skin and leather market in the metropolis.
Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844
Butchered beef and its skin: surely one of the finest sights London had to offer in 1844. But it wasn't all a delightful, bloody diversion.
It would scarcely be credited that, in splendid London, women are subjected to various kinds of severe and repulsive toil .... For example, the porterage of meat at the wholesale markets, as Newgate and Leadenhall, is performed by women, many of them old. You will see these wretched creatures stagger under the weight of a side of beef, or having an entire sheep upon their heads, conveying their burdens to the butchers carts, drawn up in the vicinity of the market ...
The World of London, by John Murray, in Blackwoods Magazine, July 1841
You may think John Murray is bemoaning the plight of poor Black Beauty and other sad workhorses, but he's talking about the most maligned pack animal of all: women! All I know is that if I could lift a whole sheep on my head, I would feel pretty damned proud of myself.