London was shaped by drovers, men who would drive cattle and other livestock from the corners of the kingdom into Smithfield Market. Many ancient drover routes remain among the most important streets in the capital. Euston and Marylebone Roads were built specifically so that cattle drovers could bypass the busy central streets. After surviving for centuries, the trade was finally killed off by the railways.
This almost forgotten aspect of London’s history is brought to the fore in The Drovers, a cycle of large paintings by Will Stevens. The paintings blend aspects of 19th and 21st century London, uniting the past and present city on canvas. The show culminates in a 4.5 metre painting of Smithfield Market in the 19th century, with 21st century details. The painting goes on show as parts of the historic market await redevelopment, to the dismay of many.
As an extra draw, the canvasses are displayed in the crypt of St Mary Magdalene’s church, Paddington, a short walk along the canal from Little Venice.
The Drovers by Will Stevens is at St Mary Magdalene’s church, Rowington Close, W2 5TF until 29 October, 12 noon till 5pm. Entrance is free.