The Haymarket (Sennaya Ploschad) occupied the plot of land on Sadovaya Street between Spassky and Tairov Lanes. One of the busiest squares in St Petersburg, it was created by cutting down a tract of forest (1730s). The area was called Bolshaya Square (1739 to mid-18th century) and the Horsemarket (mid-18th to late 18th century), before it became known as the Haymarket (late 18th century) after the hay and other agricultural produce that was sold there. Pigs were transported there from the neighbouring provinces and entire “herds” of frozen pork were sold in the meat sections during the winter. The market expanded to include people selling personal possessions and hawkers’ stands. A focal point for beggars and vagrants and surrounded by drinking dens and dosshouses, the Haymarket soon became the most notorious place in town. This infamous district was popularly known as the “underbelly” of St Petersburg, in analogy to Émile Zola’s novel Le Ventre de Paris (1873). The Haymarket was dominated by the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin (1753–65). The small Neoclassical building on the other side of Sadovaya Street, opposite the cathedral, is the Haymarket Watchhouse. Designed by Abraham Melnikov (1818–20), it housed the military guard who kept order at the Haymarket.

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