Covent Garden

Covent Garden
Covent Garden Interior May 2006 crop.jpg
Interior of the former vegetable market, 2006
Covent Garden is located in Greater London
Covent Garden
Covent Garden
Location within Greater London
TQ303809
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Region
CountryEngland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLONDON
Postcode districtWC2
PoliceMetropolitan
FireLondon
AmbulanceLondon
EU ParliamentLondon
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
UK
England
London
51°30′43″N 0°07′24″W / 51°30′43″N 0°07′24″W / 51.512; -0.123456

Covent Garden is a district in London, on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St Martin's Lane and Drury Lane.[1] It is associated with the former fruit-and-vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and with the Royal Opera House, which itself may be referred to as "Covent Garden".[2] The district is divided by the main thoroughfare of Long Acre, north of which is given over to independent shops centred on Neal's Yard and Seven Dials, while the south contains the central square with its street performers and most of the historical buildings, theatres and entertainment facilities, including the London Transport Museum and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

The area was fields until briefly settled in the 7th century when it became the heart of the Anglo-Saxon trading town of Lundenwic, then abandoned at the end of the 9th century after which it returned to fields.[3] By 1200, part of it had been walled off by Westminster Abbey for use as arable land and orchards. Referred to as "the garden of the Abbey and Convent", and later "the Covent Garden", it was seized by Henry VIII and granted to the Earls of Bedford in 1552. The 4th Earl commissioned Inigo Jones to build some fine houses to attract wealthy tenants. Jones designed the Italianate arcaded square along with the church of St Paul's. The design of the square was new to London and had a significant influence on modern town planning, acting as the prototype for new estates as London grew.[4]

By 1654 a small open-air fruit-and-vegetable market had developed on the south side of the fashionable square. Gradually, both the market and the surrounding area fell into disrepute, as taverns, theatres, coffee-houses and brothels opened up.[5] By the 18th century it had become a well-known red-light district. An Act of Parliament was drawn up to control the area, and Charles Fowler's neo-classical building was erected in 1830 to cover and help organise the market. The market grew and further buildings were added: the Floral Hall, Charter Market, and in 1904 the Jubilee Market. By the end of the 1960s traffic congestion was causing problems, and in 1974 the market relocated to the New Covent Garden Market about three miles (5 km) south-west at Nine Elms. The central building re-opened as a shopping centre in 1980 and is now a tourist location containing cafes, pubs, small shops, and a craft market called the Apple Market, along with another market held in the Jubilee Hall.

Covent Garden falls within the London boroughs of Westminster and Camden and the parliamentary constituencies of Cities of London and Westminster and Holborn and St Pancras. The area has been served by the Piccadilly line at Covent Garden tube station since 1907; the 300 yard journey from Leicester Square tube station is the shortest in London.[6]

History

Early history

Covent Garden on the "Woodcut" map of the 1560s, with surrounding wall marked in green

During the Roman period, what is now the Strand – running along the southern boundary of the area that was to become Covent Garden – was part of the route to Silchester, known as "Iter VII" on the Antonine Itinerary.[7][8] Excavations in 2006 at St Martin-in-the-Fields revealed a late Roman grave, suggesting the site had been sacred since at least 410AD.[9] The area to the north of the Strand was long thought to have remained as unsettled fields until the 16th century, but theories by Alan Vince and Martin Biddle that there had been an Anglo-Saxon settlement to the west of the old Roman town of Londinium were borne out by excavations in 1985 and 2005. These revealed that a trading town, called Lundenwic, developed around 600 AD,[10] stretching from Trafalgar Square to Aldwych, with Covent Garden at the centre.[3] Alfred the Great gradually shifted the settlement into the old Roman town of Londinium from around 886 AD onwards, leaving no mark of the old town, and the site returned to fields.[11]

The first mention of a walled garden comes from a document, circa 1200 AD, detailing land owned by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of St Peter, Westminster. A later document, dated between 1250 and 1283, refers to "the garden of the Abbot and Convent of Westminster".[12] By the 13th century this had become a 40-acre (16 ha) quadrangle of mixed orchard, meadow, pasture and arable land, lying between modern-day St Martin's Lane and Drury Lane, and Floral Street and Maiden Lane.[13] The use of the name "Covent"—an Anglo-French term for a religious community, equivalent to "monastery" or "convent"[14]—appears in a document in 1515, when the Abbey, which had been letting out parcels of land along the north side of the Strand for inns and market gardens, granted a lease of the walled garden, referring to it as "a garden called Covent Garden". This is how it was recorded from then on.[12]

Bedford Estate (1552–1918)

The Earl of Bedford was given Covent Garden in 1552.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, Henry VIII took the land belonging to Westminster Abbey for himself; this included the convent garden and seven acres to the north called Long Acre. His son, Edward VI, granted it to the John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, in 1552.[12] The Russell family, who in 1694 were advanced in their peerage from Earl to Duke of Bedford, held the land until 1918.[15]

Russell built Bedford House and garden on part of the land, with an entrance on the Strand, the large garden stretching back along the south side of the old walled-off convent garden.[16][17] In 1630, 4th Earl of Bedford, Francis Russell commissioned Inigo Jones to design and build a church and three terraces of fine houses around a large square or piazza.[18] This had been prompted by Charles I taking offence at the condition of the road and houses along Long Acre, which were the responsibility of Russell and Henry Carey, 2nd Earl of Monmouth. Russell and Carey complained that under the 1625 Proclamation concerning Buildings, which restricted building in and around London, they could not build new houses. For a fee of £2,000, the King then granted Russell a licence to build as many new houses on his land as he "shall thinke fitt and convenient".[19]

Plan of Covent Garden in 1690

The houses initially attracted the wealthy, though they moved out when a market developed on the south side of the square around 1654, and coffee houses, taverns, and prostitutes moved in.[5] The Bedford Estate was expanded in 1669 to include Bloomsbury, when Lord Russell married Lady Rachel Vaughan, one of the daughters of the 4th Earl of Southampton.[20]

By the 18th century, Covent Garden had become a well-known red-light district, attracting notable prostitutes such as Betty Careless and Jane Douglas.[21] Descriptions of the prostitutes and where to find them were provided by Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, the "essential guide and accessory for any serious gentleman of pleasure".[22] In 1830 a market hall was built to provide a more permanent trading centre. In 1913, Herbrand Russell, 11th Duke of Bedford, agreed to sell the Covent Garden Estate for £2 million to the MP and land speculator Harry Mallaby-Deeley, who sold his option in 1918 to the Beecham family for £250,000.[23]

Modern changes

Charles Fowler's 1830 neo-classical building restored as a retail market

The Covent Garden Estate was part of Beecham Estates and Pills Limited from 1924 to 1928, after which it was managed by a successor company called Covent Garden Properties, owned by the Beechams and other private investors. This new company sold some properties at Covent Garden, while becoming active in property investment in other parts of London. In 1962 the bulk of the remaining properties in the Covent Garden area, including the market, were sold to the newly established government-owned Covent Garden Authority for £3,925,000.[23]

By the end of the 1960s, traffic congestion had reached such a level that the use of the square as a modern wholesale distribution market was becoming untenable, and significant redevelopment was planned. Following a public outcry, buildings around the square were protected in 1973, preventing redevelopment. The following year the market moved to a new site in Nine Elms, between Battersea and Vauxhall in south-west London. The square languished until its central building re-opened as a shopping centre in 1980.

After consulting with residents and local businesses, Westminster Council drew up an action plan to improve the area while retaining its historic character in 2004.[24] The market buildings, along with several other properties in Covent Garden, were bought by a Property company in 2006.[25]

Other Languages
العربية: كوفنت غاردن
azərbaycanca: Kovent-Qarden
تۆرکجه: کاونت قاردن
čeština: Covent Garden
Cymraeg: Covent Garden
Deutsch: Covent Garden
euskara: Covent Garden
français: Covent Garden
Gaeilge: Covent Garden
한국어: 코번트가든
Bahasa Indonesia: Covent Garden
íslenska: Covent Garden
italiano: Covent Garden
Bahasa Melayu: Covent Garden
português: Covent Garden
sicilianu: Covent Garden
Simple English: Covent Garden
slovenčina: Covent Garden
slovenščina: Covent Garden
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Covent Garden
svenska: Covent Garden
Tagalog: Covent Garden
Türkçe: Covent Garden