Covent Garden – Best Historic Places to Visit in London
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 elegant buildings, theatres and entertainment facilities, including the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and the London Transport Museum.
Covent Garden in 1572 by Ralph Agas, with surrounding wall marked in green
In 1552, the land was seized by Henry VIII and granted to the Earls of Bedford. The 4th Earl commissioned Inigo Jones to build fine houses to attract wealthy tenants. It was the first modern square in London, with Italian arcades and a flat, open space or piazza with low railings. This layout was copied in other new estates in London
In 1654, an open-air fruit and vegetable market grew on the south side of the fashionable square but over time the market and the surrounding area fell into disrepute. Taverns, theatres, coffee-houses and brothels opened up, the gentry moved away, and rakes, wits and playwrights moved in.
By the 18th century Covent Garden had become a well-known red-light district, attracting notable prostitutes such as Betty Careless and Jane Douglas. 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”. 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
In 1830, Charles Fowler‘s neo-classical building was erected to cover the market and as the market grew, the prostitutes moved on. The Floral Hall and Charter Market were added and the Jubilee Market in 1904.
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
In 1980, the central building re-opened as a shopping centre and then became a tourist location with cafes, pubs, small shops, a craft market called the Apple Market, and another market in the Jubilee Hall.