Covent Garden Market
With a cornucopia of entertainment, shopping and dining options, Covent Garden Market posses all the charm and facilities of a city but without the traffic. Situated between Kingsway, St Martin’s Lane, Strand and Shaftsbury Avenue, Covent Garden, like Leicester Square and Piccadilly, can justifiably be described as one of the hubs of London’s West End.
These days the area is more than just a market, and has, since 1980, become increasingly known as simply ‘Covent Garden’. However, the name in either form provides clues as to the area’s history. In the 11th century the land was used by Westminster Abbey for growing food, and was known as the ‘garden of the Abbey and Convent’. In the 16th century, as he tamed the churches during the Reformation, Henry VIII, seized the land and gave it to his friend the Earl of Bedford. The 4th Earl commissioned the services of St Paul’s Cathedral architect Inigo Jones to modernise the area and attract and create wealth.
Jones’s Italian inspired square and colonnades did just that, and as people moved in a fruit and vegetable market sprouted up on the south side of the square. Eventually, however, the money went elsewhere and pleasure-seekers, prostitutes and playwrights moved into Covent Garden to make full use of the theatres, pubs and brothels that littered the area. Over time the prostitution business grew, and so did that of the market, with the Floral Hall, Charter and Jubilee Markets operating from new buildings in the square. Eventually the markets came to dominate.