The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 20 Covent Garden, Kingsway, Lincoln's Inn Fields

Bow Street

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BOW STREET is so named �as running in shape of a bent bow.� On its west side is the Floral Hall or Arcade, a wholesale market for foreign fruit (sales by auction at 10-30 a.m., daily in summer, thrice weekly in winter). Adjoining stands the Covent Garden Theatre or Royal Opera., a large building (2000 seats), with a Corinthian colonnade, built by E. M. Barry in 1858. The sculptured frieze and panels of the portico are by Flaxman and were on the older building. The theatre is used not only for opera but also for fancy-dress balls and other entertainments. The first theatre on this site was opened by John Rich, the famous harlequin, in 1732. This was rebuilt (after a fire) in 1808-9, and the raised prices of the new house provoked the notorious �O.P,� (old price) riots. Peg Woffington, John, Charles, and Fanny Kemble, and Helen Faucit were among the actors who made Covent Garden Theatre a rival to Drury Lane. A small museum of objects connected with famous singers is shown during the opera season. Opposite is Bow Street Police Court, the chief of London's fourteen Metropolitan police courts, erected in its present form in 1881. The first court-house here was established in 1749, with Sir John Fielding, the blind half-brother of the novelist, as magistrate. The �Bow Street Runners,� or �Robin Redbreasts� (so called from the colour of their waistcoats), were the precursors of the modern detective officers. Among former residents of Bow St. were Henry Fielding (1707-54) who lived here (while acting magistrate for Westminster) in his brother's house (destroyed in the Gordon Riots; 1780); Grinling Gibbons, from 1678 till his death in 1721; Peg Woffington, the actress (1720-60); Garrick (1717-79); Edmund Waller (1606-87); and Wycherley, whose scandalous second marriage took place in his lodgings here, eleven days before his death in 1715. At the top of Bow St. is LONG ACRE, running from St. Martin's Lane on the south west to Drury Lane on the north-east. Here, a little to the west of Bow St., at the corner of James St., is the Covent Garden Tube Station . Long Acre, the chief street of the coach builders since about 1695, is now being largely appropriated by motor-dealers. Beyond Drury Lane the line of Long Acre is continued by Great Queen St. to Kingsway. Near the south west end of Long Acre Rose Street diverges to the left. Here Samuel Butler died in 1680 and Dryden was beaten by Rochester's bullies in 1679. Dryden resided on the north side of Long Acre, opposite Rose St., from 1682 to 1686. Oliver Cromwell lived on the south side from 1637 to 1643, and two doors off was the abode of Nicholas Stone. The printing works of Messrs. Odhams, in Wilson St., on the north side of Long Acre, were struck by a bomb on January 28th, 1918, and 29 persons were killed (the basement being used at the time as a public shelter).