The Garden Guide

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

Covent Garden 1

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20. COVENT GARDEN. KINGSWAY. LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS. STATIONS: Leicester Square, Covent Garden, and Holborn, on the Piccadilly Tube; British Museum, on the Central London Railway. � OMNIBUSES, Nos. 44, 68, and 77 in Kingsway, and numerous others in the Strand. � TRAMWAY No. 35 (Elephant and Castle to Highgate) runs beneath Kingsway. The interesting districts described in this route lie immediately to the north of the Strand. The Covent Garden region, which may be approached from the west (St. Martin's Lane) via Garrick St. or Long Acre, is perhaps most directly reached from the Strand via Southampton St. To the left of Southampton St., connecting it with Bedford St., is Maiden Lane, where lived the poet and patriot Andrew Marvell (1621-88). Voltaire also lodged here for about three years (1726-29), and J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851), born in his father's barber's shop (No. 26; demolished in 1861), lived here until 1800. Henrietta Street, named after the queen of Charles I. and parallel to Maiden Lane on the north, is almost wholly given over to publishers. Samuel Cooper (1609-72), the miniature-painter, lived here when Pepys visited him to arrange for a portrait of Mrs. Pepys; and here lane Austen (1775-1817) occasionally stayed with her brother. Still farther north is King Street, in which Coleridge lived at No, 10 (rebuilt) and Admiral Lord Orford at No. 43. King St. is continued on the west by Garrick Street, which takes its name from the Garrick Club (Nos. 13 & 15), established in King St. in 1831 and transferred to its present premises in 1864. Many members of the club are actors or dramatists. The club possesses a valuable collection of pictures and portraits of British actors (upwards of 600), a fine terracotta bust of Shakespeare, discovered when old Lincoln's Inn Theatre was pulled down in 1848, and numerous theatrical relics of Garrick and others. Covent Garden Market is the chief market in London for fruit, vegetables, and flowers. The present market buildings are neither handsome nor particularly commodious; but when business is at its height the scene is highly picturesque and animated. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are the market-days, when the enthusiast, who wishes to see everything, should be present not much later than 6 a.m. The show of fruit and flowers, however, is generally well worth seeing up to 9 a.m., when the wholesale flower market closes. Easter Eve offers the most brilliant display of flowers. The name of Covent Garden goes back to the Convent Garden of St. Peter's, Westminster, which extended from the Strand to Long Acre. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the land (7 acres in all) reverted to the Crown, and in 1552 it was granted to John Russell, first Earl of Bedford, who built his town house in the Strand (near Southampton St.). Stalls for the sale of vegetables were set up here, and in 1631 the fourth Earl of Bedford laid out the site as a square, bordered on the north and east sides by a plazza, designed by Inigo Jones, on the west by the church of St. Paul, and on the south by the wall of Bedford House garden. The present buildings date mainly from 1830, but have been enlarged and improved. The Covent Garden Piazzas, now almost wholly gone, were long one of the most fashionable parts of London, containing the residences of the Earl of Orford, the Duke of Richmond, Lord Crewe, Bisbop Berkeley, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Sir Peter Lely, Sir Kenelm Digby, and many other eminent personages. The names of the adjoining streets (such as Bedford, Russell, and Tavistock) indicate the long connection of the district with the Bedford family, which ended in 1918, when the Duke of Bedford sold the Covent Garden estate.