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Covent Garden - flats and houses to rent with Black Katz, London's largest lettings only agency., rent a flat in London
 

Covent Garden


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Covent Garden is a district in London, England, located on the easternmost parts of the City of Westminster and the southwest corner of the London Borough of Camden. The area is dominated by shopping, street performers and entertainment facilities and contains an entrance to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, which is also widely known simply as "Covent Garden", and the bustling Seven Dials area.

To find a flat or house to rent in Covent Garden, London contact the Black Katz London Bridge office. Black Katz have flats and houses to rent in Covent Garden and across London.  If you are a landlord wishing to rent out your property contact Black Katz.

The area is bounded by High Holborn to the north, Kingsway to the east, the Strand to the south and Charing Cross Road to the west. Covent Garden Piazza is located in the geographical centre of the area and was the site of a flower, fruit and vegetable market from the 1500s until 1974, when the wholesale market relocated to New Covent Garden Market in Nine Elms. Nearby areas include Soho, St James's, Bloomsbury and Holborn.

History

A settlement has existed in the area since the Roman times of Londinium.

"Convent Garden" (later becoming Covent Garden as we know it today) was the name given, during the reign of King John (1199–1216), to a 40-acre (16 ha) patch in the county of Middlesex, bordered west and east by what is now St. Martin's Lane and Drury Lane, and north and south by Floral Street and a line drawn from Chandos Place, along Maiden Lane and Exeter Street to the Aldwych.

The modern-day Covent Garden has its roots in the early 17th century when land ("the Convent's Garden") was redeveloped by Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford. The area was designed by Inigo Jones, the first and greatest of English Renaissance architects. He was inspired by late 15th century and early 16th century planned market towns known as bastides (themselves modelled on Roman colonial towns by way of nearby monasteries, of which "Convent" Garden was one). The centrepiece of the project was an arcaded piazza. The church of St Paul's, Covent Garden stood at the centre of the western side of the piazza. A market, which was originally open air, occupied the centre of the piazza.

The area rapidly became a base for market traders, and following the Great Fire of London of 1666 which destroyed 'rival' markets towards the east of the city, the market became the most important in the country. Exotic items from around the world were carried on boats up the River Thames and sold on from Covent Garden. The first mention of a Punch and Judy show in Britain was recorded by diarist Samuel Pepys, who saw such a show in the square in May 1662. Today Covent Garden is the only part of London licensed for street entertainment with performers having to undertake auditions for the Market's management and representatives of the performers' union and signing up to timetabled slots. In 1830 a grand building reminiscent of the Roman baths such as those found in Bath was built to provide a more permanent trading centre.

On 7 April 1779, the pavement outside the Covent Garden playhouse was the scene of the notorious murder of Martha Ray, mistress of the Earl of Sandwich, by her admirer the Rev. James Hackman, who was hanged twelve days later.

Covent Garden was a well-known redlight district in the 18th Century. The activities in Covent Garden were documented in Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, a titillating list providing the addresses of prostitutes and whore houses, as well as details of their “specialities”. During its heyday (1757 to 1795) Harris’s List was the "essential guide and accessory for any serious gentleman of pleasure".

By the end of the 1960s, traffic congestion in the surrounding area had reached such a level that the use of the square as a market, which required increasingly large lorries for deliveries and distribution, was becoming unsustainable. The whole area was threatened with complete redevelopment. Following a public outcry, in 1973 the Home Secretary, Robert Carr, gave dozens of buildings around the square listed building status, preventing redevelopment. The following year the market finally moved to a new site (called the New Covent Garden Market) about three miles (5 km) south-west at Nine Elms. The square languished until its central building re-opened as a shopping centre and tourist attraction in 1980. Today the shops largely sell novelty items, though street performers can be seen almost every day of the year, both on the pitches within the market, and on the West and East Piazza's/James Street outside. More serious shoppers gravitate to Long Acre, which has a range of clothes shops and boutiques, and Neal Street, noted for its large number of shoe shops. London's Transport Museum and the side entrance to the Royal Opera House box office and other facilities are also located on the Piazza.

In August 2007, Covent Garden launched the UK's first food Night Market. Fresh produce from over 35 different stalls included Neal's Yard's specialist cheeses, Spore Boys' mushroom sandwiches, Gourmet Candy Company, Ginger Pig sausages and Burnt Sugar fudge. The aim of the Night Market was to bring Covent Garden back to its roots as the "Larder of London". Organisers are hoping to make it a permanent event in 2008 as part of a wider initiative to regenerate interest in the Covent Garden area.

Covent Garden Market re-opened as a retail centre in 1980, after the produce market was moved to its current location in Nine Elms. Street entertainment at Covent Garden was first mentioned in Samuel Pepys' diary in 1662. Today Covent Garden is the only part of London licensed for street entertainment with performers having to undertake auditions for the Market's management and representatives of the performers' union and signing up to timetabled slots.

Currently performers operate in a number of venues around the market, including the North Hall, West Piazza, and South Hall Courtyard. The courtyard space is dedicated to classical music only. There are street performances at Covent Garden Market every day of the year, except Christmas Day. Shows run throughout the day and are 30-40 minutes in length.

Royal Opera House

In the 1960s an extension to the rear of the Royal Opera House had somewhat improved its facilities, but as time passed, it became clear that a major remodelling was needed. In 1975 the government gave adjacent land for the modernisation, refurbishment and extension of the house and, by 1995, with the availability of National Lottery money, significant funds had been raised. A major reconstruction of the building took place between 1996 and 2000, involving the demolition of almost the whole site (except for the auditorium itself), including several adjacent buildings, to make room for a major increase in the overall scale of the complex. In terms of volume, well over half of the complex is new.

The new opera house has greatly improved technical, rehearsal, office and educational facilities, a new studio theatre, the Linbury Theatre, and much more public space. The inclusion of the adjacent old Floral Hall, long a part of the old Covent Garden Market but in general disrepair for many years, into the actual opera house created a new and extensive public gathering place. The venue is now claimed by the ROH to be the most modern theatre facility in Europe.

Nearest stations

  • Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line)
  • Charing Cross (Northern Line, Bakerloo Line, National Rail)
  • Leicester Square (Piccadilly Line, Northern Line)
  • Holborn (Piccadilly Line, Central Line)
  • Embankment (Circle Line, District Line, Northern Line and Bakerloo Line)

To find a flat or house to rent in Covent Garden, London contact the Black Katz London Bridge office. Black Katz have flats and houses to rent in Covent Garden and across London.  If you are a landlord wishing to rent out your property contact Black Katz.

Cultural connections

The marketplace and Royal Opera House were memorably brought together in the opening of George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion, as well its musical adaptation by Alan Jay Lerner, My Fair Lady. In both, Professor Henry Higgins is waiting for a cab to take him home from the opera when he comes across Eliza Doolittle selling flowers in the market.

In the mid-1950s, before he directed such films as If.... and O Lucky Man!, Lindsay Anderson directed a short film about the daily activities of the Covent Garden market called Every Day Except Christmas. It shows 12 hours in the life of the market and market people, now long gone from the area, but it also reflects three centuries of tradition in the operation of the daily fruit and vegetable market.

Alfred Hitchcock's 1972 film, Frenzy, likewise takes place amongst the pubs and fruit markets of Covent Garden. The serial sex killer in Frenzy is a local fruit vendor, and the film features several blackly comic moments suggesting a metaphorical correlation between the consumption of food and the act of rape–murder. Hitchcock was the son of a retail greengrocer in North-East London and would have known the area; and so, the film was partly conceived (and marketed) as a semi-nostalgic return to familiar streets from the director's childhood.


Streets

Neal Street, named after Thomas Neale (1641-1699) who designed the Seven Dials development and set up the first central postal service in the American colonies, was home to the punk club The Roxy in 1977. It is the centre of a fashion-focused mid-market retailing district which caters mainly for young people.

Rent a flat, house or apartment in Covent Garden with Black Katz.