Covent Garden – Upmarket and affluent with a tumultuous history. Fringing on London’s west-end, Covent Garden is known throughout world as being one of the capital’s most upmarket areas.
Covent Garden is divided into a north and south area by the central thoroughfare known as “Long Acre.” Whilst the north contains mostly shops, the southern part has the central square and several important buildings, such as the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane and the London Transport Museum.
In 1200 AD Covent Garden was walled off and was used by Westminster Abbey as an orchard and vegetable plot. It was known at the time as the “Garden of the Abbey and Convent.”
Whilst Covent Garden may be synonymous with glamour and affluence, the area boasts quite a history. In the sixteenth century King Henry VIII seized the area and granted it to the Earls’ of Bedford. The fourth Earl commissioned Inigo Jones to build some fancy houses to attract wealthy tenants.
Inigo Jones was a well travelled architect and most of his ideas came from Italy where he had spent time. Alas within 100 years the Earl’s plans to create a ‘well to do’ area backfired miserably as the area fell in to disrepute. Brothels and drinking houses opened up and by the time the 17th century was over Covent Garden had become a well-known red light district.
An Act of Parliament was drawn up to keep the debauched area under control, which resulted in Charles Fowlers neo-classical building eventually being built in 1830.The area declined as a flesh-pot pleasure ground and stabilized over the years to become what it is today.
The Royal Opera House was constructed in 1732 but a couple of fires in the nineteenth century devastated the original building. The Royal Opera House was redesigned by Edward Barry in 1858 and aside from a multi-million pound facelift in the 1990’s, is the current Opera House, which has been home to the Royal Ballet since 1946.
Many great shops adorn the area, as well as a hive of quality restaurants and bars.
The tube journey from Leicester square is only 300 yards to the Covent Garden station and is the shortest tube ride in London, hardly worth climbing up and down the tube station steps for!