The area was briefly settled in the 7th century when it became the heart of the Anglo-Saxon trading town of Lundenwic, abandoned at the end of the 9th century. By 1200, part of it had been walled off by Westminster Abbey for use as arable land and orchards. Referred to as “the garden of the Abbey and Convent”, and later “the Covent Garden”, it was seized by Henry VIII and granted to the Earls of Bedford in 1552. The 4th Earl commissioned Inigo Jones to build some fine houses to attract wealthy tenants. Jones designed the Italianate arcaded square along with the church of St Paul’s. The design of the square was new to London and had a major influence on modern town planning, acting as the prototype for new estates as London grew.
COVENT GARDEN PIAZZA
The central square in Covent Garden is simply called “Covent Garden”, often marketed as “Covent Garden Piazza” to distinguish it from the eponymous surrounding area. Designed and laid out in 1630, it was the first modern square in London—originally a flat, open space or piazza with low railings. A casual market started on the south side, and by 1830 the present market hall had been built.
The market grew, and further buildings were added: The Floral Hall, Charter Market, and in 1904 the Jubilee Market. By the end of the 1960s traffic congestion was causing problems, and in 1974 the market relocated to the New Covent Garden Market about three miles (5 km) south-west at Nine Elms. The central building re-opened as a shopping centre in 1980 and is now a tourist location containing cafes, pubs, small shops, and a craft market called the Apple Market, along with another market held in the Jubilee Hall.
Covent Garden falls within the London boroughs of Westminster and Camden and the parliamentary constituencies of Cities of London and Westminster and Holborn and St Pancras. The area has been served by the Piccadilly line at Covent Garden tube station since 1907; the journey from Leicester Square, at 300 yards, is the shortest in London.
As the time surpassed, the market surrounding fell into disrepute, as taverns, theaters, coffee-houses brothels opened. By 18th century, it became the distinct red-light area district. An act of Parliament was drawn to control the area and Charles Fowler’s neo classical building was erected in 1830 to cover and help organise the market.
The church of St Paul’s was the first building, and was begun in July 1631 on the western side of the square. The last house was completed in 1637. Seventeen of the houses had arcaded portico walks organised in groups of four and six either side of James Street on the north side, and three and four either side of Russell Street. These arcades, rather than the square itself, took the name Piazza; the group from James Street to Russell Street became known as the “Great Piazza” and that to the south of Russell Street as the “Little Piazza”.
None of Inigo Jones’s houses remain, though part of the north group was reconstructed in 1877–79 as Bedford Chambers by William Cubitt to a design by Henry Clutton.
- Source: www.wikipedia.com