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Covent Garden Market

viking london reconstruction

Covent Garden soon became one of the most sought after residences for the rich and fashionable of 17th century London, and its Piazza was a natural attraction for street hawkers hoping to relieve them of a little of their money.

In 1670, the 5th Earl and now the first Duke of Bedford decided to profit from these street sellers by obtaining a royal charter 'to hold forever a market' selling flowers, fruit, roots and herbs

Covent Garden market was only partially successful until the Stocks Market in the City closed in 1737. As it became more popular so the fashionable moved out to the ever-expanding suburbs of the west end. The character of the area was completely transformed as it teemed with all forms of low-life and illicit traders. 'The wretched vendors of sausages, who cared not what they made them of, such as those who fried them in cellars in St Giles's, and under gateways in Drury Lane ... were as offensive as the melters of tallow, bone burners, soap boilers, or cat-gut cleaners'




Next Vagrancy in Covent Garden





Covent Garden market became increasingly popular when the Fleet Market closed in 1826 and the family solicitor to the Duke of Bedford complained that it now displayed a 'total want of that systematic arrangement, neatness and accomodation which tends obviously to facilitate and increase public convenience'. New order was introduced when in 1829 work began on a new market building, described as 'a structure at once perfectly fitted for its various uses; of great architectural beauty and elegance; and so expressive of the purposes for which it was ereceted, that it can not by any possibility be mistaken for anything else than what it is'.

The character of the market changed once more and became a fashionable place for the rich to aspire street credibility among the unfortunate Eliza Doolittles. Dickens was genuinely fascinated by the colour and atmosphere of the market and rented apartments on the corner of Wellington and Tavistock Streets where 'I can slip out at my door in the small hours after any midnight and in one circuit of the purlieus of Covent Garden Market, can behold a state of infancy and youth, as vile as if a Bourbon sat upon the English throne'