A market with a difference

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MichaelJM on September 1, 2011

Covent Garden is always a great place to visit as it’s always buzzing with activity and I found it difficult to think that "modern day" Covent Garden began in the 1630s when convent land belonging to Westminster Abbey was redeveloped by the 4th Earl of Bedford. Although the history of the site is a bit murky it is strongly suggested that the Saxons settled inside the old Roman town and established a port to the west of the city, along Fleet Street, the Strand, and covering today's Covent Garden. This new settlement was called Lundenwic and was abandoned when the Vikings became too much of a threat. Covent Garden then was returned to agriculture and continued to be farmed until the 17th century.

Covent Garden, the idea of the Earl of Bedford and designed by Indigo Jones, a very famous architect whose name figures in many a fine building of that time. Nothing remains of Indigo’s architecture but he did introduce the idea of "City Squares" and a grid of streets and these features have remained to this day. It would seem that Covent Garden’s success was born out of the destruction of the Fire of London as many of the city’s markets were destroyed by this event in 1666. The market grew and by the late 1700’s much of the square was dedicated to market activity. Perhaps it was not the most salubrious of settings but people still visited the place in droves.

The main building in Covent Garden was built in 1830 by Charles Fowler and forty years later a glass roof was added. Over the years other market buildings were added and the Flower Market was erected in 1872 (it is now the London Transport Museum and the National Theatre Museum).

The area was well established as the main fruit and vegetable market with traders visiting from across the UK. Of course transport out of the City got increasingly difficult and in the 1970’s the venue was finally moved out of Covent Garden. Indeed this historical trading centre was close to being demolished as the empty buildings were dormant and seemingly "past their best". Town planners were determined to "start afresh" but local pressure groups managed to talk them out of this and eventually the buildings were renovated and thankfully for us all Covent Garden remains intact as a modern day trading centre.

There are a range of unique shops and plenty of decent eateries where you can sit down and enjoy the ambiance of the area. You can be sure that there will always be a variety of street entertainment in and around the main centre.

But of course it’s the market that you’ll want to browse around and we never tire of this. There are essentially three markets. Apple market is I guess the most traditional with cockney traders selling bargain t-shirts and London memorabilia. It has a great buzz about it.

East Colonnade Market is a fantastic sight nestling in the covered area under the majestic columns of the regency building. It’s crammed full of craft stalls ranging from hand-crafted jewellery, hand-knitted clothing, and art work too many to mention. It’s a veritable treasure trove and I suspect that even the most frugal shopper will find something to buy. Not cheap but everything from toys to home-ware, soap to magical tricks is hand crafted.

Jubilee market is almost entirely dedicated to antiques on a Monday and it’s well worth getting down there to get the flavour of this traditional antique market. I’m not sure that you’ll ever pick up anything cheap as the traders are all pretty savvy. However, you can be sure that you’ll see some quality items and the variety is incredible. On Tuesdays through to Friday Jubilee market operates as a general market and over the weekend it transforms into an arts and crafts fair. So if you’re down for a long weekend you’ll be able to see three different markets on the one site.

There’s plenty to see and do in Covent Garden and I’d recommend that you check it out.
Covent Garden
Covent Garden
London, England, WC2
+44 20 7836 9136


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