C is for Covent Garden #atozchallenge

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When I first came to London to work in 1979 Covent garden was in its last throes as a fruit and veg market.

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Now full of stalls and shops; back then full of fruit and veg traders

It was famous everywhere for its porters with their baskets of produce precariously balanced on their heads, its pubs that opened in the evening and stayed open until the early morning* and the chaotic traffic on the fringes of the city from all the fruit and veg lorries. (*As a young lawyer starting at my new city firm in 1981, the initiation was to finish a Fox and Anchor mixed grill which comprised every sort of meat going plus a plate of chips washed down with two pints of draught Guinesss; while this had more to do with the Smithfield meat market the same arrangements applied to the Covent garden pubs – these porters ate and drank copiously; a very old world now, in my judgement, happily no more).

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Chez Gerard, a rather good French restaurant was behind the screens – it may now have gone so let’s hope, if so, its replacement is as welcoming; the clutter of traffic some ends as the cobbles of the market square start

A lot of people worried what would replace the Victorian market. Offices, it was assumed. But the Greater London Council, London’s central authority who owned the site, showed foresight and imagination, not words usually associated with the group of wackos and deadbeats who manage most large cities and retained the buildings, leading the conversion to a mix of retail, restaurants and entertainment.

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The south transept – sorry that’s a church, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels rather like a place to worship

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the mirrored ceiling in the south hall always makes me stop and cause a pile up behind me.

As a property lawyer, in the 1990s I acted for clients who bought the market and the surrounding buildings to run them. The structure utilised in the mid 1970s still applied and the leases contained restrictions on uses.

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The London Transport museum

For a landlord keen to maximise rental income any user restrictions are anathema. However these worked. They gave a veto on new tenants to the Covent garden Area Trust who, while acting reasonably could have regard to the character of the estate.

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Inside one of the two main halls

In this way multiple retailers and restaurateurs have been kept out, the Transport Museum retains its place on the corner and the Jubilee Market, a place for small carts to sell a variety of nick-nacks and the usual tat and crap allows the market to retain its character.

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Below are areas, once offices but now cafes and entertainment spaces. You can see the opera student in the top right corner…

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This is her singing – not bad given all the background noise.

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The redeveloped Opera House

Alongside the market the Covent Garden Opera House was redeveloped. It allows multiple retailers who crave a position, hardly surprising given the uniquely buzzy atmosphere of what it today one of London’s most popular tourist destinations.

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The Opera House from a different view, plus James Street by the old telephone boxes – hopefully not still used as in the past : late night urinals.

Apple has its main London store there too, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but brings a slightly different perspective to the retail offering.

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The main square with the Church opposite and plenty of space for mingling, buskers and general derring-do

And for me, best of all, just around the corner in Floral Street (the names echo the market history) is London’s only Tintin shop. What’s not to like?

Tomorrow D is for


This is part of the 2016 A to Z Blogging challenge. Please click here to find your way to other participants.

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About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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36 Responses to C is for Covent Garden #atozchallenge

  1. Phil Taylor says:

    That looks like a fantastically interesting part of the city. I didn’t get to it last time I was there, but hopefully I’ll have another chance in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My first job was at Seven Dials, early 80s. The market had gone, the boutiques were moving in, and Neal’s Yard was in full swing. I preferred Old Compton Street though. Great pics though. It hasn’t changed much since those early days. Smarter, but the atmosphere seems to be the same.


  3. Ritu says:

    Love Covent Garden! !!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. noelleg44 says:

    Got to see the original Covent Garden when we were there in 1972.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Solveig says:

    Oh Geoff, what a lovely walk through. I am definitely an ignorant when it comes to London, but then I only went there for a weekend 7 years ago…
    I do like the historic touch, especially since it’s seen through your eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. lizannelloyd says:

    Loving your London theme. I’m trying to resist jumping out of the computer chair and dashing for the train to London.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love Covent Garden. 😍

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Keiley Blair says:

    That is absolutely beautiful! We don’t have anything like that around here, but I’ve been to several big cities that have farmers markets (although they still aren’t nearly as gorgeous as this one).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Gulara says:

    What a fab place!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your pictures are extraordinary. And what is the secret to having them post so large ?? ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  11. gordon759 says:


    Liked by 1 person

  12. A great nostalgic trip for me, with some excellent photos. Naturally, when you arrived I was soon to leave. We lived in Soho from 1975 – 1980, when we moved to Streatham, so watched the development you speak of.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sacha Black says:

    Love love love Covent Garden although the I was hoping for Camden! My other fave!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. AJ.Dixon says:

    Another informative tour! πŸ™‚ I’ve not spent much time in Covent Garden myself,despite my friends raving to me about it when I was a teenager. I may have to visit on the strength of the Tintin shop alone…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I thought that Opera Singer was a waitress in the photo until I watched the video.

    On my first day in London, in 1986, I remember going to Covent Garden and almost falling through the floor when I got charged Β£2.00 for a pint of lager. Us Welsh chaps were not used to those sorts of prices. Back then it was a mere 89p a pint in the Labour Club!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. gordon759 says:

    Just realised that Covent Garden features in one of my historical tales, that of the pineapple thief https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/the-pineapple-thief-a-georgian-tale/

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Judy Martin says:

    Thanks for sharing so many pics Geoff. I rarely go to London as large cities make my anxiety kick in, so it is lovely to see all around Covent Garden. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  18. jazzfeathers says:

    I’ce been to Covent Garden with my sister once we were in London. It was night, so the market was closed and I couldn’t visit, but the atmosphere all aroudn was lovely.
    Next time I’m in London… πŸ˜‰

    The Old Shelter – Jazz Age Jazz


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