Spend a day and night in Covent Garden
Spend a day and night in Covent Garden. The district standing between Leicester Square & Lincoln Inn Fields to the east, bordered by the Strand & Trafalgar Square to the south is considered one of the most interesting in the city. The vegetable garden of the Abbot & Convent of Westminster until the early 16th century (the word Covent is a corruption of the French word couvent meaning of course convent) came under the possession of Henry VIII after the dissolution of monasteries in 1540. It was then granted to John Russell, First Earl of Bedford in 1552.
Up until the 1630s when Francis Russell, the fourth Earl of Bedford, decided to build a house for himself in Covent Garden on the North side of the Strand, the land had remained unoccupied.
In an effort to make money out of his property, the Earl then commissioned Royal Architect Inigo Jones to build a square there, with houses “fit for the [habitations] of Gentlemen and men with ability.” Almost as an afterthought, he directed Jones to build a church as well (because the aristocrats had to go to church somewhere). Legend has it that, not wanting to spend very much money, Russell asked that the church be no more elaborate than a barn, to which Jones responded “you shall have the finest barn in London.” As a result, the impressive, St. Paul’s Church has been at the center of Covent Garden life ever since. The resulting square was the first piazza in London, and for most people, its construction marks the true beginning of Covent Garden’s history. The Russell family’s hand in the creation of the square is commemorated today in Russell Street and Bedford Street. (More about the history of Covent Garden)
Today the area of Covent Garden has 13 theatres & 60 pubs & bars with several of them such as the Lamb and Flag in Rose Street, the White Swan on New Row St. & Angel, and Crown on St. Martin’s Lane being listed buildings. Several smaller neighborhoods within Covent Garden such as the Opera Quarter with its series of theatres & award-winning restaurants & St. Martin’s Courtyard packed with designer shops & independent boutiques are also traffic-free oases.