Ever since the first traders settled in the Piazza, Covent Garden has been synonymous with the colourful and lively people of the market trade. It was in the 1660s that the roots of the vegetable, fruit and flower market really took hold here.
With the Great Fire still vivid in the memory, Londoners looked West from the charred remains of this great city and set up the stalls for everyday staples in the new and dashing Covent Garden Piazza.
Every day, for 14 generations, the market welcomed customers through thunderstorms, hurricanes, blizzards and drought and always with the lusty welcome for which it became famous. In over 300 years much happened in the market and every day there were events which blended in to a collective memory. As with any strategic fundamental institution, it was taken for granted that London’s best greengrocery was Covent Garden, you’d go to Billingsgate for your fish, Smithfield for your meat and Covent Garden for your vegetables.
By the 1970s, the ravages of time had taken their toll on the market here and the once-proud Piazza had become rather shabby and wearied and so it was decided that the market should relocate to new purpose-built facilities in Nine Elms, Battersea.
In the interval years Covent Garden had a melancholy bittersweetness; a grand old dame fallen on hard times and forgotten by an uncaring public however, all that was to change in 1974 when the Covent Garden Market returned with a tremendous fanfare. After years of consolidation, the market here has again blossomed into an essential destination on the streetmap of London.
Gone are fruits, vegetables and flowers but in their place a mesmerising array of giftshops, clothes boutiques, desirable restaurants and stalls of fancy goods, not forgetting the street entertainers who cut capers to the delight of their audience.