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Around 1200AD, the area today known as Covent garden was walled off by Westminster Abbey to be used as orchards and arable land. That's right! Back then, London was a much greener place.
The walled off area was known as "the garden of the Abbey and Convent", later shortened to Covent Garden around 1260. The name has stuck ever since.
During the Dissolution, the lands were seized by the crown and were gifted to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford in 1552. The Russell family added houses to the land around a large piazza, but kept much of the area as a garden. The houses built for the Russell family form the shape of the modern Covent Garden we see today.
Market stalls have been a staple of Covent Garden for hundreds of years. In the beginning, the market sold vegetables and fruit. Wooden rails were erected around the piazza and traders with baskets, trestles and carts congregated on the south side outside the rails.
In 1670, the Earl of Belford was granted a Royal Charter to regulate and organise an official market. The fresh fruit and vegetable market survived all the way up to the 1960s. By then, increased traffic into the market forced the government to either redevelop the market or move it.
After many protests, the market was moved to Nine Elms. Today, the market includes cafes, small shops, a craft market and other tourist novelties.
The Theatre Royal on Drury Lane dates all the way back to 1663. Rumoured to be haunted, this is the oldest continuously used theatre in all of London. As London's premier cultural hub, The Theatre Royal has been the centre of a lot of drama.
From puppets to politics. As early as the 16th century, politicians erected hustings in Covent Garden to make speeches and engage the people with some hand shaking and baby kissing. These affairs were well-attended and food and drink was brought in ample supply. Inevitably, many of these political gatherings dissolved into violence.
Covent Garden has been protected by the people for years. During the redevelopment fears of the 1960s, many of the buildings were listed in order to protect them. In fact, Covent Garden is one of the highest concentrations of listed buildings in London.
Covent Garden is the only district in London to have a license for street performers and entertainers. As such, the only place in London to find jugglers, magicians and human statues is Covent Garden and its market.
In an effort to turn a snappy tourist dollar, street performances in Covent Garden range from jugglers and acrobats to escapologists and levitating men…
This huge Christmas tree takes 30 years to grow and is decorated with 30,000 lights, which weigh 3 tons. After Oxford Street, the Covent Garden Christmas lights show is the most popular switch on in the city. It takes 100 people to dress the tree, which is the same type of tree that the Queen has at Buckingham Palace.
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With 44 million visitors a year, Covent Garden is only bested by Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip for tourist traffic. Its history, grassroots feel and prime location in the heart of London makes Covent Garden a must-visit location for anyone coming to experience Britain.
Book your summer break in London and explore Covent Garden for yourself. Stay with Grange Hotels and for a limited time only, use offer code SUMMERESCAPE for 15% off!