‘Convent’ Garden was the 13th century kitchen garden of the Abbey of St Peter, Westminster.
In 1630 the Duke of Bedford commissioned Inigo Jones to build houses ‘fit for the habitations of gentleman’. Inspired by trips to Italy, he created Covent Garden Piazza – the first open square in England.
Market stalls have been trading in the area since the mid-17th century. When the fire of London destroyed smaller markets, it became the most important fruit, veg and flower market in the country.
In 1973 the market was relocated to Nine Elms and Covent Garden faced demolition. It was saved by campaigners, and is now a lively area of shops and (more…)
One my recent visit to Samuel Johnson’s House, I bought a booklet of essays entitled ‘Tea and coffee in the age of Dr Johnson’; a fascinating insight into the coffee houses of 18th century London.
I learned that one of the early coffee shops was called Tom’s. Established by Thomas Twining in 1706 nearby the shop on Strand that sells tea to this day. Tom’s had a library and was ‘…a place renowned for its polite and scholarly interests’*. Further up Fleet Street was Nando’s coffee shop (perhaps shortened from Fernando’s).
I am reminded of this 300 odd years later, and (more…)
Somerset House, originally a Tudor Palace, has been home to Elizabeth I, the Navy and the Royal Academy of Art. It has seen routs and masquerades, and has fallen into ruin – ‘…the haunt of spectres…magicians and murderers.’
The free tour gives an excellent overview of it’s extraordinary history.
It was fascinating to visit the lightwells – underground alleyways visible from the courtyard – and the ‘Dead Room’, with it’s Catholic gravestones.
Easy to see why Somerset House is used by film crews as an atmospheric London location.
The Courtyard is a fantastic space, unique in London. The East wing is home to an eatery, and very fine place for a cup of tea. (more…)