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03 October 2017"Not bloody likely" - The Marketing of Covent Garden 1600 - 2000
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"Not bloody likely" - The Marketing of Covent Garden 1600 - 2000 Daniel Snowman Tuesday 03 October 2017

The Covent Garden piazza was the first great square in London.  Created in the 1630s, its perimeters were decorated by a string of Italianate buildings – notably, on its western side, that self-consciously Palladian church, St Paul’s by Inigo Jones.

One of the most fashionable areas in town, the piazza soon sprouted every amenity a wealthy Stuart or  Hanoverian household might require: coffee houses, a market for fresh fruit and vegetables (and prostitutes); and, in 1732, the first of three successive theatres on the square’s northeastern borders.

All this made for rich pickings by artists such as Hogarth and others. Over the (nearly) four centuries since the piazza's creation much was to change as the sights, sounds and skills on show shifted with the times. One theatre after another burned down, only to be redesigned and rebuilt, while today’s market would be unrecognizable to earlier habitués from Swift and Dr Johnson to Bernard Shaw’s Eliza Doolittle.

Gustave Doré portrayed Covent Garden as little more than a dark and dangerous place of the night. Yet the piazza and the cultural life it has long embraced have continued to survive, indeed to thrive: a state of grace which would surely sometimes have seemed (to Eliza at least) ‘not bloody likely!’

Reading List

The First Bohemians Vic Gatrel

The Gilded Stage a social history of Opera  Daniel Snowman