COVENT GARDEN THEN AND NOW
Photographer Clive Boursnell's tour
Renowned photographer Clive Boursnell has published two books dedicated to Covent Garden.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s he shot thousands of photographs of the Covent Garden, documenting the end of an era before the markets moved out.
Forty years later he has returned and shot many of those sites as they are today.
Fruit and Veg at...
Covent Garden Station
In the old market days you entered and exited from Covent Garden Station only on Long Acre. The rest of the floor space of the station as you see it today was taken up with a potato merchant, Major Bro’s, and with a retail green grocer shop by the corner of James Street and Long Acre.
"IN THE OLD MARKET DAYS YOU ENTERED AND EXITED..."
Morning drinks in...
The Nag's Head
The Nag’s Head Pub on the corner of James Street and Floral Street used to open six days a week, at five in the morning. Along with the usual pub drinks would be pint bottles of milk, bowls of sugar and a large kettle of hot water on the bar. The two favourite drinks especially in winter would be rum and coffee, or whisky and tea, in the same glass with milk and sugar, plus a plate of well done soft toast, thick with beef dripping (the fat and jelly from roasting beef).
Apples to Apple...
Bedford Chambers were full of wholesale fruit and veg merchants. The walkway which is now part of The Piazza was for produce display and sales, with the warehousing behind the shop fronts, plus a loading and unloading yard entered from James Street. The yard, three floors and shop fronts are now Apple’s main showroom in Covent Garden.
"BEDFORD CHAMBERS WERE FULL OF WHOLESALE FRUIT AND VEG MERCHANTS."
Gas street lamps in the old market were serviced once a month. The gaslight man would work just on dawn so he could see the state of each lamp, with one ladder, with its two little hooks on the ladder top: Tools in one jacket pocket and newspaper sticking out of the other. He would do all the lamps in less than an hour, with no harness or ladder barriers. Every one knew to watch out for him and in the over 30 years he worked, he was never knocked off, or fell off, his ladder.
Farmers selling on...
The Stones as it was called from days of old, the east side of the central market building, was where farmers would bring in their own farm produce. Sold from the back of their lorries and trucks, wholesale of course, by the box or sack. Timmy White, sitting down in the portrait picture, sold celery and lettuce.
To Transport Museum
The wholesale Flower Market of Covent Garden was the premier flower market of all England with flowers coming in from all over the world, and each morning those flowers would then go out across to the cities, towns, and villages of England. Now this splendid space lends itself perfectly to the Transport Museum that we have today.
The Heart of the Market
All the outer sides and the central avenue of the central market building were for display and sales of produce. The basements, the north and south halls and the stones (the area of cobble stones surrounding the central market building), were for warehousing of produce, from where the produce was unloaded and dispatched.
Punch & Judy
St Paul's Church
The first ever recorded show of Punch and Judy was outside this back to front St. Paul's Church in Covent Garden. This has always been a place of public entertainment, political meetings, a place for the ladies of easy virtue to ply their trade, and with a succession of coffee stalls that have been under or by the portico of St Paul’s almost as long as the church has been there. The land under the portico is the Church's, and as a result neither the market authorities nor the police could move the homeless from under the portico of St Paul’s. A fire to keep warm and to dry clothes by burned all winter long.