Seven atmospheric streets centred by the iconic Seven Dials Monument, our Covent Garden village is set at a slower pace, providing an escape from the busy streets of the city and home to 90 stores.
Uncover world-renowned international flagships and concept locations, beauty and grooming boutiques as well as over 50 contemporary cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs.
It's time to explore those cobbled streets...
Seven Dials was originally established by Thomas Neale, MP in the early 1690s, who cleverly laid out the area in a series of triangles to maximise the number of houses for rental.
The names of the seven streets were chosen with the intention of attracting affluent residents, however some of the names have subsequently been simplified or changed because of duplication with other streets in London. They were originally: Little and Great Earl Street (now Earlham Street), Little and Great White Lyon Street (now Mercer Street), Queen Street (now Shorts Gardens) and Little & Great St. Andrew’s Street (now Monmouth Street). Some of the original street signs can still be seen attached to buildings in the area.
Neale commissioned England’s leading stonemason, Edward Pierce, to design and construct the Sundial Pillar in 1693-4 as the centrepiece of his development in Seven Dials. The Pillar was topped by six sundial faces, the seventh ‘style’ being the column itself. It was regarded as one of London’s ‘great public ornaments’ and the layout and identity of the area revolves around it.
Neale aimed to establish Seven Dials as the most fashionable address in London, following in the footsteps of the successful Covent Garden Piazza development earlier that century. Unfortunately, the area failed to establish itself as Neale hoped and deteriorated into a slum, renowned for its gin shops. At one point each of the seven apexes facing the Monument housed a pub, their cellars and vaults connected in the basement providing handy escape routes should the need arise.
The 19th century saw an influx of Irish workers into the area, attracted by cheap lodgings. Henry Mayhew observed in “London Labour & The London Poor”, 1861: “In many houses in Monmouth Street there is a system of sub-letting among journeymen. In one room lodged a man and his wife, 4 children and 2 single young men. The woman was actually delivered in this room while the men kept at their work – they never lost an hours work!”
The Thomas Neal’s centre, previously a banana, cucumber and book warehouse retains the name of the original developer, whom Neal Street was also named after. There has been a flower market on Earlham Street for many years, an offshoot of the more famous Covent Garden flower market. Neal’s Yard, which is home to a number of independent eateries, has been the home of alternative medicine, occultism and astrologers since the 17th Century, all of whom were attracted by the sundial and the symbolic star layout of the streets.
More recent milestones in Seven Dials’ heritage include two blue plaques, which mark two great landmarks in Seven Dials’ colourful history. Above 13 Monmouth Street, a blue plaque highlights the location where former Beatles manager Brian Epstein ran his successful management company, NEMS. The plaque was officially unveiled in September 2010 by Liverpool’s darling and entertainer, the late Cilla Black, who was also signed with Brian’s company back in the day and became his only female vocalist.
In Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials’ other blue plaque identifies the location of the Animation, Editing and Recording Studios of Monty Python, which read as: “Monty Python, Filmmaker, lived here, 1976-1987”. However, despite some redevelopment in the 19th and 20th centuries, many of the original buildings still remain and retain original features.
In and Around Covent Garden
Covent Garden Post (John Richardson)
The Annals of London (John Richardson)
London the Biography (Peter Ackroyd)