Today’s walk took me to Covent Garden. This is an area crammed with interesting things so my use of the relatively obscure Floral Street as a reference might seem odd. The reason is simply that of sentimental attachment (I often walked down Floral Street when I worked in the bookshop) though it does contain a few points of interest.
I think the best way to go to Covent Garden is by tube, getting out at Covent Garden station. From there, you can walk down James Street to the “Piazza”, the old Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market.
First though, again for sentimental reasons, I walked down St Martin’s Lane, where you will find, among other things, the London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera (ENO). There are also two interesting “courts” leading off the Lane. The first is St Martin’s Court, with The Salisbury pub on the corner, and the other is Cecil Court. (If you are good at history, you will make the connection between Salisbury and Cecil.)
Cecil Court is the more interesting of the two, being full of dealers in books, prints, stamps, coins and all sorts of old things. Here you will find Watkins, famous purveyors of woo-woo books, and Motor Books, a magnet for motor enthusiasts.
In the picture (right) the two towers belong to the London Coliseum (the one with the globe) and the Church of St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square.
I once applied for a job with a rare book dealer in Cecil Court. I was called for interview but heard nothing further. I wonder what it was that I said?
Floral Street starts (or ends) in Garrick Street and runs more or less parallel to the much busier Long Acre.
The green building now called “Le Garrick” used to be the late lamented Dillon’s Art Shop. On the next corner on the left, you can just see the rear of Stanfords, the justly famous map and travel book shop.
Further along, you come to the Carriage Hall, an open yard today surrounded by shops and offices. I don’t yet know its history but will endeavour to find it out.
Hergé enthusiasts may be interested in the TinTin shop where you can find everything you need to do with the young Belgian detective and adventurer.
And so we come to where I used to work in Covent Garden, though in my day it was a bookshop, a branch of the Books etc chain.
Bought out by Borders, the remaining outlets of Books etc sank recently with the mother ship. The shop’s Floral Street door has disappeared. Near it was the till which was my favourite place to work in the shop.
Floral Street ends (or begins) in Bow Street, opposite the sculpture of a Young Dancer by Enzo Plazzotta, sitting at the opening of Broad Court. I am not sure why there would be a ballet dancer here, right beside the Opera House. Perhaps it was thought to be in harmony with the generally artistic atmosphere of the area.1
Also nearby is the renowned Theatre Royal Drury Lane which isn’t actually in Drury Lane (though it backs onto it), a source of confusion for visitors from outside London. At one end of the theatre’s façade is a drinking fountain, erected by public subscription in honour of Augustus Harris, actor, dramatist, impresario, “father of the pantomime” and one-time director of the Theatre Royal.
There is so much to see in this area that a short account necessarily leaves out far more than it includes, especially a quirky personal account such as this one. On the other hand, that leaves material for another time!
I suppose I can’t really talk about Covent Garden without including a picture of the old market building itself.
The above photo shows one of the main halls of the market building, taken from the courtyard between the market and St Paul’s Church. This courtyard provides a stage for buskers and street performers during the summer months. Today, in view of the weather and the relatively early hour, the hall was quiet and the courtyard deserted.
In fact, it was cold enough to make my fingers painful when operating the camera and the fitful rain was making photography difficult, so I decided to head for home and warm up with coffee and lunch!
For more information on Enzo Plazzotta and his sculpture, please see the interesting comment by Kieran below.
1I do note, however, that the sculpture was “unveiled” in 1988, that Enzo Plazzotta died in 1981; and that even today the Plazzotta Company has unsold works of his.