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The land around Covent Garden was originally part of an abbey, but with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII (1509-47) the land became privately owned by the Earl of Bedford.
|Covent Garden Piazza
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden
In the 1630s the 4th Earl of Bedford asked the architect Inigo Jones to develop the centre of the Covent Garden district so that it was an area 'fitte for the habitacions of gentlemen and men of ability'.
So Jones built the church of St Paul's and, influenced by Italian neo-classicism, surrounded it with a three-sided square lined with arcaded, terraced houses (unfortunately none of the original buildings have survived).
At first the piazza was a luxurious and much sought after residential area, but the fruit and vegetable market that was held in the square soon became so large that the wealthy residents moved out. For more than 100 years the area went down-market and was renowned for its taverns, gambling dens and brothels - John Cleland's heroine Fanny Hill lodged here.
But in the last century the area has picked itself up again. And since the fruit and vegetable market moved out in 1974 the piazza has evolved into the fashionable tourist attraction you see today.
||Nowadays various markets are held in the piazza and all around are small shops and boutiques selling all manner of gifts, jewellery, antiques, collectibles and crafts. There are also lots of restaurants, cafés and bistros, all of which combine to give the area a lively atmosphere. Another big feature of the piazza is the huge number of street entertainers that frequent the area.|
And one of the best selling points of the piazza is that it is traffic free, one of the very few pedestrianised areas of London.
The shops are open every day, and there are several markets held throughout the week, including the main arts and crafts market.
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