The Joyous Neighbourhood of Covent Garden A Literary Souvenir of the Tavistock Hotel, Done in Celebration of its Hundredth Anniversary

Pascoe, Charles Eyre





THE man who first made the fame of was . Except among writers of text-books and professors and students of architecture he is of little account now. Yet his name alone, said Horace Walpole, would save England from the disgrace of not having her representative among the arts. "She adopted and , she borrowed Rubens, she produced Inigo Jones. Vitruvius drew up his grammar, Palladio showed him his practice, Rome displayed a theatre worthy of his


emulation, and King Charles was ready to encourage, employ, and reward his talents." "Words of learned
length and thund'ring import " in truth; but to look at now one would hardly credit it that was so great a man. It was he who built the arcade once known as the , and in later time as the Great and Little Piazzas. He also built the adjoining . Walpole himself "lacked taste," he says, "to see the beauties of these two structures." Others equally gifted with the critical faculty, have probably never thought it worth while to question his opinion that "the pilasters


of the arcade are as errant and homely stripes as any plaisterer would make." To-day they engage the attention of no one, except, perhaps, in protest of the fetid filth which accumulates about them in summer time, and their occasional dangerous proximity to the big wheels of a " rolling" Hansom cab, fighting its way to the Tavistock Hotel. But in Inigo Jones's day the Portico Walk was one of the show-places of London. As planned by him it was never completed. It was originally intended to continue it along the whole square. The north and eastern sides were built, and there the design was left. The Old and New Hummums hotels (now pulled down), took the place of the south-eastern piazza which was destroyed by fire shortly after its erection. For the rest, those who care to examine what remains of Inigo Jones's famous structure will find it in the arcade extending from the Tavistock Hotel to the fruiterers' shops that have now taken the place of the old Bedford and the adjoining tavern.

It will scarce interest the reader to trace the origin of the market. Like many another market elsewhere, it sprung up no one knows how. For some years


before Inigo Jones took it in hand, the open space afforded a lean pasturage for a few cattle. After he had completed the church of St. Paul and the Piazza, it was still an unsightly plot of scrubby, ill-kept ground, such as we often see disfiguring newly-planned neighbourhoods in the suburbs. The " furies of the football war" used to wage upon this plot in the closing years of the seventeenth century. Stray vendors of fruit and vegetables, from the outlying villages of Marylebone and Islington, gathered upon it and sold to passers-by. At the outset, probably, they had as much right to "make their pitch there" as the costermongers of St. Luke's in the streets of Hackney. But the ducal owner, nothing loth to see his land utilized that way, encouraged their traffic and applied to the king for letters patent for establishing a market. A hundred years at least passed before it became of any significance; and even then it was but a collection of rude wooden sheds and railed in spaces, familiar to many of us who have strolled into the market-place of old French towns. The sturdy granite edifice of to-day dates only from the third decade of the present century. It is neither very imposing nor


very convenient, but it is a palace compared with the scanty hovels that dotted the square and formed the market in the closing years of the seventeenth and opening years of the eighteenth centuries. It was then that Covent Garden began to be recognized as a fashionable neighbourhood. Its history may be said to date from that period.