Thursday 10 November 2016

Let's draw Covent Garden Saturday 10th December 2016

Getting ready for the BAFTAs at the Royal Opera House by Lis Watkins

Key meeting points and times:

11 am     Meet in front of the church, St Paul’s, Covent Garden, on the market and piazza side (see photo above)

1pm        Meet in the churchyard by the door at the back of the same church (see photo below)

3.30 pm  Finish at Neal’s Yard (NB not the modern Thomas Neal shopping arcade).  See photo and directions below.

These locations have some shelter if the weather is wet.

Brace yourself to face the crowds, in December Urban Sketchers London visits Covent Garden.  But Covent Garden has more than shopping to offer.  Options for drawing include:

  • Covent Garden’s Victorian market buildings: the central market, the Jubilee Hall Market, and the Floral Hall

  • St Paul’s Church – the actors’ church – designed by Inigo Jones, with churchyard behind
  • Theatreland, including the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and Royal Opera House

  • The London Transport Museum (admission charge) 
  • Street entertainers
  • Shops and stalls, with seasonal decorations.

The area known as Covent Garden was originally arable land and orchards belonging to Westminster Abbey – the convent garden.  With the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII (1540), the land passed to the Dukes of Bedford.  In 1630, the fourth Duke brought in architect Inigo Jones to develop the area.  Inigo Jones designed the church which is there now, St Paul’s, with a Tuscan-style portico, and laid out a piazza in the Italian style – unprecedented urban design for England at that time – with elegant houses around it.

For centuries this was a residential and commercial area of varying degrees of respectability, and associated with the arts.  The earliest theatres were the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and what is now the Royal Opera House on Bow Street.  The church is known as the actors’ church and has memorials to many famous names.  In the eighteenth century, writers such as Sheridan, Dryden and Aphra Behn, met in the area’s coffee shops, and the artist J M W Turner grew up on Maiden Lane where his father ran a barber’s shop.

Since the seventeenth century, the piazza was also used for fruit and vegetable markets, and to bring some order to this, in 1833 the covered central market building was designed.  This continued as London’s main wholesale fruit and vegetable market until 1974, when it moved south of the river to Nine Elms.  After a campaign against demolition, the market was re-opened to house the kind of shops and stalls we see today.  There are some old photographs displayed on walls inside the market building.

Places to draw which may be slightly quieter include the churchyard behind the church which has plenty of seats, the church interior, and the old streets and courtyards further away from the main piazza.  There are plenty of arcades and market buildings if the weather is wet, as long as you are dressed warmly.

There are plenty of cafes and bars, and public toilets near the church.  We will start the day in front of the church, and end the day at Neal’s Yard.  To get to Neal’s Yard, with Covent Garden tube station behind you, walk up Neal Street, turn left into Short’s Gardens and then right down a path next to the Benefits shop, signed above with a barrel.

This day is run by Jo Dungey


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