Monday, 31 August 2015

What about location - Covent Garden then and now part two

In part two I take a look at the streets surrounding Covent Garden. It's more difficult to find decent prints from the 18th century, but thankfully, I have found some Victorian photographs. Most of the buildings in these photographs were the same in the previous century.

Here's an 18th century map of the area. You can see Russell Street marked on it, and Bow Street coming off Russell Street. Follow Russell Street and you come to Drury Lane. On this map, you can just see the word 'Lane'. if you carry on across Drury Lane, then the next road is Great Wild Street, which is the extent of our journey today.

Okay, so Kitty's brothel is on the corner of the Covent Garden Little Piazza and Russell Street. Here it is again today.

See that street going off to the left? That's Russell Street. Three or so doors down this street was Thomas Davis's bookshop, which was where James Boswell first met Dr. Samuel Johnson, and where Kitty goes first, to ask after the dead man she's found in her bed. The original building still stands. Here it is below.

It's the one with the red awning. The blue plaque explains the Boswell/Johnson thing. I can't find an old picture of the bookshop, but here's a picture of Thomas Davis.

If you follow Russell Street to the end and turn left, then you reach Bow Street. Number four was where the magistrate's court and home to the Bow Street Runners was.

Here it is, and below a picture of the inside with the court in session.

Sadly, today the entire west side of Bow Street has been rebuilt and now forms part of the Opera House.

Below are two photos of Drury Lane, where the Theatre Royal stands.  Drury Lane is named after Sir Robert Drury, who built a house here in 1500. The Theatre Royal, which has been rebuilt four times on the same site, was the main competitor to the Covent Garden Theatre (now the Opera House). In the first photo you can see the columns outside the theatre on the left. They were originally painted maroon and it was given the nickname, Rhubarb Alley, because they looked like sticks of Rhubarb. Prostitutes would gather underneath, to wait for the punters to come out of the theatre.
Watch this space for a blog post about the history of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Looking the other way up Drury Lane. If you look carefully, you can see a building at the far end of the row on the left, just by the lamp post, but past it into the background - this is the same building as in the old photos below.

Now here is an old photo of Drury Lane.

And another of the same buildings, but looking in the opposite direction.

Go one street further east and you come to Great Wild Street, which is where Kitty went in search of the dead man's lodging house.

Great Wild Street today is a mess of newish buildings and the old alley's leading off the street, such as Wild Court, below.

Was this where Kitty witnessed a vicious argument between man and wife?

The pic on the left of this triptych is the same view as the new photo above it. 

Okay, enough for part two. Part three, going north of Covent Garden into James Street and Long Acre can be found here.

If your appetite  has been whetted to learn more of Kitty's life in the stews of 18th century Covent Garden you can find out  more by following this link

Kitty Ives is an 18th century Covent Garden prostitute who must solve a murder or risk swinging from the gallows

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