The Spring season in Covent-Garden Market

The Spring season in Covent-Garden Market. 1867. Source: Illustrated London News. Click on image to enlarge it.

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Pleasant is the change from the cold north-east winds and the crnel storms of chilling sleet which have tormented us in London through a long and dreary winter to the bright sunshine, the soft fresh air, the fulness of light and warmth which the spring season has bestowed one or two days this week on the grateful earth and all that lives upon it in these latitudes of the globe, whether of the animal or vegetable creation. And it is pleasant now, as it will be any day of the next three months, while London is thronged with the multitude of annual visitors from every shire of England, assembled for the social pursuits of business or festive gaiety, to step aside from the bustling Strand into Covent-garden Market and look at the heaps of flowers, as well as the heaps of fruit, in due time, piled up on those tempting stalls.

St Paul's, Covent Garden. Designed by Inigo Jones 1631-33; renovated by Thomas Hardwick, 1788; altered by William Butterfield, 1871, Click on image to enlarge it.'

The Engraving on our first page shows the sort of customers who are to be seen frequenting the west end of the central arcade, where the flower-gardeners display their fragrant and beautiful productions, directly opposite the heavy-pillared portico of St. Paul’s Church, and the site of the hastings erected for Westminster elections. Here, where a noisy mob roared down the voice of Mr. John Stuart Mill, the pavement is beset with ranged pots and boxes of pretty plants, which were brought, an hour or two, perhaps, before daylight, from the large nurseries and gardens of Surrey, Middlesex, and Kent, to be set forth in this attractive array for the gratification of purchasers, and thereby for the profit of sellers. Here, too, the stalls and shops are filled with a rich variety of floral beauties, from the stately white magnolias, the elegant geraniums, the passion-flowers, the calceolarias, the ericas, prematurely fostered in the hothouse, to the pansies, the daffodils, the primroses, and violets, which bloom so early in our kindly English soil. They are interspersed with bunches of green moss and bouquets, or nosegays of cut flowers, done up in clean white paper; a rose, perhaps, in the middle, with a few hyacinths, orchises, geraniums, and polyanthuses, encompassed by some fronds of fern, and forming a most agreeable ornament to the breakfast-table, if bought and taken home while fresh, before the burden and heat of the day. Other bouquets, of more costly and artistic composition, may be purchased at a later hour, when the young gentleman deserts his chambers in the Temple, and loiters (as we see in our Engraving) on his truant path westward, intending to call upon certain ladies at Bayswater, and willing to present to one of them, no matter why, the choicest gift from Covent-garden that his puree can afford. Ladies of a certain age, who expect no such tributes at home, mothers of little boys nud girls, and others who find a visit to this market the most satisfactory termination of a round of shopping, are to be seen in the same place about the same time of day. Such are the pleasant features of the trade which belongs to this locality in the seasons of spring and summer.

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“The Spring season in Covent-Garden Market.” Illustrated London News. 50 (6 April 1867): 325-26. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 22 December 2015.

Last modified 22 December 2015