"Not bloody likely!" The Covent Garden piazza from Inigo Jones to Bernard Shaw and beyond

Daniel Snowman

Wednesday 21st March 2018

Covent Garden was the first great square in London: an Italianate ‘piazza’ with colonnaded arcades and a Palladian church by Inigo Jones.  Pepys visited Covent Garden in the 17th century, and in the 18th Handel, Hogarth and Garrick were celebrated here.  Voltaire lived in Covent Garden yards from where Boswell first met Dr Johnson and where J.M.W. Turner was born.  In the 19th century, the famous opera house burned down (twice!) and Dickens had the Artful Dodger tried in Bow Street.  Over the centuries, Covent Garden has embodied all that is most characteristic of British cultural life: a state of grace which - as Bernard Shaw's Eliza Doolittle might have put it - must at times have seemed ‘not bloody likely!'

Writer, broadcaster and professional lecturer; author of a dozen books on social and cultural history. Degrees from Cambridge and Cornell. Lectured at University of Sussex, and later Chief Producer, BBC Radio (Features) and now a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research (University of London). Recent books include 'The Hitler Emigrés: The Cultural Impact on Britain of Refugees from Nazism' and 'The Gilded Stage: a Social History of Opera'. Leads frequent music tours to many of the world's great cultural capitals.