Wandering through the streets of Covent Garden, its easy to miss hidden gems which are dotted around the area. On this ‘Did you know’ page I’ll be sharing some hidden secrets for you to spot on your next trip to the area.
The Queue, by Tim Hunkin
I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this wooden man in the window of Monmouth Coffee Company on Monmouth Street in Seven Dials. I instantly recognised him stood proudly in the window, but couldn’t think where I remembered him from.
After popping into the coffee shop to ask the lovely ladies, it all came flooding back to me!
He was part of a wooden coin machine called ‘The Queue’ which was in Neals Yard when I was a child. And thanks to google, I found a video of him in action with his fellow que-ers in line at the bakery waiting for bread. After a shock announcement from the bakery, they each react in their own unique way. As a child it was hilarious!
All proceeds from the coin machine went to the Big Issue.
Can you name the film shot in this building situated on Henrietta Street, and since 2021 has been home to three well loved eateries? Both the interior and exterior was used in the film which was set in Covent Gardens world famous fruit and vegetable market.
Answer: It was Frenzy (1972) by Alfred Hitchcock. Check out the comparison shots below taken from the film compared to images of the area and building today.
This wonderfully restored townhouse is now home to 3 Henrietta Street which comprises of three eateries to tantalise your taste buds:
Lilly’s Cafe, Pivot British Bar & Bistro by Mark Greenaway and El Ta’koy.
If you happen to be walking by, pop in for a drink or a bite to eat whilst looking into the Piazza.
Children are welcome! I would certainly recommend Lilly’s Cafe for a lovely slice of lemon drizzle cake, El Ta’koy for a cocktail and Pivot for a Sunday roast.
Tucked away in Floral Court, you’ll find this magnificent life sized elephant made from dried reeds. Petersham Nurseries (who are based in Floral Court) and The Elephant Family brought this stunning elephant to Covent garden in support of the charity’s environmental art campaign raising awareness for Asia’s wildlife. CoExistence saw life sized herds venture across London in 2021.
SHHHH! Someone’s listening….
What is hidden in Floral Street? Clue: Artist Tim Fishlock made casts of his own what to create them.
Well, two ears. Though I won’t tell you where they are so next time you are in the area you can look for them yourself, and upon finding one you must shout ‘ear it is!’.
It appears the walls really do have ears…
The river beneath your feet
Searching for the subterranean river on Crown Court, Covent Garden.
Do you know much about the lost rivers of London – a collection of rivers which still flow today underneath the streets we walk on daily? Some can even be seen when looking into drains.
The Cock and Pye Ditch apparently ran from Seven Dials, down Monmouth Street and St Martin’s Lane, and joined the Thames at the Embankment.
Searching for these and other local lost rivers made for a great activity during on our daily walks in lockdown.
To find out if there’s a lost river near you, I recommend @derelictlondon book ‘London’s Lost Rivers’
How many times do you reckon you’ve walked down Great Newport Street but never noticed this?
It’s a Metropolitan Police hook! The story goes that traffic police used to wear big heavy coats and on hot days wanted to take them off, so used a nail from the building site to hang them on while working at this intersection. Once the building work was done and the nail removed, the met police had this hook installed in its place.
So if you need somewhere to hang your coat or bag whilst you enjoy lunch on the stoop, you know where to go.
The Neal’s Yard Water Clock
This was a favourite of mine as a child, the Neal’s Yard Water Clock. I’d stand and watch the orange float rise to the top of the tube as it filled with water, then as the clock stroke the hour, water would flow down setting off chimes, while little people watered their flowers.
The best bit was the little figure on the left who would turn and poor water onto us / the pavement, it was hilarious as a child. I didn’t notice the figure move so much today. Maybe he’s broken… or maybe he unexpectedly soaked too many passers by who didn’t enjoy it much. Its well worth a couple of minutes of your time to see it in action is you happen to be on Short’s Gardens on the hour.
A bin! So what? Well, look closer… can you see the red paint peeking through? I noticed it as I used the bin in the market building and was instantly transported to my youth.
Who remembers when Covent Garden was RED?
Below is an image of a paint sample taken from the market building (all the colours from over the years!) and a flashback to when she was dressed in red!
The paint sample is from @lincoln_conservation read more about the changing colours of Covent Garden on their website.
London’s smallest Police station
What’s behind these black doors on the corner of Trafalgar Square?
Apparently it’s Britain’s smallest police station permanently in place since 1926. It can hold up to two prisoners at a time, although its main purpose was to hold a single police officer to keep a watchful eye over Trafalgar Square.
Today the box is used broom cupboard for Westminster Council cleaners.
Want to test your geography? Head over to ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ situated on Sheffield Street.
The sculpture by the Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger stands tall on the campus of the London School of Economics.
Its quite a remarkable sight and great for children to get up close and find different countries on the map.
Sweets and Puzzles
Toffee Nose of Covent Garden is a traditional British confectionary shop selling all your old favourites.
Choose sweets from large tubs, just like you did as a child and create the ultimate pick’n’mix.
As well as sweets you can buy edible bugs (yuk!) and they have a wonderful range of jigsaw puzzles.
You’ll find them in the Jubilee Market, Southampton Street.
Hanging out with a Sphinx
Situated on the north side of the river Thames near Embankment tube station, Cleopatra’s Needle and the two Sphinx is certainly an impressive sight.
One of three cleopatra’s ‘needles’ has been here in London since 1878. Do you know where in the world the other two needles are?
Answer: Paris and New York