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Covent Garden: then and now

It wasn't always fashion flagships and gawping tourists, y'know. In fact, travel back as little as 40 years and the West End area now known for its shops, museums and theatres becomes all but unrecognisable…

Where once were fruit sellers and prostitutes (enough to necessitate an annually published directory with a print run of 8,000 in the late eighteenth century), the streets of Covent Garden are now a hotbed of tourists, shoppers and the occasional gold-painted twit. Why the shift? The departure of the central market in 1974 saw the cart-dragging merchants on their way, with the vacant space divvied up between commercial developers and cultural institutions.

All of the images below were taken by photographer and Covent Garden historian Clive Boursnell, who recreated scenes from his archive of images from the late '60s and '70s for his book 'Covent Garden: Then & Now'.

Use the slider handles on the images below to flick between past and present. Got an old photo of London we should re-shoot for our next gallery? Tweet at @TimeOutLondon.

Piazza from James Street



Entertainers in east piazza



North piazza



Central arcade



Urban Outfitters, Earlham Street



Tube station and James Street



Paul Hamlyn Hall



Fossil, James Street



James Street



Pictures from 'Covent Garden: Then & Now' by Clive Boursnell, published by Frances Lincoln at £14.99.

Buy the book from Amazon

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Sam Roberts

These are great, I guess the biggest difference is in the industrial change from the fruit and veg market. The old signage is fascinating too, so many more independent businesses versus today.


I don't know why all the 'before' pics are in black and white - I worked in Long Acre in the 1960s. It was the start of Swingeing London and bright and colourful clothes were in vogue, the first mini dresses, the streets were bright with colourful fruit, flowers, veggies - and one fruit seller waltzed me down Long Acre to My Fair Lady! Our past was, if anything, more hopeful and bright, looking to a positive future, than the overflowing with tourists Convent Garden of today ....


its great to see then and now pictures, I love black and white film photography you see so much in a b/w print ,so if you want to take photos that will last, dump your digital camera and go and buy a second hand film camera and a roll of FP4 or HP5 and go out and take some proper photos...... www.essexcockney.com.