My father, a greengrocer in the West End of London, started every working day in "the Garden" (as he called it). In my late teens I sometimes went with him. It was, long before the Edinburgh Festival, a perfect example of living "street theatre" peopled by tough working men (the porters) flower sellers, insomniac alcoholics using the pubs before dawn, theatre people of either (or uncertain) gender, part-time prostitutes and petty criminals or lairy chancers. Every type of trick might be practised - but between wholesalers and customers (the greengrocers) there was an established honour system of credit - rather like the City before the Americans took over. "My Word is my Bond" applied just as much there as on Threadneedle Street. Until you broke it - thereafter it would be cash on the barrel every time.
It was,of course, impossibly crowded, inefficient and with nowhere near the standards of perfection and freshness that refrigerated supermarket distribution brings.
But it had a vigour that jumped right out at you, a medieval town in the middle of London, where the population haggled face to face, eyeball to eyeball and struck bargains with a handshake with no need for lawyers. And, if a bargain was broken, it wasn't sorted out by the lawyers, either.
Look carefully at this wonderful photography. The men seem at least twenty years older than they really were - aged by tobacco, beer, hard physical work and fried food. Their faces are grimy, their clothes frayed, the communications(a dial phone nailed to the wall) are prehistoric.
But they were the men - and women - who had said "no" to Hitler, as their parents did to the Kaiser. You would not want to take them on. The book's wonderful Inigo Jones architecture is cracked, grimy and has incongruous tin shed additions. But it has a life that is entirely missing from the world of perfumes and silk blouses that the modern Covent Garden has become.
Buy this book if you are a Londoner. If you are not, buy it anyway - it shows what London was. And as the great London markets, the Garden, Billingsgate and Smithfield disappear and we deal only digitally, you will see how Shakespeare's Globe audience became the slack dull screen addicts of "Big Brother"
What an amazing book. I never actually saw the Old Market when it was still operating, but this book must be the next best thing to actually being there and experiencing it. The photos are amazing and very inspiring, the quotes from the different people who worked there, sometimes bring a lump to the throat, they are stories from the heart and from an age and existence that is now long gone. Thanks to this book, the memories and words of these people will forever live on. Highly recommend this book.
This book is an absolute delight for anyone interested in London's history. For an entire year Clive Boursnell got up in the middle of the night and photographed the old Covent Garden before the fruit, flower and veg markets were finally removed to Nine Elms. It is full not only with brilliant colour prints, but also the text of the recordings he made of the Market's workforce. This is a poignant, funny and touching record of people and places that no longer exist outside the pages of this fantastic book. It is the finest work of England's best reportage photographer. Buy it.
These photos are incredible - an alladin's cave of carved faces, light and shadow, echoes of the past, of a London that Clive was able to capture before it was overlaid with the tourist purgatory that is Covent Garden today. We shall never see this world again, but thanks to this incredible book at least we have a hint of it.
I bought this book for my father who worked at the Market during the 60's and 70's. I often went with him from the age of 10 to 15yrs and this book is like stepping back in time. The photo's are amazing - I recognise so many faces. If you know anyone who had a connection with this wonderful market saying that they will love this book is an under-estimation. Buy it - it will be treasured.
Fantastic images bringing back memories of what hard times existed. We think life is hard today but seeing covent garden as it was gives a perspective of the manual labour involved. A personal visit for me. Excellent text captured vividly in the presentation of this hard back book.Covent Garden: Images from Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Markets
For anyone interested in getting a feel for the 'old Covent Garden' this is it, excellent photography and very atmospheric capturing the essence of the market before the move to Nine Elms. Highly recommend you buy this book
When I was a kid, my family had a greengrocery shop in south east London. In school holidays in the mid to late 1960s, I was often allowed to travel up in the family van to help load up with fruit, veg and flowers from the Covent Garden portrayed in this book. It includes some (for me) very evocative photos. I remember many of the names of the traders pictured, and possibly a few names too. My now-departed parents would have absolutely loved this book.
I was surprised the publishers resisted the temptation to include some "then and now" photos to give the original views a modern context. The research wouldn't have been hard to do. Maybe that's a plan for the future? I hope so.
I have just returned from a visit to Covent Garden, when walking through Central Hall I saw a photo of my late father, who was a market porter. Once I found out where the photo came from, I bought the book and have now read it, it has a great in site into the working of a market, I myself worked in the Borough Market. So I would recommend this book to anyone that has a family interest in the markets of London.
I only gave 4 stars as I would have liked some older photo's. I brought it for my father who worked in Covent Garden for many years but mainly before the photo's in this book. I thought it would be of interest to him to look through and bring back some memories as he is now 90 years old and in care.