Covent Garden in 1841
If we could go back to the 1840s and walk to the far end of the road we would find a stark contrast.
On the one hand a big old house in a spacious garden with green houses and out buildings, bearing the name ‘Buckhardt House’; on the other hand, a cluster of tiny cottages where the Drama Studio now stands.
The owners of the large house were probably Charles and John Buckhardt Sippel, members of the wealthy Sippel family whose main residence was on King’s Parade. By contrast, two of the cottages were rented by James Cave, 30 year old cow keeper and carter, with his wife Anne and daughter Eliza, and Robert Norman, aged 43, maltster, with his wife Elizabeth and son Benjamin. We can only imagine the humble conditions in which they lived!
The occupations of the heads of household in the street in 1841 were largely agricultural: a farmer, labourers, a carter, a gardener, a groom and a blacksmith. Then there were tradesmen: carpenters, sawyers, tailors, a shoemaker, two publicans, a maltster and a brewer. Others were a postman and a college servant. The women whose occupations are known were maidservants and a dressmaker.
Covent Garden was a dark place at night! In 1843, the residents appealed to the Borough Council for street lighting, and three years later, after much debate and penny pinching, the Gas Company was instructed to lay a gas main and erect four gas lamps.