Saturday, 2 December 2017

Eliza Haywood’s House in the Great Piazza

My 2011 article on “Eliza Haywood at the Sign of Fame” discusses—in great detail—two advertisements I found for the April 1744 sale of “The genuine Household Goods of Mrs. Eliza Haywood, Publisher, at her House in the Great Piazza, next Russell-Street, Covent-Garden” (a copy of this article is on the Monash Repository here). The closing paragraph to my article reads:

While our perception of Haywood’s finances may have a significant influence on our interpretation of the motives for her actions, Haywood's publishing activity at the “Sign of Fame” is now far less open to speculation. We know exactly how long this publishing venture lasted; the number of works known to be published and sold there has been increased and these works have been more accurately dated. We also know exactly where Haywood lived and worked, have a floor-plan of her lodgings and a crude catalogue of the contents of this house. And if one minutely examines the drawings, paintings and engravings of this section of Covent Garden from the period one can easily imagine a painting of Fama Bona—in flowing while robes, with wings stretched out behind her, a golden trumpet held to her lips by her right hand, and a laurel wreath or an olive branch raised in her other—on a wooden board swinging above the figures who pass along the arcade and into Haywood's shop.

I wrote imagine in the closing sentence of the above paragraph because, having minutely examined the drawings, paintings and engravings of this section of Covent Garden from the period, I can not be certain I have actually seen Haywood’s shop sign (Fame) or a detailed image of the shop-front from the early 1740s. However, some near-contemporary (i.e. broadly mid-eighteenth century) views of Covent Garden, appear to provide some detail of the building Haywood inhabited in the period 1742–44. One of those views is the subject of today’s post. But first I should explain: the corner building that Haywood occupied—which has since been demolished—was nos. 18 and 19 of the Great Piazza. The eastern face of what was the Great Piazza is now occupied by a part of the Royal Opera House complex, most obviously by the Floral Hall. At street level in the Piazza (now called the “New Arcade”) there are a number of shops. The section of Russell Street adjacent to this block is now called, in some maps, “Culverhay.”

Nos. 18 and 19 of the Great Piazza were the southernmost of what had been Sir Edmund Verney’s two houses, which sat between Covent Garden Theatre and Russell Street on the eastern side of the Piazza. The Survey of London volume covering the Piazza helpfully includes the map of Covent Garden I have used above and a conjectural reconstruction of this four/five story building based on detailed inventories from 1634. While it is not difficult to see, from the reconstructed floor plans, how Verney’s two houses were laid out, it is not so easy to see how the southernmost house (Haywood’s) was divided in two by “Samuel Bever, Esqr.” in about 1740, shortly before Haywood moved in. Apparently, the twelve rooms of this property (nos. 18 and 19) were divided so that one residence faced the Piazza and the other faced Russell Street.

The view below, by T. Sandby, is from roughly the position I have marked "X" in the above plan of Covent Garden. It was originally published in 1766; it was reissued by Edward Rooker in 1768; John Boydell in 1777, as a part of in his “Six Views of London” series; and it was published again Boydell in 1777 (on a reduced scale). The images I use in this post are from this smaller version of the view (160 x 225mm instead of 410 x 553mm), a copy of which I bought in 2011. Low-resolution copies of this view are available online, but they are no use when you want to look at the details, like I do here. If I can ever afford the larger view, or one of the earlier engravings, I will. (Grosvenor Prints have had a copy of the large 1777 engraving for sale at £490, since at least 2011.)

In the view below, Covent Garden is seen from the south-east side of the Piazza, looking towards Covent Garden Theatre (at left) and the house Haywood’s occupied (at centre, partly obscured by a column). As you can see, there is a dog and various figures in the foreground, moving from right to left these appear to be: a woman selling goods in the shadow of the colonnade, a group of beggars, a sleeping chair-carrier, a man having his shoes shined, a boy with a hoop, a couple walking towards the theatre, and two boys playing marbles; further back we see people leaning on in shop windows and on wooden railings and selling goods from large baskets in the middle of the square.

In the gap between two columns, above and behind the beggars, appears to be either no. 18 or 19 of the Great Piazza.

Looking closer, we can see a coach (far left), someone entering an open doorway (left), and shop windows (right); above both the door and the shop-windows are small, upper windows. Beneath the upper window (at right) is a partial-view of a shop sign or lamp.

Looking closer still, at pretty-close to maximum magnification (2400dpi scan), confirms the impression that this is a shop-sign, not a lamp, but that is all, there are no further details to be recovered.

From what I have seen in other views of Covent Garden—and there are a surprisingly large number of these—I am pretty confident this is the shop that had been Haywood’s Sign of Fame. I will do a post on what Haywood’s signboard may have look like another time. And I may do one with a number of views of the general area, and the contents of her house. But for now I will content myself with a few more details of the figures in this view.

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