Floral Street, WC2E

Place Name

Previously called Little Hart Street (from Conduit Court to James Street) and Great Hart Street (from James Street to Bow Street), after the White Hart Inn which had stood on Long Acre since 1632. The original street was extended between 1861 and 1865 by which time it had been renamed Hart Street. In 1895 the street was renamed again after nearby Floral Hall,  Covent Garden’s  flower market. Work on the hall was started in 1859 with The Times reporting: “Judging from what we have already seen, the new structure, when completed, will form a most favourable example of the iron, architecture of the 19th century, and we think that the goddess Flora will have no cause to grumble, for she will before long have a home for her floral wonders such as has never been seen in London before.” The building opened to great fanfare in 1860 – but not with any flower stalls. For its opening weeks it was used for concerts and as a ballroom. The market officially opened on May 22, 1861. The Times returned to give an almost rapturous verdict: “On Wednesday last a striking addition was made to the attractions of the metropolis by the opening of Mr Gye’s Floral Hall, for the purpose for which it was originally built – that of a great central flower-market. It has often been remarked with surprise that in a great city like London no suitable building for the sale of plants and flowers has ever existed, although there are within a range of five or six miles gardens for their cultivation of immense extent, and producing annually many millions of plants. The sale of these by the growers has, therefore, naturally been effected under the greatest disadvantages, chiefly on account of the great distance from London at which most of the chief nurseries are situate, and, above all, of the absence of any special central mart for their proper display. Covent Garden has become almost essentially a fruit and vegetable market, and if Covent Garden salesmen object to the brilliant and attractive competitor that has just opened alongside them, they have only themselves to thank for its establishment, for it is not too much to say that their exorbitant charges have driven flower purchasers almost entirely out of at least their market. The love of flowers is nowhere more universally diffuse than in England. It is shown not only in the great conservatories of our nobility and gentry, but in the cottage gardens of the peasantry, and even in the window-sills of the poor imprisoned Londoners; yet hitherto no facilities have been offered in the metropolis for the indulgence of this taste, but, on the contrary, the sellers have had as many difficulties to contend with as the purchasers. The new flower-market has been established solely for the sale of flowers and plants, and things appertaining to the garden, as seeds, vases, implements, &c. Most of our readers are familiar with the exterior of the Floral Hall; a few words, therefore, will suffice to describe its present arrangement. The walls have been recoloured with a cool, delicate, neutral tint, which sets off the brilliancy of the parterres beneath in admirable contrast. In all the niches are placed ornamental flower vases filled with shrubs and plants in bloom. Along the walls and centre floor the plants are grouped in banks, the prices of all in each bank being distinctly marked, and varying from pots of flowers as low as 6d, up to rare ferns, Chinese plants, and Japanese exotics of great value. Judging from the prices charged in Covent Garden for flowers and seeds, it seems difficult to understand how the sale of plants in tho new flower-market can be made remunerative at their present low rates, especially when one recollects that the beautiful hall itself cost upwards of 30,000/- an outlay at starting which must, of course, influence the ultimate profits of the undertaking. All the paths for public promenading have been carpeted – in our opinion quite an unnecessary luxury in such a building, the very temperature of ‘which is regulated to a degree of the thermometer by the awning over its arched transept, Among other stalls is one of paper flowers, which imitate with an exquisite nicety that is perfectly marvellous all the most delicate shades of the commonest and most costly plants and shrubs. The cut dahlias at one little stand of this stall are so perfect in tint and form that they might safely be sent in as competitors to the flower show s at the Regent’s Park or Crystal Palace. Near this also are some mosaic flower vases of exceedingly pretty design by Mr Stevens. As the flower- market is now an open thoroughfare, it is always tolerably full; but as the season progresses, and with it the plants, there seems every probability of its becoming not only a great floral exchange where the prices of every known variety of plant will be quoted like Consols or Exchequer-bills, but also one of the prettiest and most agreeable lounges in tho metropolis. The present season, up to tho last two or three days, has probably been one of the worst for outdoor horticulture of every kind, and this has told severely upon the display of plants at the new market, and rendered any show of cut flowers quite impossible. But a few more days of the present weather will make an important difference in this respect, and the market will, we hope, be stocked in a manner befitting its high pretensions and the multifarious wants it has been established to supply. As a flower- market it will only be kept open from the middle of March, to the end of August or beginning of September. During the winter, we believe, it is intended to use the building for balls and concerts. Will next year be allowed to pass without a Volunteer ball on the same grand and successful scale as that which last year inaugurated the completion of the now present flower-market? We most sincerely hope not, whenever it may be held. To the flower-market itself, as it will be this summer, we wish all success. The want of such a mart has been long felt. If it supplies it we should think its success is as certain as, on the other hand, will be its utter downfall if it fails in maintaining its claims on public patronage as not only the prettiest, but – what is more important still – the cheapest market of its kind in London. If well stocked and well regulated, London alone has consumers sufficient for half a dozen such sources of floral supply.”



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