This dainty brooch is made of silver with marcasite and enamel decoration. The little wheels spin round and the brooch is designed as a three-dimensional piece. The canopy of the cart comes out from the main part of the design. Most brooches are designed ‘flat’ but adding a third dimension adds depth and interest. Marcasite is a form of pyrite (fool’s gold). The Ancient Greeks were the first to use pyrite in jewellery. Marcasite jewellery became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Following the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, the Queen and all the court went into deep mourning. Queen Victoria required everyone to wear black and desist in wearing opulent jewellery. Fashionable women turned to marcasites as an understated alternative to diamonds, their greyish hue going well with all the black clothing. During the 1930s marcasite again became popular especially in costume jewellery. During the Depression, when money was tight, it was a way of putting some sparkle into jewellery at a low cost. Nowadays you will find marcasite made of plastic and flat backed, it is often glued in rather than set with minute pegs holding the marcasites in place.
In the 13th century the area now known as Covent Garden became the property of Westminster Abbey and was called ‘the garden of the Abbey and Convent’ and eventually shortened to ‘Convent Garden’. In 1552 the land was granted to the Earls of Bedford. Francis Russell, the 4th Earl (1587 to 1641) commissioned the architect Inigo Jones to design and build some ‘fine houses’ to attract wealthy tenants. Inigo Jones designed an Italianate arcaded square and St Paul’s Church.
By 1654 a small open-air fruit and vegetable market had developed on the edge of the fashionable square. In the 18th Century the area was well-known as a ‘red light’ district. Descriptions of the prostitutes and where to find them were provided in Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies; this was a small pocketbook published annually between 1757 and 1795. It sold for two shillings and sixpence (which equates to 12 ½ pence in today’s money). A report from 1791 estimated 8,000 copies were circulated annually. It was described as ‘the essential guide and accessory for any serious gentleman of pleasur’
By the 1830s an Act of Parliament had been drawn up to control the area and a covered hall built to house the market. The market grew and became the main fruit and vegetable market for London. In George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Pygmalion’ (written in 1912 and first performed in 1913 in Vienna) on which the film ‘My Fair Lady’ is based, there is a description of Edwardian Covent Garden. Act one of the play opens with the description “Covent Garden at 11.15p.m. Torrents of heavy summer rain. Cab whistles blowing frantically in all directions. Pedestrians running for shelter into the market and under the portico of St Paul’s Church, where there are already several people, among them a lady and her daughter in evening dress. They are all peering out gloomily at the rain, except one man with his back turned to the rest, who seems wholly preoccupied with a notebook in which he is writing busily.”
By 1974 traffic congestion around Covent Garden was such that a New Covent Garden Market was built 3 miles to the South West at Nine Elms. In 1980 the central building re-opened as a shopping venue and is now a major tourist attraction with shops, cafes and street entertainments.