Mostly unknown to Londoners, and in a state of dereliction when the Covent Garden market moved in 1974, the Trust has virtually re-invented a lost neighbourhood through its work over almost forty years. As a Housing Action Area we brought back into use the 90% of the area’s housing stock which had lain empty for forty years in the expectation of wholesale demolition, and encouraged private housing and new businesses thus beginning a long process of urban renewal in our city centre. The reconstruction of the Sundial Pillar by the Trust in 1989, the first project of its kind in London since Nelson's Column in the 1840s, put Seven Dials back on London’s map and proved an effective economic regenerator. The Trust’s pioneering and much acclaimed ‘Seven Dials Renaissance Study’ which followed, set out a long term holistic vision for the area’s maintenance and improvement. Our long journey has involved history, architecture, horology, economic regeneration through conservation, lighting, the public realm, battles against demolition and much else.
Seven Dials is the only quarter of London remaining from late Stuart England, laid out by Thomas Neale MP, ‘The Great Projector’ in the early 1690s. The architectural historian John Martin Robinson describes it as “…one of the great architectural set-pieces of London.” It remains almost unaltered with many of the original houses and the greatest number of 18c and early 19c shopfronts in London. Along the borough border and in Westminster lies the Mercers’ Estate, owned by the Company since 1530, the only such group of 18c brewery buildings in the West End.
We started as a Housing Action Area Committee (1977-84) with residents and businesses, working in partnership with Camden Council, and on the expiry of the Housing Action Area the Trust was established in 1984 at the request of Camden Council to reconstruct the Sundial Pillar and promote improvements to the public realm.
We hope you enjoy reading about our work and achievements to date and about Seven Dials. Whether you are a casual visitor or a researcher we hope that you will find something to stir your interest. And please consider supporting the Trust.
"The charity has brought an entire neighbourhood back to life…" – Colin Davis presenting the first PRIAN national award for projects which have stood the test of time.
"The Seven Dials scheme has been of national importance in changing attitudes to and aspirations for the public realm" – Robert Huxford, Director Urban Design Group.