Neal’s Yard

"Neal’s Yard in London’s Covent Garden will always be linked with Nicholas’s name. He lived and worked in the Yard, renovating decayed warehouses. The buildings he created are reminders of an eccentric nature which was forever juggling a love of city life with a romantic attachment to the pastoral. The facades are festooned with sweet peas, geraniums, clematis and sunflowers in season"
(from The Times obituary, friday February 6)

Shown below is a press release and letter sent to Camden Counsellor Patricia Callaghan by Nicholas, a few hours before he left for South Africa. It was his plan to work full time on securing the future for Neal’s Yard upon his return. You can support his vision of Neals Yard by sending an e-mail to or even better- a signed and addressed letter to:
Neal’s Yard Association,
Top Floor,
2 Neals Yard

Press release: Council threatens to ‘gentrify’ Neals Yard
22 Years ago, Nicholas Saunders opened the first shop in Neal’s Yard in what was then an unknown backwater of Covent Garden. This was the start of an ad hoc community of holistic businesses which has gradually developed its unique, unpretentious character: It has plants dripping from the buildings and trees planted in metal drums surrounded by seats where you can relax. Where else can you breast feed a baby in the West End of London?
Camden Council now intends to turn this haven into a tidy shopping precinct and restaurant piazza. It wants to ‘privatise’ the Yard by granting licences to individual cafes to rope off sections where they can have tables for their customers only. To make way for this, the council wants to remove the trees, get rid of the communal seating and replace drums with plastic council bins. The council view is that the seating, bins and trees - lovingly planted by people in the Yard - are illegal, and must go. And this despite the wishes of the great majority of people who work and live here, let alone the visitors who would have to pay to sit down in the future!

Letter to Councellor Patricia Callaghan
Neal’s Yard has developed its own unusual character which is different to other parts of London. This unusual atmosphere has developed over many years through caring by people working here, including myself. It has developed spontaneously, and is greatly valued by many people who regard Neal’s Yard as a safe haven. The fact that trees are planted in drums and that seating is amateurish all contributes to the atmosphere.
Although I have started many of the businesses and own two buildings in the yard, I have always been more interested in providing a socially rich environment than of maximising profits and property values. (Shop rents in the Yard are about one third those in neighbouring streets.)
What is happening at present is that a few people are trying to exploit the goodwill - built up over years by others- for their maximum profit, by occupying as much of the Yard as possible for their own exclusive business even though this would require the removal of the communal seating. This is what the council appears to support.