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Before it was a marketplace, Covent Garden was a vegetable garden for Westminster Abbey’s monks. They owned the land until 1536, when Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries meant it swiftly became the property of some of his mates. Over the next few hundred years it became London’s first piazza, a hotbed of crime and gambling, the place to be for literary discussion, where politicians delivered their speeches to crowds, and the cause of horrendous congestion in the mid-20th Century.
In 1981, Neal’s Yard moved into a part of Covent Garden previously known as a “dark, rat infested, derelict yard”, and established the first store. Founder Nicholas Saunders, who died in 1998, was obsessed with wholefoods and natural remedies, but didn’t want it to be fussy and expensive. In his own words, Saunders thought the wholefoods scene was getting it all wrong – “hopelessly inefficient, expensive and tending to make ordinary people feel like intruders”.
Once his warehouse was established, Saunders ran it in a fair and honest. Items were priced based on the amount of work and time put into making it, profits were shared amongst the team, and there were always samples available to customers who weren’t sure what they wanted. The most loyal customers and staff were even invited on a trip to the Canary Islands to celebrate how well the Yard was doing.
One of the oldest and most famous Neal’s Yard products is the Frankincense Intense range, including variety of creams and products for moisturising, lifting and nourishing different areas of the body. Ideal for all skin types and intensely hydrating, these biblical ingredients are derived from areas of Africa and the Middle East. Frankincense protects the skin cells and improves skin elasticity, and myrrh soothes dry or chapped skin (the Ancient Egyptians agreed).
The Wild Rose Beauty Balm is “a cult favourite” and a bestseller. Packed with vitamins and antioxidants, the wild rosehip seed oil that’s great for correcting dark spots, discolouration, and dryness. Recommended for use with the enclosed organic muslin cloth, it gently exfoliates, moisturises, and can even be used as a lip and nail balm.
For more intense hydration, Neal’s Yard has created the White Tea Enriching Facial Mask for dry and sensitive skin. White tea extract is known as a skin protector. It’s not going to create quite the same UV barrier as your Factor 30, but it’s known for promoting the enzymes that keep skin firm and elastic. Each jar contains enough product for 6 super-hydrating, nourishing masks.
‘The Yard’ in Covent Garden is much the same as it was, 20 years after the founder’s death. It’s still covered in vines and plants, with colourful windows, and a near-constant hum of activity - very far from that rat-infested yard.
Kensington Bespoke’s handpicked luxury goods, including Neal’s Yard products, are available at kensington-bespoke.uk, plus they offer a personal one to one service for any questions or queries.