Haymarket is a street in the St. James's area of the City of Westminster, London. It runs from Piccadilly Circus in the north to Pall Mall at the southern end. It is the location of a variety of restaurants, the Theatre Royal and Her Majesty's Theatre, a cinema complex, and New Zealand House.
The broad street connecting Pall Mall with Piccadilly is recorded in the Elizabethan era and, as the name suggests, was chiefly used as a street market for the sale of fodder and other farm produce. At that time, it was a rural spot, with the village of Charing, the closest settlement. This practice continued to the reign of William III, by this time, carts carrying hay and straw were allowed in the street to trade, toll free. In 1692, when the street was paved, a tax was levied on the loads: 3d for a load of hay and 2d for one of straw. In 1830 the market was moved by Act of Parliament to Cumberland Market near Regent's Park.
In earlier centuries, Haymarket was also one of the most prominent centres of prostitution in London, but this is no longer the case. Old and New London informs us, in 1878:
Situated in the centre of the pleasure-going Westend population, the Haymarket is a great place for hotels, supper-houses, and foreign cafés; and it need hardly be added here, that so many of its taverns became the resort of the loosest characters, after the closing of the theatres, who turned night into day, and who were so constantly appearing before the sitting magistrates in consequence of drunken riots and street rows, that the Legislature interfered, and an Act of Parliament was passed, compelling the closing of such houses of refreshment at twelve o'clock.
It is part of London's theatre district, the West End, and has been a theatrical location at least since the 17th century. The Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket, designed by John Vanbrugh, opened in 1705. It was intended for drama, but the acoustics turned out to be more suitable for opera, and from 1710 to 1745, most operas and some oratorios of George Frederick Handel were premièred at this theatre, which was renamed the King's Theatre at the death of Queen Anne in 1714. After Vanbrugh's building had been destroyed by fire in 1790, another King's Theatre on the same site followed. After another fire, His Majesty's Theatre was opened there in 1897, This building, the fourth on the same site, is still in use as Her Majesty's Theatre for major musical productions. Today's Theatre Royal at another site in the Haymarket is a building originally by John Nash (1820), replacing a previous theatre of the 1720s.
Haymarket runs parallel to Lower Regent Street and together the two roads form a one-way system, Lower Regent Street taking northbound traffic and Haymarket taking southbound traffic. The two roads are classified as part of the A4 route from London to Avonmouth, near Bristol.
- 'The Haymarket', Old and New London: Volume 4 (1878), pp. 216-26 accessed: 31 March 2007
- Timbs, John (1855). Curiosities of London: Exhibiting the Most Rare and Remarkable Objects of Interest in the Metropolis. D. Bogue. p. 428.
- Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (eds.). The London Encyclopaedia. London. 1983. p.381.