The annual Rent Ceremony is a weird and wonderful occasion when the Chairman and Trustees march around the Piazza, accompanied by the Town Crier and a jazz band, to pay the “peppercorn rents” of five red apples and five posies of flowers for the buildings, known as The Protected Lands, on which the Trust owns a 150-year headlease.
The first Ceremony took place in 1994 when the Trust was five years in arrears. Since then all rents have been paid up to date.
The idea of a “peppercorn” rent was conceived by Sylvia Marder who was a solicitor with the Greater London Council and instrumental in writing the Trust’s leases. The rent of one red apple and one posy of flowers for each headlease reflects the history of the area as a fruit and vegetable market and are generously donated each year by the Covent Garden Market Authority.
The five properties are the Central Market (originally London’s fruit and vegetable market); the arcaded Bedford Chambers block; the Museums block bounded by Russell Street and Wellington Street; a terrace of Georgian houses numbered 25-31 James Street and 7, 9 & 10 Floral Street.
The first rent ceremony took place in the spring of 1994. The idea of a “peppercorn” rent was conceived by Sylvia Marder when she worked as a solicitor with the Greater London Council. She wrote the Trust’s leases. She thought it would be fun for the Trustees to parade around the Piazza and that it would be interesting for the public to see the Chairman and Trustees out in the open.
Peter Moore, London and Westminster’s Town Crier, had been a prominent feature of the Rent Ceremony ever since it started, until his untimely death on 20th December 2009 at the age of 70. His place has since been ably filled by his former friend and colleague Alan Myatt.