Friday, 9 December 2011

London Historical Arcades

The "rites" of shopping before ... "The Mall"

Home to more than 40,000 shops, London is not short on retail emporia. But long before they browsed the high-spec concept shops, superstores and sprawling suburban malls, the city’s consummate consumers flocked to the select tailors, corsetiers and jewellers around Piccadilly. This is where our love affair with shopping all began, commemorated in the street name itself, taken from a type of collar – the piccadill – that was sold in the area. It was here too that the city’s first shopping centres were built with their beautiful, genteel arcades, the oldest of which dates back to 1816. Today the shop signs that line their hushed interiors speak of a bygone era of nineteenth-century respectability: New & Lingwood, Hilditch & Key, Benson & Clegg.
The trouble is, these arcades are not museum pieces, they’re retail spaces in an area that commands some of the highest rents in the world, and they need to make money. Burlington Arcade, opened in 1819, is both the most famous and the most traditional. But change is afoot. An ambitious and, according to its tenants, long overdue renovation programme is about to commence. A private offshore family trust (which remains anonymous) bought the arcade from Prudential in 2005 and handed the reins over to property manager The John Baker Group, which immediately sought to improve the space’s fortunes, employing retail agent CWM (credited with transforming Marylebone High Street from a staid haunt of wealthy ladies with miniature dogs into one of London’s most profitable and popular shopping streets) to work its magic. The aim is to attract a younger, hipper customer by challenging the myth that the arcades are stuffy, snooty and overpriced tourist magnets (in fact, 75 per cent of their trade is from Londoners).
London's historic shopping arcades
By Kate Riordan, additional research by Amy Shannon in Time Out.

Burlington Arcade.

The Burlington Arcade is a covered shopping arcade in London that runs behind Bond Street from Piccadilly through to Burlington Gardens. It is one of the precursors of the mid-19th century European shopping gallery and the modern shopping centre. The Burlington Arcade was built "for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public".

The arcade was built to the order of Lord George Cavendish, younger brother of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, who had inherited the adjacent Burlington House, on what had been the side garden of the house and was reputedly to prevent passers-by throwing oyster shells and other rubbish over the wall of his home

His architect was Samuel Ware. The Arcade opened in 1819. It consisted of a single straight top-lit walkway lined with seventy-two small two storey units. Some of the units have now been combined, reducing the number of shops to around forty. The ponderous Piccadilly façade in a late version of Victorian Mannerism was added in the early 20th century.
The pedestrian arcade, with smart uniform shop fronts under a glazed roof, has always been an upmarket retail location. It is patrolled by Burlington Arcade Beadles in traditional uniforms including top hats and frockcoats. The original beadles were all former members of Lord George Cavendish's regiment, the 10th Hussars. Present tenants include a range of clothing, footwear and accessory shops, art and antique dealers and the jewellers and dealers in antique silver for which the Arcade is best known.
The Piccadilly entrance to the Burlington Arcade in 1827-28The Burlington Arcade was the successful prototype for larger glazed shopping arcades, beginning with the Saint-Hubert Gallery in Brussels and The Passage in St Petersburg, the first of Europe's grand arcades, to the Galleria Umberto I in Naples or the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.
The sedate atmosphere of the Burlington Arcade was interrupted in 1964 when a Jaguar Mark X charged down the arcade, scattering pedestrians, and six masked men leapt out, smashed the windows of the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Association shop and stole jewellery valued at £35,000. They were never caught.

Beadle’s about
Mark Lord, head beadle
Lord, aged 41, has been head beadle since 2002. An old hand at building security, he was approached by Burlington’s previous owner, Prudential, for the job. Initially he refused, but once he’d gone down to the arcade, seen that the uniforms were okay and realised he could raise the Beadles’ profile, he gave it a go.
During his years on the job there have been two armed robberies, one with a sub-machine gun. Nothing as ‘Italian Job’-dramatic as the raid in 1964; however, when a Jaguar Mark 10 careered down the arcade’s length, the occupants making off with a jewellery haul worth £35,000. Hence today’s bollards.‘The role of the beadle is very customer-focused and, especially with the tourists, we’re representing London. ‘When we have to tell people about the rules, it’s all about the way you talk to them – people nowadays don’t like being told what to do. If you’re polite to people, the vast majority are polite back. Of course there’s always someone who’ll try it on and say “this is a free country”, but we just say “no you can’t do that, you’re on private property here”.
Feature continues
‘Looking the way we do also helps. The vast majority of people don’t know the rules and they’re actually quite apologetic, but some have read about them and they’re testing us. There’s one individual who whistles and he must have the most fantastic set of lungs in London – you can hear him coming. But as soon as he comes in here, he stops. So it’s always a judgement call. A bloke ran through here the other day and I said “no running, please, sir” and he said his wife had just gone into labour and he was running to the hospital. Obviously we wished him on his way.
‘A lot of the people we deal with are not actually shoppers, so we make sure that we have a mini “A-Z” in our back pockets. [Assistant beadle] Kevin lives centrally, so he’s pretty good at knowing what’s on at all the theatres when people ask.
‘This positive image of the arcade is something that we’re trying to build up more and more – like those kids with their broken scooter earlier. It wasn’t just us who helped them – the shop helped too. People tend to remember that sort of thing.
‘I’ve learnt here that you can’t have any preconceptions about the human race. The people working, shopping and coming through here in a week come from every conceivable background and they’ve all got their little stories, like the ones you see coming in to choose an engagement ring.
‘It’s funny – this place almost seduces you; it gets under your skin. It’s a unique job and, well, you can’t put that in your wage packet. I hope I never leave.’
London's historic shopping arcades
By Kate Riordan, additional research by Amy Shannon in Time Out.

Royal Arcade.

Royal Arcade
Thankfully, it won’t be a heavy-handed case of out with the old and in with the new. Heirlooms such as this are worth more money to London if they’re meticulously preserved, so English Heritage has been brought in as a consultant. Each shop is protected by the Realm as an antique and number 61 (part of the Mont Blanc shop) is designated an antique monument with no alterations permitted at all. In fact, by the end of the refurbishment programme next spring, the arcade will look more authentically nineteenth-century than it does now.
Jeweller Sandra Cronan (number 18) is one of the many tenants who welcome the change and is a longtime fan of the arcade: ‘In my early teens I always walked along here and thought how wonderful it would be to have a shop here. What I remember is the exquisite detail – the moulding on the arches has since been whitewashed, but I remember it all in beautiful pastel shades of peach, cream and turquoise. I long for it to go back to how it was.’
While the building itself will be returning to its grand old glory days, the atmosphere and merchandise will have to appeal to a broader range of customers. Nick Bond of leather goods shop Franchetti Bond says: ‘We have to make the arcade more accessible. The mutton chops have to go. It needs to be seen as somewhere less expensive, less intimidating and less olde-worlde.’ In fact, there is already plenty of great stuff to buy: traditional scents, exquisite antique jewellery, classic cashmere and tailored shirts – the problem is that people just don’t think to visit.
Burlington Arcade was commissioned nearly 200 years ago by Lord George Cavendish who lived next door in Burlington House (now the Royal Academy). Fed up with local oiks dropping litter (mostly oyster shells) into his back garden, he came up with the idea of building a shopping arcade to block off access to his back wall, and commissioned his architect, Samuel Ware, to design one. Wanting to seem a philanthropic sort, Cavendish put his own spin on the planned arcade as being for the ‘gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females’. In the event, most of the 47 original leaseholders and their families lived and worked in cramped conditions in the shops along with their stock. Of this 47, only six were ‘industrious females’, though archaic customs of the day meant the male corsetiers and milliners were also addressed as ‘madame’.
London's historic shopping arcades
By Kate Riordan, additional research by Amy Shannon in Time Out.

London’s other main arcades also cluster around Piccadilly, and are in varying states of care. Opposite Burlington is the opulent Piccadilly Arcade (built 1909-1910 by G Thrale Jell, whose name can still be seen above the entrance) and its younger, plainer sister, the Princes Arcade (1929-1933). Princes Arcade boasts the wonderful chocolatier Prestat, while the Piccadilly Arcade’s Iconastas must be the only shop in London where you can buy a verdigrised fifth-century Byzantine bronze cross (£90).

These two arcades thread back away from Piccadilly to emerge on Jermyn Street, which explains their proliferation of tailors and gentlemen’s outfitters such as Hilditch & Key, Conway Shirtmakers and celebrity suiters, the quintessentially English Favourbrook. In honour of its sartorial heritage, there is a statue at the Jermyn Street end of the Piccadilly Arcade featuring Beau Brummell, Regency London’s unofficial arbiter of style, a great pal of the Prince Regent and the man credited with bringing us the modern suit.

To the north is Bond Street’s neo-gothic Royal Arcade (1879), with its distinctive peach-coloured mouldings. Inside you’ll find the fabulous, sparkling costume jewellery of Angela Hale; the best hot chocolate powder courtesy of Charbonnel et Walker; and Ormonde Jayne, a tiny gem of a perfumery.

The last of the district’s great arcades is hidden away next to Her Majesty’s Theatre on Haymarket. The oldest – and sadly most dilapidated – of all, the Royal Opera Arcade (1816-18), was built by the great Regency landscape architect John Nash, who also found time to put up Regent Street and Trafalgar Square. Originally, the shops went down one side only, with access to the Opera on the other. Now, there’s not much left besides a sandwich bar, a florist and the large Kiwifruits shop selling goods to homesick New Zealanders (the arcade is now owned by the adjacent New Zealand House). A number of the shops here stand empty; perhaps the optimism of Burlington will spread so that these emblems of London’s commercial history will thrive as they once did.
London's historic shopping arcades
By Kate Riordan, additional research by Amy Shannon in Time Out.

Princes Arcade.

The Piccadilly Arcade.

The Piccadilly Arcade runs between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street in central London. It was opened in 1909, having been designed by Thrale Jell.

The main entrance is on the south side of Piccadilly directly opposite to the Burlington Arcade. It contains sixteen high class shops, many of which sell clothing especially shirts (being close to many shirt makers on Jermyn Street). Also there was a showroom for Waterford Wedgewood chinaware, now occupied by Kent & Curwen (Gentleman's Club Sports wear). Another unusual shop is "The Armoury of St James" a seller of World Orders and toy soldiers.

There is yet another arcade on the south side of Piccadilly, The Princes Arcade. It is to the east of the Piccadilly Arcade, adjacent to St James's Church, Piccadilly and also runs through to Jermyn Street.


Unknown said...

aaaahhhhhhhhhh thankyou Ive spent many hours in these arcades several friends have shops there. I miss the opening parties with mince pies,music and Christmas cakes and full of atmosphere but ill be there for Spring thankyou
Fay x

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