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The Swan & Edgar building in Piccadilly Circus: One of London’s lost department stores

The history of the Swan & Edgar department store in Piccadilly Circus.

The former Swan & Edgar building at Piccadilly Circus

The decline of the department store is a frequently mentioned casualty of the ever-changing retail industry. A host of department stores in London have been closed down over the decades, with the buildings left behind leaving little trace of the retail giants which one inhabited them. Once household names such as Pontings, Pratts, Bourne & Hollingsworth, and Gamages, have been consigned to the history books. Among these lost London department stores was Swan & Edgar, whose flagship building still exists, looming large over Piccadilly Circus.

Cumbrian-born William Edgar (1791-1869) met George Swan (d.1821) met in the early 19th century. At the time, Edgar was running a haberdashery stall in St James Market, while Swan had a shop on Ludgate Hill in the City of London. They went into business together in Ludgate Hill, before moving to 20 Piccadilly in 1812. Business was booming and they made over £80,000 in their first year. Nine years later, Swan sadly died, but his business partner Edgar honoured his memory by continuing to trade in their joint name. Swan & Edgar moved to 49 Regent Street in 1841. By 1848, business was going so well, the store expanded to numbers 45-51 Regent Street and the corner of Piccadilly Circus.

Edgar ended up outliving with business partner by over four decades, passing away in 1869. He lived the last two decades of his life with his wife Frances and their five children at Eagle House on Clapham Common’s South Side. The Georgian building was mostly demolished after Frances’ death in 1889, although parts of the south wing exist today as mews housing. The couple are buried in one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries: West Norwood Cemetery in south London.

Swan & Edgar 1909 Wikimedia Commons

The Victorian Swan & Edgar store in 1909
(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Although both founders had died, their names continued to live on through the department store as it continued trading. An 1883 advert boasted the huge range of articles offered for sale, billing the store as “wholesale and retail silk mercers, drapers, furriers/ Mantle and costume makers and seal skin merchants/ Novelty and economy in dress/ All articles of fashion of the latest styles and reliable quality”. The department store’s popularity was boosted by the opening of the nearby Piccadilly Circus tube station in 1906 and became a popular meeting place for friends and lovers to rendezvous. In December 1901, the managing director Walter Morford (who had been in the role since 1895), ended up in trouble with the police over the store. People complained his moving window displays were causing congestion on the pavement, with sometimes hundreds of people blocking the pavement to look at the action. Morford ignored several police summons, complaining he had spent over £100 on designing the windows to attract customers. Read the rest of this entry

Exploring the history of 55 Broadway with Hidden London

55 Broadway © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Visit 55 Broadway on a London Transport Museum Hidden London tour

Tube train monitoring dials in the lobby

If you’re interested in London history, architecture or its transport network, then check out a Hidden London tour from the London Transport Museum. Run for limited periods, I’ve previously visited the disused Aldywch tube station and the former World War II shelter underneath Clapham South tube station and found them fascinating. Although the Hidden London group offers visits to other disused platforms and tube stations, my last booking with them saw me remaining above ground. The tour lasts 90 minutes and covered many of the 14 floors of the building.

55 Broadway in St James was London’s first skyscraper because of the way it was built. Standing tall at 53 metres (175ft), the Grade I listed office block is an impressive piece of art deco architecture in Portland stone. The structure was originally built in 1927-1929 to a design by English architect Charles Holden (1875-1960). As well as 55 Broadway, Holden was also responsible for the University of London’s Senate House, Bristol Central Library and many tube stations, such as Acton Town, Balham, Clapham Common and Leicester Square, among others. 55 Broadway was briefly the tallest office block in London, before it was surpassed by Holden’s Senate House in the mid 1930s. It was originally constructed as the headquarters for the Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited (UERL), on top of St James’s tube station.

The pink ceiling of the Executive Office

55 Broadway corridor © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Walnut panelled doors and travertine marble on every landing

Read the rest of this entry

Peterborough Court: An Art Deco temple to journalism standing on Fleet Street

The Daily Telegraph may have moved on, but its imposing offices remain.

Peterborough Court © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Peterborough Court was built on Fleet Street in 1927-1928

The newspapers have long moved out of Fleet Street, but their buildings remain. Standing halfway along the iconic street is an art deco temple to journalism. Peterborough Court is the former home of the Daily Telegraph. Although the publication has moved on to Victoria, there are still subtle signs of the building’s former use on the façade.

Peterborough Court © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The colourful Art Deco clock

The Daily Telegraph was founded in 1855 and its first offices were in the Strand, before it moved to 135 Fleet Street in 1862. In 1882, the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII – 1841-1910) opened the Telegraph’s new offices made of Portland stone and Aberdeen granite, designed by architects Arding, Bond and Buzzard. The building remained until the twenties when it was torn down to make way for the current design.

Peterborough Court was built in 1927-1928 to a design by architects Elcock and Sutcliffe, with Thomas Tait (1882-1954) and Sir Owen Williams (1890-1969) as consulting engineers. Tait worked on Adelaide House (the City’s tallest office block in 1925), later phases of the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street and the pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Meanwhile, Williams was the head engineer for the original Wembley Stadium (1923-2003) and architect of The Dorchester. The building was named Peterborough Court after the Bishop of Peterborough, who used to have a house on Fleet Street. The name inspired the ‘Peterborough’ diary column in the newspaper, which remained for decades until it was renamed in 2003.

Peterborough Court © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The entrance features bronze detailing and typical art deco styling

Likes it predecessor, Peterborough Court is also made of Portland stone. The building’s façade features a combination of art deco and neoclassical details. Large Doric columns give the building a sense of heritage, while its modernist elements represents the present. Standing tall with six storeys and a recessed top storey, Peterborough Court features seven windows across each storey. The centrepiece is the ornate coloured clock on its third floor level, full of Art Deco details such as diamonds, chevrons and sunburst motifs. Read the rest of this entry

Where to find London’s best speakeasy bars

Discover London’s best hidden and not-so-secret prohibition-inspired cocktail bars.

Disrepute © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Head to one of London’s hidden basement bars

London is world-renowned for its nightlife… and with good reason. While admittedly the nightclub scene isn’t what it was in the ’90s and 00s, the quality of its bars has certainly increased tenfold. Back in 2013, Metro Girl published a guide to London’s speakeasy bars to coincide with the release of The Great Gatsby movie. Over the years, this post has continued to get a lot of readers, but it’s time for an update. A lot can change in five years with cocktails bars opening and closing all the time. While many of these hidden drinking dens are 1920s themed and underground, some are on ground level, but are included on the list for their vintage vibe. Of course, in the capital, nothing stays secret for long so reservations are recommended for most of London’s hidden bars.

  • 69 Colebrooke Row

Islington cocktail bar with a 1950s Italian café vibe crossed with Film Noir. Billed as ‘The Bar With No Name’, it’s a tight squeeze with only 30 seats. Includes experimental cocktails, food, cocktail masterclasses and weekly live music. Reservations highly recommended.

– 69 Colebrooke Row, Islington, N1 8AA. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the 69 Colebrooke Row website.

  • Barts

In the true spirit of a speakeasy, this secret bar is hard to find. Barts is hidden away in a 1930s Chelsea apartment block behind an unassuming door requiring a password to enter. The venue is styled as a 1920s gangsters’ hideout with the cocktail menu inspired by Uncle Barts’ mob. Read Metro Girl’s review of Barts.

– Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3DW. Nearest stations: Sloane Square or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Barts website.

  • Beaufort Bar

Although not a speakeasy or a basement bar, the exquisite Beaufort Bar deserves to be on the list for its stunning Art Deco interior alone. While many visitors head to The Savoy’s American Bar, they often miss out on its sister bar. Expect stunning black and gold decor, fabulous cocktails and exceptional service. Read Metro Girl’s review of the Beaufort Bar.

– The Beaufort Bar, The Savoy, Savoy Court, The Strand, WC2R OEU. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Embankment or Temple. For more information, visit The Savoy’s website.

  • Cahoots

Located hidden down a side street in Kingly Court, Cahoots is a step back in time to post-war London. During the Blitz, many of the capital’s tube stations were used as bomb shelters. Cahoots is essentially a post-war tube station, with plenty of vintage TfL memorabilia and furniture, 1940s-themed cocktails, and live swing and lindyhop. As well as cocktails, they also have late night music nights and boozy picnics. To get in, you are advised to make a reservation or try and talk your way in by getting into character and saying the right thing. Read Metro Girl’s review of Cahoots.

– Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court, Soho, W1B 5PW. Nearest stations: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the Cahoots websiteRead the rest of this entry

Palladium House: An architectural slice of the Big Apple in London’s Soho

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Palladium House brings Art Deco glamour to bustling Soho

Standing across the road from the Tudor-style Liberty department store is a striking building which couldn’t look more different. Palladium House is a Grade II listed Art Deco office block on the corner of Great Marlborough Street and Argyll Street. With its Egyptian detailing and black granite, the building wouldn’t look out-of-place in Manhattan. So it’s not surprising to discover it was built as a smaller twin to another skyscraper across the pond by an American architect for an American company.

Great Marlborough Street dates back to the early 18th century when the road was named in honour of the Duke of Marlborough’s victory at Blenheim in 1704. The Duke of Argyll then added Argyll Street in 1736. Various buildings came and went over the remaining centuries, with the site becoming empty and ready for Palladium House in the early 20th century.

Today, we tend to think of radiators as a relatively modern invention, with many British homes not embracing the technology until the 1970s and 1980s. One of my childhood homes had no central heating when we moved in and installing some was fortunately my parents’ first priority. However, the central heating we have today stems back to the mid 19th century thanks to inventors like Franz San Galli, Joseph Nason and Robert Briggs. In 1902, the National Radiator Company was formed in Pennsylvania, USA, with the hopes of bringing this technology to homes across America and beyond. By the 1920s, the NRC’s business was going so well they bought a plot of land in Bryant Park area of Manhattan, New York City. American architect Raymond Hood (1881-1934) and French architect Jacques André Fouilhoux (1879–1945) co-designed the American Radiator Building with a combination of Art Deco and Gothic styles in 1924. Today, the building is one of Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers and is now home to the Bryant Park Hotel.

Palladium House © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The gold, yellow, orange and green Egyptian-inspired enamel frieze and cornice

Despite their success in the US, the ARC had global dreams. They had already had a factory in Hull since 1906, and had subsidiaries in France and Germany. A few years after erecting the American Radiator Building in the Big Apple, they bought a plot of land in London’s West End for their UK headquarters. They brought Hood over from America to design their new building and enlisted British architect Stanley Gordon Jeeves (1888-1964). Their design was in the Art Deco style and a scaled down version of its New York counterpart. Palladium House is the only European building by Hood, who also designed or co-designed Chicago’s Tribune Tower and New York City’s Rockefeller Center and New York Daily News buildings. Meanwhile, Jeeves went on to create the Earls Court Exhibition Centre and Dolphin Square flats in Pimlico.  Read the rest of this entry

Cocktails fit for a mobster as Barts speakeasy launches its Comic Book menu

© Johnny S Photography for Barts

A ‘Kidnap and Handsome’ cocktail @ Barts
© Johnny S Photography for Barts

As someone who doesn’t like to follow the crowd, I’m a huge fan of speakeasy bars. I love the idea of venturing into a secret bar or restaurant that only a few know about. Barts in Sloane Avenue has been on my to-do list for quite some time and this week, I finally paid a visit to attend the launch of the venue’s new Comic Book menu.

Barts is located in Chelsea Cloisters – a 1930s apartment block on Sloane Avenue. You’ll have to hunt a bit to find it – there’s no neon street sign guiding you to your destination. We eventually found the hidden door and rang the bell, prompting a tiny letterbox-sized window to open revealing a pair of eyes to check if you’re not the fuzz. Once we entered, we were greeted by an intimate, quirky space featuring cosy red and wood interiors. Vintage Bric-à-brac, such as taxidermy, lampshades and tennis racquets, adorned the walls.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The Alchemist (vodka, elderflower cordial, mint, gomme syrup and apple juice)

The venue originally opened in 2009 and describes itself as ‘London’s worst kept secret’. However, the team behind Barts have decided to shake thing up and have launched a new Comic Book menu. The new drinks listings come in the form of, you guessed it, a comic book, which tells the story of how Chicago gangster Uncle Barts crossed the Pond and started his bootlegging business in Chelsea’s mean streets. Aside from the obvious of being a place to peruse the alcoholic concoctions on offer, the menu also gives you something to read (handy when your friend or date is running late!) and provides an entertaining back story to some of the innovative cocktails. The menu is separated into eight chapters (e.g. ‘The Real McCoys’ and ‘Most Wanted’), with each having a distinct theme and with boozy mixes complementing Uncle Bart’s adventures animated on the opposing pages.

After spending rather longer than we expected perusing the extensive menu, we settled on the Charleston Crumble (Grey Goose vodka, cranberry juice, rhubarb purée and vanilla syrup) and the Jazz Singer (Russian Standard Original vodka, passion fruit purée and vanilla syrup). On reflection, they had very similar ingredients, but tasted rather different. Mine was the Charleston, which tasted like a dessert and I absolutely loved it. When I tried a bit of my friend’s Jazz Singer, it was more fruitier. Next up, my companion wanted something a bit more dramatic – the intriguingly named Kidnap & Handsome. When the drink arrived at our table, it made quite the entrance. A short tumbler was oozing smoke under a bell jar, with the gangster theme continuing with dollar bills, a lipstick-smudged playing card and chocolate truffle. The drink itself was a mix of sweet and bitterness – Sauvelle vodka, oak-infused vanilla syrup and oak bitters. My choice, The Alchemist (Belvedere vodka, elderflower cordial, mint, gomme syrup and cloudy apple juice) was decidedly less theatrical in a simple coupe glass, but refreshing and subtly sweet.

Drinks aside, Barts also plays host to regular parties and live entertainment. During the night, we were entertained by the fabulous, feel-good vocals of the Haywood Sisters, who really fitted into the retro vibe. Barts regularly have live music on the bill so it’s worth checking out their website.

Overall, we had a great evening – the service, venue and drinks were all exceptional. I loved the intimate feel of the bar, while the staff were friendly and clearly knew their stuff when it came to mixology. Barts would be a great venue to impress a date or celebrate a birthday. I’m off to join Uncle Barts’ mob!

  • Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3DW. Nearest stations: Sloane Square or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Barts website.
© Johnny S Photography for Barts

The intimate bar is a cosy inviting space full of vintage interiors and leather seating
© Johnny S Photography for Barts


For more of Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.

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The Candlelight Club review: Go back to the roaring ’20s at a pop-up vintage nightspot

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The Bee Knees dancers at The Candlelight Club

Vintage has never been bigger and with the release of The Great Gatsby movie last year, it appears the roaring ’20s have been… well roaring again. There is now a host of Art Deco and Speakeasy-themed bars in London as entrepreneurs catch on to the soaring popularity of drinkers wishing they were in another time.

Taking the 1920s theme a step further is The Candlelight Club, a touring pop-up nightclub featuring live music, cocktails, dancing and overall ambiance from yesteryear. I had wanted to get tickets for some time, but finally got round to booking them when I was tasked with organising a hen party recently. The Candlelight Club takes place on sporadic dates in various secret London locations – with them only being revealed a few days before the event, so you need to keep an eye on the website for dates.

A group of nine of us booked our £20 tickets quite far in advance and were able to take advantage of the early bird deal. In addition to your entry, there are options to dine or have a table for an extra cost. As expected the dress code was 1920s so lots of fringing, pleats, spaghetti straps, feather boas, long pearls and Mary Jane shoes. Although hen parties – such as our group – are welcome, try to blend in with the theme so no bright pink sashes or inflatable genitalia! We bought our bride a ‘bride to be’ rosette badge which was the same colour as her dress which was a subtle and simple. The venues of The Candlelight Club tend to be different and all the time, and on the night in question we attended, was a stunning building built in the 1920s in West London lit by candlelight.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Secret location: The Candlelight Club takes place in different locations every time

In addition to the Twenties theme, The Candlelight Club also has a further theme each night – ours was the Excelsior club, a grander version of the usual club with sweeping staircases, waiters in full suits and a grand venue. Leading the entertainment was Champagne Charlie and his Bubbly Boys with dancing by the Bee Knees. We arrived about an hour after opening and missed out on any unreserved tables, but managed to get a few chairs for our group. It was rather quieter than expected at first before the live music started and with many people eating, which left guests soaking in the atmosphere, having costume envy and sampling the vintage-themed cocktails or bubbly. I particularly liked the bubbly being served in coupé champagne glasses, which nestle in your hand a lot easier than regular champagne flutes.

The atmosphere really changed once Champagne Charlie came on stage with his band. His mix of cheeky humour and singing soon got the crowd going. He also came over to our group and teased the bride with some risqué jokes. We were also treated to several performances by the very glamorous Bee Knees dancers. When the band weren’t performing, there was a vintage DJ spinning tracks so you could attempt the Charleston. In between shimmying, we could be found at the bar which was staffed by very dapper and friendly mixologists and barmen.

I can highly recommend Candlelight Club for a unique night out. The entertainment was brilliant and the venue was totally stunning. It was a refreshing change to my usual weekends to step back into the 1920s for the evening.

  • The Candlelight Club takes place on various dates in various secret locations. Tickets highly recommended to be booked in advance. Check out the Candlelight Club website for dates and tickets.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Very old school! Champagne Charlie and the Bubbly Boys helepd the audience transport back to the Twenties

 


 For a guide to other 1920s bars and venues in London, click here.

Or if you fancy a trip to the 1950s instead, check out Metro Girl’s review of the Jive Party at the Rivoli Ballroom.

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Lucky Pig review: Swig a cocktail (or four!) at this decadent drinking den

Lucky Pig © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Retro style: The Lucky Pig bar features vintage furniture, ripped wallpaper and retro lighting

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Basement speakeasy: Head downstairs for some retro decadence

I always loved the 1920s and 1930s as a stunning era for fashion, design and architecture. So with the release of the recent Great Gatsby movie, I was in the mood for an evening at a venues which fit the bill for a flapper’s night out. Arranging to meet a girl friend for some mid-week post-work drinks and a gossip in central London, we decided to meet at Oxford Circus and check out The Lucky Pig in Fitzrovia. While there are nearer tube stations, it’s really such a short walk to Clipstone Street – which is just off Great Portland Street. Located just under Bolshover House on the junction with Bolshover Street, you are greeted by a colourful mural with the name of the bar, inviting you downstairs to the basement below. While the cocktail bar is located in a basement, it is far from dinghy. Some skylights, coupled with twinkling chandeliers and retro lampshades, give the place just enough light. Although it hasn’t been there for years, the faded and peeling wallpaper, old posters and vintage furniture make you feel like you’ve walked into a hidden gem that’s always been there.

Lucky Pig 4 © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Back in time: The mismatched furniture and retro lampshades gives the bar a vintage feel

My friend and I arrived on a Tuesday evening, but found most of the tables were reserved or taken so pulled up a stool at the bar. Happy hour was on giving two-for-one cocktails so we spent quite some time trying to decide between the wide range of original cocktails. We started off being a bit decadent than usual – well it did fit the theme of the bar! – by ordering a Prosecco-based mixture. We started with the Isadora Belle – a concoction of Belvedere Raspberry Vodka, framboise, pineapple juice and Prosecco, served in a martini glass and was delicious. We also tried a more light, refreshing Grey Goose Le Fizz – Grey Goose Vodka, lime, elderflower and soda. Although on the night in question there was quiet background music enabling us to talk, the bar does host live music and DJs too. Overall, the staff were friendly and the drinks went down very easily. I loved the venue’s faded-style grandeur which gave it a lot more atmosphere and style than so many other bars in the area. I will definitely be back.

  • Lucky Pig, 5 Clipstone Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 6BB. Nearest stations: Great Portland Street or Regent’s Street. Open Tues-Sat. For more information and detailed opening times and menus, visit The Lucky Pig website.

    Lucky Pig cocktails © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

    Cheers! A Grey Goose Le Fizz (left) and a Isadora Belle (right)


For a full list of all of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.

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Go back to the roaring ’20s with these Great Gatsby-inspired days and nights out

For a updated 2018 guide to London’s best speakeasy bars, click here.

© Warner Bros

© Warner Bros

Tonight sees the gala première of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby movie at the opening of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Out of all the decades of the 20th century, the 1920s is the one which appears the most decadent, stylish and hedonistic. Personally for me, it’s my favourite decade of last century, I just love the fashion, the architecture and the cocktails. It’s safe to say, the impending release of the F Scott Fitzgerald adaptation has kicked off Gatsby fever, with many shops, bars and restaurants embracing the 1920s with themed menus, events and fashions. So if you’ve got a taste for the period and want to have your own Gatsby night (or day), here’s Metro Girl’s guide to both pop-up and permanent 1920s and Gatsby-themed venues and events around London.

1920s and prohibition themed bars and club nights

  • Bourne & Hollingsworth Bar

Intimate basement cocktail bar in Fitzrovia looks like a grannies’ tea room, yet serve some strong cocktails which pack a punch. Bourne & Hollingsworth, 28 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, W1T 1JF. Nearest station: Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road. For more information, visit the Bourne & Hollingsworth website.

  • Cellar Door
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Secret location: The Candlelight Club takes place in different locations every time

A former Victorian men’s public toilet at Aldwych has been converted into a basement bar. Features a range of cocktails, bar snacks, snuff (!) and a range of entertainment, including cabaret and burlesque. Open from 6pm until 1am nightly. Cellar Door, Zero Aldwych, WC2E 7DN. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Temple. For more information, visit Cellar Door’s website. Read Metro Girl’s review following a recent visit.

  • Evans & Peel Detective Agency

Basement speakeasy bar and restaurant in Earl’s Court. With cocktails being the main draw and 1920s experience, also features occasional live music. Booking in advance recommended. Evans & Peel Detective Agency, 310c Earls Court Rd, Earl’s Court, SW5 9BA. Nearest station: Earl’s Court. For more information, visit the Evans & Peel website.

  • 69 Colebrooke Row

Twenties-style cocktail bar in the backstreets of Islington. Billed as ‘The Bar With No Name’, it’s a tight squeeze with only 30 seats. Includes experimental cocktails, an occasional pianist and the chance to take a cocktail masterclass. Reservations highly recommended. 69 Colebrooke Row, Islington, N1 8AA. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the 69 Colebrooke Row website.

  • Beaufort Bar @ The Savoy

You’ll be spoiled for choice from this extensive cocktail menu at the stunning black and gold, Art Deco bar in The Savoy Hotel. Excellent service, frequent live music with cocktails averaging £14.50 each. The Savoy, Savoy Court, The Strand, Westminster, WC2R OEU. Nearest station: Charing Cross, Embankment, Covent Garden or Temple. For more information, visit the Savoy’s website. Read Metro Girl’s review of the bar here.

  • Happiness Forgets
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Basement speakeasy: Head for some retro decadence at The Lucky Pig in Fitzrovia

Cocktail bar in a Hoxton Square basement. Reservations recommended. Happiness Forgets, 8-9 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, N1 6NU. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street (overland) or Old Street. For more information, visit the Happiness Forgets website.

  • The Lucky Pig

A speakeasy-themed basement bar in a Fitzrovia backstreet. Featuring Art Deco décor, red velvet curtains and an extensive cocktail list. Open Tues-Sat. The Lucky Pig, 5 Clipstone Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 6BB. Nearest station: Great Portland Street or Goodge Street. For more information, visit the Lucky Pig website. Check out Metro Girl’s review of The Lucky Pig.

  • St James Bar @ Sofitel London St James

Hotel bar inspired by Coco Chanel’s 1920s Paris apartment. Features vintage and signature cocktails, champagne and bar menu. Sofitel London St James, 6 Waterloo Place, St James, SW1Y 4AN. Nearest station: Charing Cross or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Sofitel St James website.

  • Rise 46

A 1920s-inspired bar in Clapham, featuring live music and entertainment. Open daily from 5pm, closing times vary, but 2am on Friday and Saturday nights. Rise 46, 46 Battersea Rise, Clapham, SW11 1EE. Nearest station: Clapham Junction. For more information, check out the Rise 46 website.

  • Various dates : Prohibition 1920s Parties

This company has been hosting 1920s-themed parties in the capital for several years in various secret locations. Dress up in the 1920s-style to drink cocktails from tea cups, dance to live bands and DJs, gamble and watch silent cinema. Tickets: £20. For more information, visit the Prohibition 1920s website.

  • Various dates : The Candlelight Club

A pop-up vintage nightclub which appears in various secret locations. Customers are asked to dress in 1920s-themed costumes, but nothing too flammable as the venue is lit entirely by candles! Includes one-off cocktail menu, special themes, live jazz bands and vintage DJs in a secret London location. For more information and tickets, visit the Candlelight Club website. For Metro Girl’s review of a Candlelight Club night, click here.

  • Every Saturday : Kit Kat Club @ Proud Cabaret City

The City branch of the Proud Cabaret chain is transformed into a 1920s speakeasy on Saturday nights, featuring 1920s menu and burlesque performers. £49 inc three course meal and show. Reservations highly recommended. No.1 Mark Lane, City of London, EC3R 7AH. Nearest station: Tower Hill or Monument. For more information and booking, visit Proud Cabaret’s website.

Specials events during the film’s release (Spring 2013)

  • Now until 20 May 2013 : 1920s-themed pop-up bar at Harrods

The folks at Knightsbridge’s iconic department store have transformed the underground tasting room and wine shop into a 1920s-themed bar in honour of the film’s release. Includes cocktail-making demonstrations and special creations by Courvoisier, Hendrick’s and Johnnie Walker available for consumption. Open during store hours. Harrods also features themed cocktail recipes and inspiration for fashion on their online ‘Summer Of Now’ shop. 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7XL. Nearest station: Knightsbridge. For more information, visit the Harrods website.

  • 16 – 19 May 2013 : Whiteleys Goes Great Gatsby

To celebrate the opening of the Great Gatsby film, Whiteleys shopping centre is hosting four days of 1920s-themed events. Includes Charleston performances, swing dancing lessons, 1920s-inspired fashion shows, beauty boudoir, piano playing, photo booths and a speakeasy bar. Following the launch night on Thursday 16th, the event will be running from noon-5pm on Friday until Sunday. Whiteleys Shopping Centre, Queensway, W2 4YN. Nearest station: Bayswater and Queensway. For more information, visit the Whiteleys website.

  • From 1 May 2013 onwards : Roaring ’20s Afternoon Tea @ Harvey Nichols

Season at The Fifth Floor restaurant of Harvey Nichols will be serving a unique Gatsby-inspired afternoon tea experience. Includes lobster rolls and peanut butter roll-up ‘Gatsby’ cigars as well as scones, macaroons, served with a glass of Champagne with gold leaf or prohibition cocktail. Available daily from 3-5pm. £30 for afternoon tea, or £40 including cocktail or Champagne. Harvey Nichols, 109-125 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RJ. Nearest station: Knightsbridge. For more information, visit the Harvey Nichols website.

© Carbonated on Flickr

© Carbonated on Flickr

  • 23 May 2013 : Gatsby night @ Libertine

The Fitzrovia club is hosting a one-off 1920s-themed night featuring cocktails, champagne, canapés, jazz beats and special performances. Dress code: 1920s glamour. Tickets: £30. From 8.30pm – 3am. Libertine, 4 Winsley Street, Fitztrovia, W1W 8HF. Nearest station: Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the Libertine’s website.

  • Every Thursday in May : Great Gatsby Nights @ The Montagu

The Montagu restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, The Churchill is laying on a 1920s-inspired three course set-menu, including a coupe of champagne on arrival and live music from the hotel’s resident band Hot Dog Corn Dogs. Guests are encouraged to dress in themed fancy dress, with the best dressed winning free tickets to a screening of the film and the chance to win a three night stay at The Grand Hyatt New York. Price: From £35 per person for set menu and a glass of champagne. 30 Portman Square, Marylebone, W1H 7BH. Nearest station: Bond Street or Marble Arch. For more information, visit The Churchill’s website.


For a look at what London looked like in the ’20s, watch this amazing colour video shot in 1927.

If the coverage of the Cannes Film Festival inspires you to visit the town, read Metro Girl’s blog post on my trip to the French Riviera last summer.

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photo credit: carbonated via photopin cc

Rare colour film of bustling London town in 1927

Watch Claude Frisse-Greene’s amazing footage of the capital in the 1920s.

1927 still

Traffic on Whitehall near the Cenotaph
© Claude Frisse-Greene, courtesy of Tim Sparke on Vimeo

A rare colour film of London in 1927 has been making waves on the internet in recent weeks. Uploaded by Tim Sparke on Vimeo three years ago, it’s audience has suddenly soared, with over 500,000 views so far. Shot by early British film pioneer Claude Frisse-Greene, it uses colour techniques that his father William had been experimenting with. The just under six-minute film shows the hustle and bustle of city life, with footage filmed at the Thames, Tower Bridge, Tower Of London, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Whitehall. It also includes shots of traffic going over the old London Bridge – designed by Victorian John Rennie – which now stands in Lake Havasu City in Arizona. Open-top buses, cars and horse and carriages are seen trotting past the relatively new Cenotaph in Whitehall, where a few pedestrians are seen bending down to read the wreaths. One thing I love about this film is so much looks familiar – but yet there’s no traffic lights or road markings, with policemen controlling the traffic. Marble Arch stands behind some ornate gates which no longer exist – presumably an exit from Hyde Park before the busy road was cut into it, marooning the arch as a polluted traffic island. The Thames looks incredibly busy with so many barges and tug boats. The river is a lot more accessible, with Westminster Pier embarking passengers on tiny boats compared to the Clippers today. Petticoat Lane Market in Spitalfields is as busy as ever, with more men than women it seems, with fur stoles and stuffed rabbits amongst the goods on sale. The men are predominantly wearing flat caps, while some very stylish women in 1920s fashion are seen walking through Hyde Park.

NB: Since this post was written, the original video was taken down, but I have found this extended version – without the modern soundtrack – instead.


If you like the 1920s, there’s a host of Great Gatsby-themed events on in London to celebrate the release of the film. Read the guide to what’s on here.

For a review of the 1920s pop-up club night Candlelight Club, click here.

For more blog posts on London history, click here.

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