Returning to Borough Market this December is the hugely popular celebration of cheese. With Londoners planning their festive cheeseboard, this is a great place to get inspiration for your next special dinner. This annual late-night shopping event offers Londoners than chance to meet over 20 of the market’s cheesemongers and explore a huge range of cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheese from UK and international producers.
On Wednesday 12 December 2018, ‘An Evening of Cheese’ returns to Borough Market. Expect to see cheese stalls taking over the market, with experts on hand to advise you on your festive cheese needs, including cheese recipes and drink pairings. There will also be a cheese-based cooking demo in the Market Hall’s Demo Kitchen.
Among the world cheeses taking part include:
- Drumlin – Heritage Cheese (Ireland).
- Oude Beemster Gouda – Borough Cheese Company (Holland).
- Canarejal Cremoso – Brindisa Ltd (Spain).
- Roquefort – Mons Cheesemongers (France).
On the night, market traders will compete in the ‘cracking of the parmesan wheel’, while local choirs and carol singers will bring some Christmas cheer.
- An Evening Of Cheese takes place on 12 December 2018 from 6pm-9pm. At Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL. Nearest station: London Bridge. Free entry. For more information, visit the Borough Market website.
- Borough Market is open every day during the Christmas period from 5 December until 4pm on Christmas Eve – including Sundays.
To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.
Looking for gift inspiration this Christmas? If you have a Londoner or Londonphile in your life and you’re stuck for ideas for what to get them for festive season, then look no further. Here’s a few suggestions for some London-centric presents.
The British Library membership
£80 (direct debit) or £87 (via credit/debit card) per year from The British Library.
If you know a Londoner who loves literature, then an annual membership to the British Library could be a perfect gift. They can enjoy unlimited free entry to BL exhibitions (plus 1 guest), access to the exclusive Members’ Room, or the Knowledge Centre Bar (plus up to 3 guests) on weeknight evenings. Members also enjoy priority booking for the BL’s programme of talks, events and performances as well 20% discount in their public restaurants, cafes and shops. The British Library has a series of specially curated exhibitions and events throughout the year. Current exhibitions include Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War (until 19 February 2019); and Cats on the Page (until 17 March 2019).
– The British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras or Euston.
London Playset in a Bag
£19.99 from House of Marbles.
Although aimed at children, plenty of big kids will also like these miniature London landmarks and characters. Iconic sights such as Big Ben, the BT Tower, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye have been carved in wood and painted in bright colours. (9cm/3in figures come in a drawstring bag. Not suitable for children under three).
£8.00 from Soapsmith.
Make a traditional gift of toiletries a little bit special with some London-themed soaps. All Soapsmith soaps are handmade in London using high quality, moisturising oils and butters. A range of soaps have taken inspiration from some of the capital’s famous districts, such as Baker Street (almond, honey and goat’s milk); Bloomsbury (primrose, peony and roses), and Hackney (Bergamot, Sandalwood, Rosemary and Geranium); among others. Founded by born and bred Londoner Samantha Jameson in 2012, all of Soapsmith’s products are manufactured in an East London workshop.
Half Hitch Gin
£35.00 from Half Hitch Gin website.
Back in the Victorian era, Camden was famous for its gin. Half Hitch Gin have brought ‘mother’s ruin’ back to NW1. Half Hitch Gin has been made in the former warehouse vaults of Camden Lock since it launched in 2014. Half Hitch Gin is made with tinctures of black tea, pepper, hay, English wood and bergamot. You could buy the gin lover in your life a bottle of Half Hitch, or perhaps book a visit to the gin school at their micro-distillery.
London Alphabet Screenprints by Lucy Loves This
£20-£50 from Lucy Loves This.
Brixton-based illustration studio Lucy Loves This has created a series of screenprints detailing some of the capital’s areas and their popular haunts. For example, Shoreditch features landmarks such as Boxpark, Truman Brewery and Arnold Circus entwinned in a giant S. The prints can be bought unframed (21 x 29.7cm) or framed (32.5 x 45cm) and are printed on 300gsm paper. Free delivery on orders over £40.
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It all feels a bit dull round here now all the sport is over! To be honest we got so swept up in the World Cup that we forgot about Wimbledon, oops. A belated congrats to Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic. Our Wimbledon print is the perfect gift for a tennis fan or someone who happens to live in the southwest London area! #myhomestyle #myhouseandhome #mystylishspace #ekbbhome #interiordecor #Wimbledon
Prettycitylondon: Discovering London’s Beautiful Places
£25.00 from Waterstones.
London Instagram sensation Siobhan Ferguson has been photographing the capital’s most beautiful places since 2010. She now has over 351,000 followers on her PrettycityLondon Instagram account and another 358,000 on her sister account @theprettycities. Her coffee table book published this year features beautiful photos of the capital and provides a guide to some of London’s less explored parts, as well as tips on how to plan and photograph the capital to help make your ‘gram pop.
For a comprehensive guide to London’s Christmas markets and fairs, click here.
To find out where London’s outdoor ice rinks are this winter season, click here.
In centuries gone by, hundreds of roads in the capital used to be pedestrian only. When the car wasn’t even a twinkle in Henry Ford’s eye and not everyone owned a horse, walking was the dominant form of transport. In the past 100 years, war and technological advances (e.g. the motor car) have caused many of these alleys and other pedestrianised lanes and roads to be destroyed or built upon. However, one such road has managed to remain throughout history and is a charming little passage in the bustling West End.
Cecil Court is a 300ft long street linking Charing Cross Road and St Martin’s Lane. While today is it known as Booksellers’ Row, it has a long and varied history dating back to the 17th century. The land encompassing Cecil Court and the surrounding streets were bought by Robert Cecil, first Earl of Salisbury (1563-1612) in 1609. He served as Secretary of State under Queen Elizabeth I and King James I and was the principal discoverer of the Gunpowder Plot. He built the family seat, Hatfield House, in Hertfordshire in 1611. The Jacobean mansion continues to be the home for the Cecil family and the current Marquess of Salisbury, who still owns a lot of the land around Cecil Court. The first Earl of Salisbury bought four acres on the west side of St Martin’s Lane, from Newport Street to the south-west corner of the lane. It didn’t take long before the Earl built houses there to lease out. Cecil Court is believed to have been laid out in the 1670s by one of his descendants.
By the 18th century, Cecil Court housed some pretty unsavoury characters with residents appearing in court for various crimes. One particular character was an Irish Catholic woman, Mrs Elizabeth Calloway, who ran a brandy shop and alleged brothel in Cecil Court. In early 1735, she had taken out a £150 fire insurance policy with the Royal Exchange Assurance. In June 1735, she bought kindling, emptied her brandy barrels and was drinking locally with friends when a fire broke out at her shop. The blaze spread quickly and damaged 16 houses in neighbouring St Martin’s Court and four in Cecil Court. Mrs Calloway was charged with arson, but was later acquitted because she appeared to have genuine reasons for insuring her property. She testified at the Old Bailey: “The cook’s shop joining to mine, the wainscot of my closet was often so very hot that I was afraid it would some time or other be set on fire and for that reason I insured my house.” Witnesses also testified that Mrs Calloway was often concerned her drunken lodgers could set the house on fire with their candles. The fire inadvertently resulted in the death of local resident Anne Hogarth, the mother of famous satirical artist William Hogarth, who lived in nearby Cranbourn Alley. Her cause of death was deemed to be ‘shock’ from the fire.
Cecil Court quickly recovered with new properties being erected on-site. In 1764, a young child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and his family lodged with barber John Couzin at No.9 Cecil Court. Tickets for Mozart’s first London concerts were sold at Couzin’s shop. During his time there, the eight-year-old composer played twice for King George III. In 2011, a plaque was unveiled at the site to commemorate Mozart’s time in the capital. Read the rest of this entry
It’s time to kick off the new festival season and you don’t even have to worry about leaving London. This May, Carnaby are hosting a free, four-day festival celebrating fashion, lifestyle, food, drink and grooming. The Carnaby Style Weekender takes place on 10 – 13 May 2018, featuring a host of workshops, panel discussions and special events. There will be the chance to enjoy exclusive discounts and promotions in over 50 boutiques, bars and restaurants across the district’s 14 streets.
Model Jack McGuinness kicks off the Weekender on Thursday 10 May (6pm-8pm) with an exclusive fashion panel, featuring sartorial tips and where to find the best buys. Aspiring fashionistas can find how to get started in the industry in a talk hosted by independent Carnaby business owners James Scroggs of M.C. Overalls and Dane Butler of FINLAY London on Friday 11 May (6pm-7pm).
There will plenty of opportunities to update your look, including complimentary men’s haircuts from Pankhurst London. Ben Sherman and New Era hats will be offering complimentary monogramming and embroidery. You can also personalise a pair of the new Onitsuka Tiger trainers. Meanwhile, Nixon have created two limited-edition custom watches with only 20 available for sale. During the event, there will be exclusive discounts across the Carnaby brands, including Jack Wills, Pretty Green, Dr. Martens, OFFICE, Shinola, TOMS, Lazy Oaf and Skinnydip.
Ladies can head for a pamper with Urban Decay and Pixi offering free consultations and makeovers. Those who book in for a Detox Pedi at Cowshed can receive a complimentary Neville Travel Set, while Johnny’s Chop Shop will be marking their second birthday with live music and drinks on 10 May.
Throughout the Weekender, head to the Carnaby hub daily to try the free afternoon and evening workshops. Watch a carving demonstration in a Jamon Iberico masterclass at Charcuterie and tapas bar Dehesa. Make a collage with London’s unique souvenir store We Built This City and Collage Club London. Meanwhile, tequila lovers can learn how to make the perfect Margarita in a cocktail masterclass at Breddos Tacos’ bar. Pastaio are offering free Prosecco slushies with food orders after 9pm, while Senor Ceviche will be offering Peruvian Old Fashioneds for just £5. Wright Brothers Soho will be selling oysters for £1 each from 12pm-6pm.
- The Carnaby Style Weekender takes place from 10 – 13 May 2018. In the Carnaby Quarter on and surrounding Carnaby Street, Soho, W1F. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. To find out more about the weekender, visit the Carnaby London website or to book a spot on the workshops or talks, click here.
For a guide to what’s on in London in May, click here.
For the 2018 guide to Christmas markets, click here.
When it comes to looking for Christmas presents, many of us are tired of the same old stuff flogged at the high street chains and want to find something a bit more original or unique. Well, fortunately Christmas markets are more popular than ever with long-term and one-off and weekend ones popping up all over the capital. As well as giving you the opportunity to browse dozens of stalls, many also have plenty of festive fun and entertainment to really get you in the mood.
- 10 November – 4 January 2018 : South Bank Winter Market
Wooden chalets selling festive food, drink, gifts and treats alongside the riverbank on the South Bank. Open Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. Free. Queen’s Walk, South Bank. SE1. Nearest station: Waterloo, Westminster or Embankment. For more information, visit the Southbank Centre website.
- 10 November – 7 January 2018 : Christmas in Leicester Square
The West End’s famous square will feature a Christmas market and Santa’s Grotto. A Spiegeltent will play host shows including A Christmas Carol, Al Murray: The Pub Landlord, Austentatious, Black Cat Cabaret, Fascinating Aida, House of Burlesque 2.0 and more. Free entry to Leicester Square, but tickets required for Santa’s Grotto and the Spiegeltent. Leicester Square, WC2H. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Christmas In Leicester Square website.
- 10 November – 8 January 2018 : Winter Market @ The Winter Forest
Festive market at the new winter installation at Broadgate. Also including food and drink stalls, Tipi cinema, and art exhibitions. Free entry. Exchange Square, Broadgate, EC2. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit The Winter Forest website.
- 17 November – 1 January 2018 : Winter Wonderland Market
Winter Wonderland features a fun fair, food, drink, circus and an ice rink in Hyde Park over the festive period and includes a German market selling gifts too. 10am-10pm. Free entry. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch or Knightsbridge. For more information, visit the Winter Wonderland website.
- 27 November – 22 December : Christmas Market @ The Cheesegrater
A festive market is opening in the 28m high open atrium of ‘The Cheesegrater’. Featuring German-style wooden chalets selling gifts and street food and a pop-up Champagne and Prosecco bar. Open Mon-Fri 10am-7pm. Free entry. The Leadenhall Buildng, 122 Leadenhall Street, City of London, EC3V 4AB. Nearest station: Bank, Aldgate or Fenchurch Street. For more information, check out the Cheesegrater’s Twitter page.
- 30 November – 3 January 2018 : London Bridge Presents Christmas By The River
A market featuring food, drink, craft and gift stalls across The Scoop More London, Hay’s Galleria and London Bridge City Pier. 11am-7pm. Free entry. Queen’s Walk and Hay’s Galleria, SE1 2DB. Nearest station: London Bridge or Tower Hill. For more information, visit the Tudor Markets website.
One-off or short-term Christmas fairs
- 8 – 12 November : Country Living Christmas
Handmade gifts from hundreds of artisan designers and makers. There will also be a lifestyle theatre with experts giving talks and demonstrations, tea room and Cava bar. Opening times vary. Tickets: Adults £14.50, Children £8.50, Under 5s free. Business Design Centre, Islington, N1 0QH. Nearest station: Angel. For more information and tickets, visit the Country Living Fair website.
- 9 November : Carnaby Christmas Party
Shopping party including the countdown to the famous Carnaby Christmas lights switch on at 6pm. An exciting and immersive light switch on will take place at 6pm to launch the brand-new Christmas lights, with legendary DJ Norman Jay MBE on the decks. Enjoy a 20% discount at over 100 brands in Carnaby. 5pm-9pm. Carnaby London, Soho, W1F. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Carnaby London website.
- 16 November : Festive Shopping Event @ Seven Dials
Get into the festive spirit with an evening of fashion, food and more as Seven Dials is closed off to traffic. Featuring live music from Some Voices choir and switching on the Christmas lights. The boutiques and eateries will be offering 20% discount. Register for a free ticket on the website for discounts and freebies. Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H 9HD. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website.
- 18 November : Christmas Market @ St John at Hampstead
Christmas market in church crypt, featuring gifts, treats and presents, cake, coffee and more. 11am-2pm. Free entry. St John-at-Hampstead Church, Church Row, Hampstead, NW3 6UU. Nearest station: Hampstead. For more information, visit the church website.
Shopaholics rejoice! There’s a new festival where you can get your summer wardrobe sorted while indulging your appetite and your passion for Prosecco.
This Saturday 10 June, over 100 shops, bars and restaurants will be taking part in a free shopping and food event. Fashion Feast in Seven Dials will feature a host of events, freebies, entertainment, workshops and exclusive offers.
The streets of Seven Dials will be closed to road traffic with an urban garden popping up around the central dial monument. London steak specialists Hawksmoor and Fords Gin will be serving free gin and tonics on the lush summer lawn dotted with deckchairs. There will also be free taco tasting from Monmouth Kitchen. Meanwhile, there will be free ice cream from the Benefit van on Shorts Gardens, where Japanese tea specialists My Cup of Tea will also be offering free iced teas.
Foodies will be able to pick up some cooking tips from the ‘In The Kitchen With…’ stage hosted by Jamie Oliver’s social protégé vlogger Katie Pix. Chefs from the area’s restaurants, including Native, Hawksmoor, Chick ‘n’ Sours, Monmouth Kitchen and Talli Joe, will be showing visitors how to make their signature dishes.
Diners at some of Seven Dials independent eateries, Cure & Cut, Canela and 26 Grains, will be able to enjoy their dishes outside for an afternoon of alfresco dining. While chowing down, visitors will be entertained with live music from Entrée and London 5-piece band Version.
For those in the mood for a pamper, there will be a Sassoon styling station for quick up dos and haircare advice; skincare experts Fresh and Neal’s Yard Remedies giving beauty tips and demos; Murdock London providing outdoor barbering and Another Space fitness experts putting on spin performances. Fashion fans can head to the pop-up style hub on Neal Street to check out the brands from Seven Dials and enter a competition to win a £1,000 shopping spree. There will also be a photobooth to capture your fashion moment.
If you’re in the mood to shop, brands across Seven Dials will be offering up to 25% discount. Register for a free ticket to obtain discounts at over 30 fabulous names, including Caudalie, Ron Dorff, Larsson & Jennings, Coco de Mer, Frame Set and Match, The Cambridge Satchel Company, Ollie Quin, Office and Offspring.
- Seven Dials Fashion Feast takes place on 10 June 2017. From 12-5pm. Free entry. Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Covent Garden. For more information and to register for your discount, visit the Seven Dials website.
For a guide to what else is on in June, click here.
The Princes Arcade is an 1930s shopping arcade in St James.
Decades before the likes of Westfield and Brent Cross came to London, those who wanted to shop in comfort headed to one of the capital’s arcades. Like the mega malls of today, these arcades featured numerous shops under one roof, providing a sheltered retail experience whatever the weather. However, as well laid out as these modern fashion meccas are, they just can’t compare to the historic and upmarket designs of the late Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods. As part of Metro Girl’s series on the five historic arcades of Mayfair and St James, Part 5 focuses on the youngest, the Princes Arcade, which unlike the others, wasn’t purpose built.
Princes Arcade is part of Princes House at 190–195 Piccadilly which was originally built to house the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. The building, designed by English architect Edward Robert Robson (1836-1917) and built by Messrs. Holland and Hannen, and Messrs. Peto Brothers of Pimlico, featured galleries, shops and a public hall. Robson was famous for his London state schools of the 1870s and early 1880s. The Piccadilly-facing ground floor featured six shops, with their own basements and mezzanine. On the façade of the building were eight portrait busts by sculptor Edward Onslow Ford (1852-1901). The building was in a prime location opposite the road from the Royal Academy and was opened by Prince and Princess of Wales (the future Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) in April 1883.
The main public gallery in the building was called the Prince’s Hall. However, by the turn of the 20th century, the Hall was joined with the Prince’s Hotel in the rear and it started being used as a restaurant. Between 1929 and 1933, the gallery building and the Prince’s Hotel underwent significant alterations, with the Princes Arcade being constructed at the time. The new arcade linked Jermyn Street and Piccadilly and opened in 1933. The Princes Arcade is roughly about 200ft long and features shopfronts projecting into the aisle on scrolled bracket. The southern part of the Arcade has a lower ceiling than the northern part, with the latter featuring decorative plasterwork with the Princes of Wales feathers.
In World War II, Princes Arcade fell prey to bomb damage in 1940, prompting repairs and alterations. The galleries of the Royal Institute were also damaged, reopening in July 1948. By 1972, the entire building was Grade II-listed – two years after the Royal Institute’s lease expired and they moved to the Mall Galleries near Trafalgar Square.
The Princes Arcade was renovated in 1983 and is now sporting a blue, grey and white colour scheme. The original lanterns were restored in 2011 and are now a dark grey colour. Today, the Arcade is home to Andy & Tuly, Barker Shoes, Bates Hatters, Christys’ Hats, Loake Shoemakers, Sage Brown, Segun Adelaja, Simply Gem, Smart Turnout, St Petersburg Collection, The Left Shoe Company and Prestat – Roald Dahl’s favourite chocolatier.
- Princes Arcade, Piccadilly, St. James’s, SW1Y 6DS. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Princes Arcade website.
‘Shopping In Style’ is a series of blog posts on the history of London’s oldest shopping arcades. Read Part 1 on the Burlington Arcade here, Part 2 on the Royal Opera Arcade here, Part 3 on the Royal Arcade here or Part 4 on the Piccadilly Arcade here.
For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.
The history of an Edwardian shopping arcade.
Decades before the likes of Westfield and Brent Cross came to London, those who wanted to shop in comfort headed to one of the capital’s arcades. Like the mega malls of today, these arcades featured numerous shops under one roof, providing a sheltered retail experience whatever the weather. However, as well laid out as these modern fashion meccas are, they just can’t compare to the historic and upmarket designs of the late Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods. As part of Metro Girl’s series on the five historic arcades of Mayfair and St James, Part 4 will be focusing on the Edwardian of the quintet – the Piccadilly Arcade.
At the dawn of the 20th century, the St James area was a hangout for the capital’s gentry and royals with a host of gentlemen’s shops and businesses catering for the upper classes. St James’s Palace was in the area, as well as prestigious members’ clubs, such as The Athenaeum and The Carlton Club. Swiss hotelier César Ritz (1850-1918) had opened his ground-breaking Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly in 1906. Following the death of Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and the ascension of King Edward VII (1841-1910), the country was changing, with styles of fashion and architecture evolving into less gloomy and simpler designs.
When it came to London’s shopping arcades, by the early 20th century, it had been a while since any new ones had been built. The Royal Opera and Burlington Arcades were over eight decades old at this point, while the Lowther Arcade was demolished in 1904 after standing on The Strand for over 70 years. In 1909, work started on a new shopping mecca – the Piccadilly Arcade. The Edwardian arcade linked Piccadilly and Jermyn Street – famous as London’s retail destination for well-dressed gentlemen. Architect George Thrale Jell of Waterloo Place was brought in to design it. Throughout his career, Jell was a popular architect for retailers, having designed several stores in Oxford Street, including the Hanan-Gingell shoe shop in 1908 (now home to branches of Fossil watches and Sunglasses Hut), flats in Bury Street and converted the Georgian building, 138 Park Lane into offices and flats in the late 1920s.
The arcade was constructed by builders Messrs. Leslie and Co. of Kensington Square in 1910. The ground-floor arcade featured 28 shops, while the remaining upper floors were used as offices and chambers. The façade of the building is made of Portland stone and features four columns supporting a architrave with the words ‘Piccadilly Arcade’. Above, a wide wrought iron balcony spans the five windows of the 2nd floor, with further storeys of windows and smaller balconies above. The fifth floor features another wide balcony, while dormer windows stand out on the 6th floor slated roof. The upper storeys were converted into the Felix Hotel in 1915, but is now called Empire House and is mostly offices.
Among the first businesses to open in the arcade were the shirtmakers Budd, who are still trading today over a century later. Harold Budd established his shirt shop at No.4 in 1910, which was set over three floors. Meanwhile, tailors Hawes & Curtis, founded by Ralph Hawes and George Frederick Curtis, opened their first store at No.24 in February 1913. Over one hundred years later, they now have over 20 stores in the UK.
The Piccadilly Arcade traded in peace for 20 years before World War II brought death and destruction to the streets of London. At 3.10am on 17 April 1941, the Jermyn Street end of the building was severely damaged by a 2,200lb parachute bomb. Twenty three people were killed, including the 1930s singer Al Bowlly (1898-1941), who lived on the corner of Jermyn Street. The Dunhill store on the corner of Jermyn Street took a direct hit, while Fortnum & Mason and the Cavendish Hotel were also damaged. Budd’s shop at No.4 in the arcade was burnt down so Harold Budd swiftly purchased the remaining leases on the only two intact stores in the arcade; 1A and 3, where Budd remains trading today. The Piccadilly Arcade was gradually restored, with work finishing in 1957.
Today, the Piccadilly Arcade is home to tailors, shirtmakers, shoe shops, jewellers, hairdressers, womenswear, pharmacy and mustard and vinegar makers. Meanwhile, those who enter or exit through the Arcade’s south entrance of Jermyn Street will be greeted by Irena Sedlecká’s sculpture of Beau Brummell (1778-1840), a Regency dandy who was famous for his dress sense.
- Piccadilly Arcade, Piccadilly or Jermyn Street, St. James’s, SW1Y 6NH. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Piccadilly Arcade website.
‘Shopping In Style’ is a series of blog posts on the history of London’s oldest shopping arcades. Read Part 1 on the Burlington Arcade here, Part 2 on the Royal Opera Arcade here, Part 3 on the Royal Arcade here, or Part 5 on the Prince Arcade, click here.
For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.
The history of Mayfair’s striking Victorian shopping arcade.
Decades before the likes of Westfield and Brent Cross came to London, those who wanted to shop in comfort headed to one of the capital’s arcades. Like the mega malls of today, these arcades featured numerous shops under one roof, providing a sheltered retail experience whatever the weather. However, as well laid out as these modern fashion meccas are, they just can’t compare to the historic and upmarket designs of the late Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods. As part of Metro Girl’s series on the five historic arcades of Mayfair and St James, Part 3 will be focusing on the only surviving Victorian one – the Royal Arcade.
London’s first ever shopping arcade – the Royal Opera Arcade in St James opened in 1818, with the Burlington Arcade in Mayfair following a year later. The Lowther Arcade was established in The Strand in 1830, but unlike its contemporaries, it didn’t survive far into the 20th century when it was demolished in 1904. After the Lowther opened, it was a 49 years before another arcade joined the capital’s retail industry.
The Royal Arcade was originally known as simply The Arcade and was first envisioned in 1864 as a link between Old Bond Street and Regent Street. However, these proposals were rejected due to the required volume of demolition of existing buildings. However, the plans were revised into its current design by Victorian architects Thomas Archer and Arthur Green (1847-1904). Archer & Green shared a practice for over 15 years before going their separate ways in 1889, during which they designed Whitehall Court, No.1 Cambridge Gate and the Hyde Park Hotel (now the Mandarin Oriental). Green was the father of Leslie Green (1875-1908), who designed many of London’s tube stations, including Oxford Circus, Camden Town, Covent Garden, Holborn and South Kensington. His stations are recognisable due to their ox blood red tiling on the buildings’ exteriors.
The Clarendon Hotel on Albemarle Street was demolished in 1870, freeing up the space for construction of The Arcade, which opened in 1879. In contrast to the older shopping arcades of the capital, The Royal Arcade is a lot more ornate in design. The two-storey arcade features curved bay windows on the ground floor with Ionic columns separating the 16 shops. The first floor features cast iron balconies overlooking the walkway. Looking up, the aisle is covered by a saddled glazed roof and arches with stucco detailing. Meanwhile, the orange and white façade of the building features reliefs symbolising abundance and commerce, caryatids (sculpted female figures taking the place of a column) and a portrait of Queen Victoria.
The history of London’s first ever shopping arcade in St James.
Decades before the likes of Westfield and Brent Cross came to London, those who wanted to shop in comfort headed to one of the capital’s arcades. Like the mega malls of today, these arcades featured numerous shops under one roof, providing a sheltered retail experience whatever the weather. However, as well laid out as these modern fashion meccas are, they just can’t compare to the historic and upmarket designs of the late Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods. As part of Metro Girl’s series on the five historic arcades of Mayfair and St James, Part 2 will be focusing on where it all began; the Royal Opera Arcade – the oldest arcade in the world.
Now you could well be confused wondering why the Royal Opera Arcade is over a kilometre away from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Well the current opera house has only been in its current location since 1847. The current Her Majesty’s Theatre on Haymarket is the fourth theatre to stand on the site and has experienced numerous name changes throughout history. Throughout the 18th and early 19th century, the theatre was renowned as the place in London to see opera and ballet. However, in 1846, Michael Costa (1808-1884), conductor at Her Majesty’s, had a dispute with the owners and switched allegiance to the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, bringing most of the company with him. Theatre Royal, Covent Garden was then renamed the Italian Opera House, eventually becoming the Royal Opera House in 1892.
The Royal Opera Arcade was conceived as an add-on to the second theatre to stand on the site – the King’s Theatre. The original King’s Theatre burned down in 1789 and replaced by a new building in 1791, designed by Michael Novosielski (1747–1795), an architect and former scene painter. When it opened, it was the largest theatre in the country. However, as the 19th century progressed, the theatre was in need of improvement. Regency architect John Nash (1752-1835) and his assistant George Stanley Repton (d.1858) altered the façade of the theatre and increased the capacity of the auditorium to 2,500 in 1816-1818. To the west of the theatre, they added the Royal Opera Arcade. Nash is also famous for designing Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, Carlton House Terrace and many others.