Burlington Arcade

True love took on a new meaning when Lord George Cavendish, Earl of Burlington, commissioned Samuel Ware to build Burlington Arcade as a safe place for his wife and other genteel folk to shop – though it was also alleged that the Earl wanted to oust his neighbours who kept throwing discarded oyster shells (London’s most popular ‘fast food’) into his garden.

Burlington Arcade opened in 1819  ‘for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public.’ It had 51 independent boutiques across 72 units, selling luxuries like hats, gloves and jewellery – it was notably the place to go for a bonnet. At 196 yards long, the beautiful covered shopping arcade was – and remains – one of the longest in Britain.

Today there are 46 boutiques and the Arcade, described as ‘the jewel in Mayfair’, welcomes 4 million visitors a year. In 2019 seven new boutiques opened alongside long-established boutiques like N. Peal, whose cashmere shop has been in the Arcade 83 years. Several boutiques are exclusive to the Arcade – like the Manolo Blahnik men’s shoe boutique, which is the only one in the world.

Burlington Arcade is known too for its celebrated fragrance houses like Roja Parfums, Penhaligons, Frederic Malle, and Atkinsons (that also accommodates a fine gentlemen’s barber) and for hand-made leather goods with cult boutiques Strathberry and Kwanpen.  It’s also home to some of Britain’s most popular global brands like Vilebrequin, Ladurée and Lalique.  It’s the eclectic, quirky mix of prestigious jewellery, watches, macaroons, wine, food, swimwear, leather and cashmere that gives Burlington Arcade such a quintessentially British feel – plus it’s dog friendly.

It stands alongside other prestigious shoe brands like Baudoin & Lange, Mou and Royal Warrant, holders Crockett & Jones.  Burlington Arcade also has an established reputation as London’s premier destination for vintage watches and The Vintage Watch Company, which opened 25 years ago, has the largest collection of pre-owned Rolex watches in the world.  Somlo Omega Vintage and Bell & Ross have their only London boutiques here, amongst the many other watch companies and exciting, independent jewellers like Susannah Lovis, Richard Ogden, Michael Rose, Hancocks, Azza Fahmy, and David Duggen Jewellers.

Fans of the Arcade love its specialist shoe-shine service, delivered since 2006 by the well-known Romi Topi, appropriately outside Church’s.  Another popular and unique feature of the Arcade is its Beadles, originally recruited as guards by Lord Cavendish’s regiment, the 10th Hussars.

The Beadles still wear Regency inspired uniforms and comprise the oldest and smallest police force in Britain. They continue to impose rules laid down by the original Beadles so singing, humming, whistling, riding a bicycle or ‘behaving boisterously’ are all banned. The only two people granted special permission to whistle are Sir Paul McCartney and Jayden.

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