The Original Mall

Dating back to 1819, the Burlington Arcade was designed by Samuel Ware “for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public.” It was commissioned by Lord George Cavendish, Earl of Burlington and owner of the adjacent Burlington House, as a safe place for his wife and other genteel folk to shop – as well as a way to block neighbours from tossing discarded oyster shells (the era’s most popular ‘fast food’) into his gardens. It opened with 51 independent boutiques selling luxuries like hats, gloves and jewellery, with shopkeeper dwellings on the upper level.

The Arcade was guarded by Beadles recruited from Lord Cavendish’s regiment, the 10th Royal Hussars. The Beadles continue to wear Victorian-inspired uniforms today, and are the oldest and smallest police force in the world.

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The Burlington Arcade is one of Britain’s oldest shopping malls, designed in 1818 by architect Samuel Ware. It was commissioned by Lord George Cavendish, Earl of Burlington and owner of the adjacent Burlington House, as a safe place for his wife to shop.

The Regency-style building was completed in 1819 and housed 51 independent boutiques selling luxuries like hats, gloves and jewellery. The Arcade was guarded by recruits from Lord Cavendish’s regiment, the 10th Royal Hussars. Known as Beadles, they continue to wear Victorian-inspired uniforms today, and are the oldest and smallest police force in the world.


James Drew, who made high starched collars for the likes of Prime Minister William Gladstone, was the first Burlington Arcade retailer to be awarded a Royal Warrant in 1830. He set the trend for the Piccadilly collar, and went on to invent the soft collar.


In March 1836, a fire ripped through the Bond Street Bazaar and an open door caused it to spread through to Burlington Arcade, destroying the shops in No. 12-15 and 58-61.


Hancocks was granted a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria, who entrusted the company with the making of the Victoria Cross, the highest military award for gallantry in the British armed forces, a tradition it continues today. The design was approved in 1856 and the first presentation ceremony took place in 1857.


In an article about prostitution in London in 1862, journalist and playwright Henry Mayhew wrote that the “upper chambers” of the Burlington Arcade had become a “well-known resort of cyprians of the better sort.”

The prostitutes would reportedly whistle to warn pickpockets below if a Beadle was coming. This activity prompted the Beadles to issue a ban on whistling, which is upheld to this day - unless you’re Sir Paul McCartney, who was granted a lifetime exemption after being caught whistling by a Beadle while walking through the Arcade in the 1980s.


Another fire tore through part of the Arcade in 1871, causing significant damage to several shops, said to have been “gutted and destroyed”.


The Burlington Arcade passed into the possession of the Chesham family, whose coat of arms and motto ‘Cavendum Tutus’ (Secure in Caution) adorns the Burlington Gardens entrance of the Arcade.


Lord Cavendish’s great-great-great-grandson Lord Chesham, who had inherited the Arcade, commissioned architect Professor Beresford Pite to oversee the construction of offices over the Piccadilly entrance. The extension was designed in keeping with Ware’s original frontage.


Lord Chesham sold the Arcade out of the family in 1926. It was then sold again, just a few months later, to the London Freehold and Leasehold Property Co. Ltd for £330,000.


The Piccadilly frontage of the Arcade was transformed in 1931, when the London Freehold and Leasehold Property Co. Ltd. replaced the iron railings and Ionic screen with a wide arch, opening the entrance of the Arcade onto the street.


Another fire broke through the Arcade in 1936, sending retailers and shoppers into such chaos, many stores were looted.


Samuel Ware’s Burlington Gardens facade was replaced by a wide arch in 1937 to match the Piccadilly entrance.


In September of 1940 during the Blitz, a bomb hit the junction of Burlington Gardens and Cork Street, destroying four shops around the northern entrance of the Arcade.


Restoration of the Arcade after the bombing finally began in 1952, just in time for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, who passed the storied property in her procession through London.


The first sighting of a poltergeist named Percy was reported in 1953. He is said to have rearranged a display of briefcases and handbags in a perfect semi-circle at the Unicorn Leather Company.


In June of 1964, a Jaguar Mark X containing six masked men charged through the Arcade and robbed the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Association of £35,000 worth of goods, before reversing back through the Arcade and escaping. They were never caught. Bollards were placed at either end of the Arcade to prevent such a robbery from taking place again.


The Burlington Arcade marked its 150th anniversary with an evening reception during which guest of honour Princess Alexandra unveiled a commemorative Wedgwood plaque.


In 1976, Burlington Arcade jeweller Richard Ogden was asked if he might close his store for a brief visit from movie star Ingrid Bergman. Ogden obliged, and positioned a member of staff at the door to deter any other shoppers. When an elderly lady approached, he explained that the store was temporarily closed, adding: “Have a look, can you see who’s in there?” Peering through the window, the woman replied, “Of course I can see, it is dear Mr Ogden.”


The Burlington Arcade made its first appearance on film in the 1989 film Scandal about the Profumo Affair, starring John Hurt, Joanne Whalley and Bridget Fonda.


The Burlington Arcade served as a filming location for the 1992 Harrison Ford film Patriot Games. An IRA operative is seen emerging from a bookshop within the Arcade. It can also be seen in a chase scene in the 1996 Disney adaptation of Dodie Smith’s 101 Dalmatians, starring Glenn Close and Joely Richardson, while the Piccadilly frontage can be glimpsed in 2011’s My Week With Marilyn, starring Michelle Williams.


Thor Equities and Meyer Bergman acquired the Burlington Arcade in 2010 for £104 million. Architect Michael Blair was recruited to restore the Arcade, installing a new floor designed by Jamie Fobert, as well as uplighting to celebrate the building’s historic features.


In May 2018, the Burlington Arcade was sold to David and Simon Reuben for £300 million.