The Burlington Arcade is a place where people with stories do business. Tradition continues to matter, and craftsmanship, individuality and bespoke service come as standard.
Opened in 1819, The Burlington Arcade is undeniably one of London’s most iconic shopping destinations and remains home to a wealth of superlative brands and specialist stores. Commissioned by Lord George Cavendish originally with an unofficial aim of stopping trouble makers from throwing rubbish onto his property, and officially ‘for the gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females,’ the straight walkway soon became lined with seventy-two small storey units intended ‘for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand.’
Today, this number has lessened to 47 as the stores have expanded and occupied a greater space, although upon entering the arcade one is still met with the same awe-inspiring vision of delicate window fronts and impressive archways. An avenue of rich heritage labels and prestigious brands support the reputable quality of the establishment whilst the vast window-paned roof lends a lightness to the brilliantly illuminated displays. Nestled within the heart of Mayfair, this timeless shopping destination, also England’s longest arcade, exudes an aura of tranquil respectability and faultless dependency; a magical oasis within the hustle and bustle of our metropolitan capital.
Having survived a bombing in 1940 after which arcade was partially rebuilt and became a Grade II listed building, the stoic resilience of the establishment is continually reinforced by the presence of the arcade’s own private police force, the Beadles. Originally recruited from Lord Cavendish’s family, the 10th Hussars, and still sporting traditional Victorian frocks designed on Savile Row, they predate the Metropolitan police force by ten years and oversee that a strict set of behavioural rules are followed within the arcade. One rule of notoriety is the whistling ban which many believe none other than Sir Paul McCartney to be exempt from.
If one were to pause and converse with a Burlington Arcade Beadle, not only would you be sure to learn an impressive amount about the history of each store and the development of the establishment itself, but you would also be treated to a wealth of warming stories gleaned from their experiences with visitors over the years. Anecdotes and encounters between beadles, tenants and customers alike traverse the years with similar themes of comradeship and reliability, traits which make this destination utterly unique within an otherwise largely anonymous London.
With an extensive list of luxury bespoke fragrances, the arcade also houses the UK’s stand-alone stores for multiple brands. These include the phenomenal Roja Dove, Frederic Malle and Killian, the latter of which offers clients a choice of exquisitely crafted, art deco inspired packaging with a range of personalisation options that include bespoke engraving. The refillable and mini carafe lines offer the ultimate sustainable, attainable luxury whilst the infusion of the fragrance’s spirit within the bottle creates a protected scent that is both subtle and seductive. Other first concept UK stores include La Perla Menswear, Bell & Ross, Maison Michel, Barrie, Kwanpen, Cashmirino and Manolo Blahnik. The majority of stores have their own private rooms on the 1st floor and offer their clients specialised, one-to-one bespoke services from within them.
Lustrous cashmere, elegant lingerie and striking swimwear are amongst the clothing options available within the arcade. Twinkling precious gems tempt every eye from a multitude of decadent jewellers. Flawlessly sleek leather footwear is crafted from traditional cobbling techniques and innovative shoemaking technology whilst a myriad of delicious delicacies are on offer to refresh the famished shopper. Opulent crystal wear glimmers with a million technicolour refractions and watches of all vintage, make and style perfectly mark the time in displays either classically simple or impressively complicated. The collective expertise found within each of these store offers visitors impeccably incomparable service.
David Duggan, for example, is not only an especially revered watch specialist but is also the only privately owned watch shop officially approved by Rolex within the UK. As an appointed associate member of Sotheby’s, he is also responsible for valuing their watch collection. With the world’s largest collection of Vintage Omega, Rolex and Patek Phillipe pocket watches as well as the only store worldwide which is dedicated solely to selling vintage Rolexes, the Burlington Arcade has something to offer each and every timepiece enthusiast.
The arcade is also home to the wonderfully charismatic shoe shiner, Romi Topi, who on average shines between 35-45 gentlemen’s shoes per day and has a traditional five step shoe shine stand with all of the finest quality polishes, creams and horse hair brushes. Romi believes that shoe shining should be a part of lifestyle and not just an occasional treat, a real advocate for the proper treatment and care of quality shoes to lengthen their lifespan. With a regular client base that includes the likes of David Gandy and Bill Nighy, Romi’s stand is yet another attribute offering immaculate service and subsequently catering for the cream of society.
The numerous Royal Warrants awarded to Penhaligon’s and Hancocks are an additional testament to the timeless austerity of the Burlington Arcade and the manufacturers that reside within. As the managing director of N.Peal rightly stated ‘The Burlington Arcade is a very special place. Despite the frenetic lifestyle of the modern world, the pace of life naturally slows as you enter. Those essential values of quality, integrity, good manners and exceptional service start to take on real meaning. You can feel and appreciate the importance of history within the building.’
The Burlington Arcade is one of the few remaining destinations in London where that which is quintessentially British and utterly elegant seamlessly fuse with the surrounding modern world. It remains a capsule for all that is long lasting about our national identity whilst also offering a bridge to the contemporary world and the best of its international brands. With exciting new store openings including the likes of Mulberry, Sophie Hulme and Zoe Jordan, the arcade has proudly welcomed a younger generation of world class brands to stand alongside their revered predecessors. As reiterated by the President of fashion, Chanel, the Burlington Arcade combines the best of yesterday with the brightest of tomorrow, and because of this, it is a truly unmissable national destination.