Crockett & Jones

History of Retail - Burlington Arcade

We explore the history of one of London’s most storied shopping arcades, home to Crockett & Jones for almost 20 years

History of Retail - Burlington Arcade

No visit to the West End is complete without a stroll down Burlington Arcade, a Victorian shopping street that’s as much an architectural marvel as it is a destination for iconic independent brands. Today, thousands of visitors from all over the world pass through it every day in search of luxury watches, fashion, fragrance, and of course for their fix of Crockett & Jones footwear.

The Arcade is celebrating its 200-year anniversary in 2019, so we thought now would be a good time to explore some of its more colourful characteristics. We moved into the Arcade in 2001, and its mullioned windows, polished flooring and lofty cast iron and glass roof is like nothing else in London.

Of course, the Arcade was as impressive in the 1820s as it is today, and was originally built ‘for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public.’ We love a ‘fancy article’, don’t you? Even today, Burlington Arcade maintains many of its original design features, whether the lacquered wooden shop fronts (including our own), wood and brass hanging store signs or the antique polished door handles that are still affixed to some of the shops.

Somewhat bizarrely, the only thing in the Arcade that’s brand new is the polished stone flooring, which was refurbished and relaid just a few years ago. The renovation was undertaken by Jamie Fobert Architects, who chose to pave the floor using only British stone, sourced from the Burlington Quarry, a Victorian quarry in Cumbria, which was originally owned by… guess who?

This meeting of old and new in the arcade is another thing that endears it to Crockett & Jones. It’s a time-honoured London landmark, and we know that shoppers visit the arcade in search of the kind of authentic retail experience that we always try to deliver in our stores.

To this end, the Arcade can even lay claim to supporting the smallest and oldest police force in Britain: the Beadles. These stout-looking gentlemen are a quartet of Beefeater-like security staff, who stand two-by-two at each end of the Arcade. The Beadles were first commissioned in 1819 by the street’s founder, Lord George Cavendish, to keep shoppers and business owners safe.

Today, they wear the very same tailored uniform that they first wore in the 19th century; a black floor-length cape trimmed with brass buttons, a dark woollen waistcoat and a top hat, an ensemble that was designed and tailored by Savile Row’s esteemed Henry Poole & Co., which much like the arcade was the first tailoring house of its kind on Savile Row, founded in 1806.

It’s a funny old place to be sure, and yes, times are changing, but we love Burlington Arcade’s character, its sense of tradition, and its determination to do things its own way. We do the same thing here at C&J, and thankfully it has always worked for us.