Shopping, that had become the fashion among the upper class women in the 18th century, now came
into its own. New shops sprung up in the fashionable areas, catering especially to the idle rich. At this
time furriers Nicholay and Sneiders, the lace warehouse of Haywards and Carters, till the traveling
outfitters, all established themselves in Oxford Street. Clark & Debenham we've already mentioned
with bootmakers Peal & Co as their close neighbors in Cavendish Square. Up Knightsbridge we
find linen-drapers B. Harvey & Co (today Harvey Nichols) opening its doors in 1813. Although
the Royal Exchange, the first ever British shopping mall, opened already in 1568, the time
of the shopping mall, the galleria and then department store was just beginning.
On of the premier shopping malls of Regency London was the Western Exchange, also referred to as the Bond Street Bazaar. The Exchange, with it's private art exhibitions on its walls a and strict seller rules, was considered a step above the general run of that type of establishment. Occupying the passage between No 10 Old Bond Street (It's official address) to the back of No 14 in what later became the Burlington Arcade, which it predates by a few years, it was quite often used as a shorcut to it, particularly in rainy weather b. The Western Exchange consisted of one large room, fitted out with stalls. c
In an advertisment from 1832 it's written up as "consisting of a noble, spacious, and lofty building, lighted by skylights, arranged on the principal floor, which is 89 feet long, and 57 wide, as a wholesale warehouse, with two handsome staircases leading to galleries, supported by columns, partly ornamented with gilt and Corinthian capitals; conveniently placed counting-houses, recesses with glazed doors, and domestic apartments." Four years later, on 26 March 1836, the building was destroyed by fire and the Regency incarnation of the Wester Exchange sang its swan song. d
One of the early gallerias of Georgian London was the Panteon Bazaar. The Pantheon began its existens as a theater that first opened in 1772 but was soon more popular in its guise of public assembly rooms where regular and masqued balls were held until finacial troubles shut it down. e
Perhaps the very first department store as we know them was the establishment of Harding, Howell & Co, in 1809 situated at No 89 Pall Mall. A contemproary source describes the store:
The shop lasted till around 1820 when Howell set up a new business partnership with James at No 9 Regent Street. i
Growing tired of people throwing oyster shells in the lane running alongside his house, j so the story goes, Lord George Cavendish decided to turn the passage to good use and the Burlington Arcade , perhaps the oldest shopping center still in operation, opened it's gates on March 20, 1819. k
We have no list of the shops at the opening day but in 1828 the Arcade hosted 55 shops: eight milliners, eight hosiers or glovers, five linen shops, four shoemakers, three hairdressers, three jewellers or watchmakers, two shops apiece of lacemen, hatters, umbrella or stick sellers, case-makers, tobacconists and florists, as well as a shawl seller, ivory turner, goldsmith, glass manufacturer, optician, wine merchant, pastrycook, bookseller, stationer, music seller and engraver. l Nearly two centuries later the Arcade is still open for business, it's Beadle still guarding the entrance and still a place to find high quality "Hardware, Wearing Apparel and Articles not Offensive in appearance nor smell". Shopping Regency London is still possible!
1. Western Exchange 1817
2. Pantheon Bazaar in Oxford Street. C J Richardson
3. Linen draper: Messrs. Harding Howell & Co, in Pall Mall, London, by Ackermann, 1809
4. Burlington Arcade, North entrance, 1819
5. Burlington Arcade, interior, published in a c.1840 edition of "Curiosities of great Britain, England and Wales Delineated....by Thomas Dugdale Antiquarian"
Notes on the text:
a: JOHN MARTIN 1828 The 'Fall of Nineveh' is privately exhibited at the Western Exchange, Old Bond Street from 12th May until September. Visitors include Sir Walter Scott, Earl Grey, Sir Thomas Lawrence and B.R. Haydon. Being unsold, this is then toured to major UK cities. A 'The Deluge' mezzotint is published.
b: The Western Exchange is principally used as a short-cut from Bond-street to the Burlington Arcade, in wet weather; and is chiefly celebrated for the extreme difficulty encountered in finding out the entrance from the latter place, which is most ingeniously concealed, to puzzle novices and afford a little harmless perplexity, in a pastry-cook's shop. Punch, Jan.-Jun, 1842
c:In this street, on its eastern side, about the year 1820, was a bazaar, called the Western Exchange, consisting of only one large room, well furnished with a variety of stalls. It had an entrance in the rear into the Burlington Arcade. The bazaar did not, however, prove a success, and soon passed away. Old and New London: Volume 4 1878
d: On 26 March 1836 a fire had destroyed the Bond Street Bazaar or Western Exchange which ran from No. 10 Old Bond Street to the back of No. 14 in the arcade. The fire spread into the arcade through an iron door accidentally left open and destroyed Nos. 12–15 and 58–61. (ref. 12) In 1871 another fire caused extensive damage to a number of shops, some being reported to be 'gutted and destroyed'. (ref. 13) Survey of London: volumes 31 and 32 F. H. W. Sheppard 1963
e: "A Guide to London Theatres, 1750-1880", The Revels History of Drama in English, Vol. VI: 1750-1880
f:The Physiology of the London Idler. Chapter 4.-OF THE PANTHEON, CONSIDERED IN RELATION TO THE LOUNGER.
THE liberal person who threw open this bazaar as a pleasant cut, in wet weather, from Oxford-street to Marlborough-street, conferred a boon upon the Regent-street Loungers for which they cannot be too grateful. It combines the attractions of the Zoological Gardens and National Gallery, together with a condensed essence of all the most entertaining shop-windows; and the passages between its counters, on the ground-floors, form a curious maze, or labyrinth, exceedingly perplexing to novices anxious to arrive at the other end; whilst the approaches abound in objects of interest to the lounger - the most attractive one being the al fresco and gratuitous exhibition of wax-work at the door of the tailor's opposite. The lounger is lost in admiration of the fit of the coat which adorns the gentleman, and wonders if his waist could possibly be made to look so small.
The majority of the loungers have a prevalent idea that wherever they may be, they themselves form the chief points of attraction and hence they do not regard objects so much with the intention of looking at them as with the notion that they are being looked at the whiles. This is the reason why many of them incline to the chairs against the pillars, in the gallery up-stairs, the possession of which seats, they think, qualifies them for temporary men-about-town - a term applied to those individuals who make themselves conspicuous everywhere but in respectable private society; and from this exalted situation they gaze upon the crowd below with the high bearing which a person who has been fortunate enough to get an order for a private box at the theatres assumes towards the occupiers of the pit. It is generally supposed to be a variety of the same induces people to give apples and buns to the elephants and bears at the aforesaid Zoological Gardens. They do not care a straw whether or no the animals are hungry; but the act of feeding elevates them for a time above the throng of lookers-on, and makes them (as they think) of importance.
Should there be any pretty girls behind the stalls - a circumstance by no means uncommon at the Pantheon - the lounger frequently passes backwards and forwards, to create an impression by his stylish appearance; and whilst he is, to all appearance, minutely inspecting with much interest the packets of soap and side-combs at a neighbouring counter, he is inwardly thinking whether his trousers set without twisting, and if his attitude shows off his figure to the best advantage in the eyes of the admired one. We have stated the means of the lounger are limited, and, therefore, he does not lay out much money at the emporiums. Admitting, however, that he could occasionally make a few purchases, these would not much assist his Suit, since the most handsome marchandes appear attached to the sale of feminine wares: and allowing his readiness and power to buy, still babies' caps, habit-shirts, and worked collars, although useful in the abstract, are not much in his line.
Perhaps the only thing which annoys him is the sudden appearance of the stall-keepers at his elbow, as if waiting for an order, when he stops to look over any amusing counter. This is a pantomimical way of saying, "What do you wish to buy, sir? "-a refinement upon the common practice of less retiring young ladies who preside over bread-stalls at fairs, and who, with a shade more of delicate familiarity are wont to accost passers-by with the salutation, "Now, my dear, let me put up a pound of these spice-nuts for you." By the way, we never correctly understood the exhibition of so much unflinching perseverance in the sale of what we always deemed an exceedingly nasty compound of flour, dirt, and treacle. The Conservatory is the portion of the Pantheon which the lounger loves to frequent, next to the galleries. He is a walking price-current of the rise and fall of the stocks - and other flowers; he knows the value of the various bouquets, and the situation of the rare plants; and he is upon terms of almost familiar acquaintance with the cockatoos and gold-fish; indeed, his feeling towards the tame macaw is one of real gratitude, for having so often attracted the notice of old gentlemen inclined to zoology, who, solely occupied with scratching the bird's poll, are unmindful of the flashing glances their pretty daughters are throwing around, in the general sunshine of which the delighted lounger participates - thinking, even, that they are meant for him alone.
Were we allowed to suggest an improvement, it would be that the divan-looking apartment at the extremity ought to be converted into a smoking-room; and, as he passes through it, to make a sortie into Marlborough Street, he steals a momentary glimpse of his appearance in the looking-glass - of course, by pure accident - and assumes an imposing carriage, that he may produce an effect upon the individuals who usually occupy the seats "to see the company go in and out" and appear formed of nursery governesses, old maids, and people from the country, conglomerated together in different proportions; for, in this little passage, hall, compartment, or whatever it may be called, nice persons are rarely to be met with as pretty girls in omnibuses or whitebait at Twickenham. The lounger used at one time to stand in awe of the door-keepers, from his constant visits, which, he thought, attracted their notice; but now they take no heed of him, neither does the Lascar who sweeps the crossing, who, finding his solicitations never replied to, has given the lounger up as a bad job, and placed him, at once, on the free list. Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1842
g:"The Pantheon is also a thoroughfare from Oxford-street to Marlborough do., and is mostly frequented by governesses with their charges, and lovers of zoology. At one extremity is a conservatory of unknown plants, and evergreen shrubs, occasionally disposed of to horticulturalists who are equally so; and a fountain and basin, filled with what are presumed at first sight to be live red herrings, but which prove to be gold fish upon close examination. There is also an excellent gallery of perpetual pictures upstairs; to which the public are admitted with orders - never to poke sticks or parasols against them. An ancient attendant perfectly recollects the sale of one of these pictures some years back." Punch, April, 1842
h: From Ackermann's Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics (1809) 'Harding, Howell, & Co.s grand Fashionable Magazine, No. 89, Pall Mall' (Plate 12: Vol. 1, No. 3, March 1809)
i: M. Corina, 'Fine Silks & Oak Counters', published by Hurchingson Behman 1978.
j: The Gentleman's Magazine, 1817, part II, p. 272
k: General information on the shopping center can be found under 'Burlington Arcade' ub Survey of London: volumes 31 and 32: St James Westminster, Part 2 (1963), pp. 430-34.
l: Robson's London Commercial Directory, 1828