Opening of the Burlington Arcade


Opening of the Burlington Arcade

Piccadilly, London The 20th of March 1819 AD

London's Mayfair has long been a shopping paradise - for those with deep pockets. A major part of Mayfair's allure since 1819 has been the 200 yard long Burlington Arcade, with entrances on Burlington Gardens and Piccadilly.
Lord George Cavendish had acquired Burlington House in 1815, and early on decided to create a commercial development running alongside the late 17th century building. Although it was to prove an extremely successful commercial venture, gratifying the public and offering employment to industrious females (and males - though rather perversely at that time communications to male shopkeepers referred to them as Madame too) as Cavendish had promised, an additional motive is suspected for the construction: Cavendish was annoyed by litter (especially oyster shells - this is Mayfair after all) being dropped in his garden, and by the lack of privacy afforded the front of his house as things stood when it was purchased.
The architect who realised the project was Samuel Ware, and his creation remains a monument to elegance and decorum - one of the units, number 61, is designated as an ancient monument, protected from alteration. This famed decorum is maintained still in no small part by the arcade's private police force, the Beadles. Dressed in toppers and frock-coats the beadles, the first of whom were recruited from the 10th Hussars, ensure the atmosphere of the arcade is not spoiled by intrusions such as whistling, singing, musical instruments - no buskers! - unwieldy parcels being carried, or umbrellas being opened inconsiderately. What they can do about Percy the Poltergeist, said to have been in residence since 1953, is unclear.
The arcade's raison d'etre, of course, is the provision of luxury goods: antiques, jewellery, leather-goods, clothing, and so forth, of the highest quality. But over the nearly two centuries of its existence the Burlington Arcade has made a few little marks in history: Hancocks the jewellers designed the Victoria Cross , and have made every one since its introduction; and shopkeeper James Drew made Gladstone 's famous high collars for him, and dreamed up the soft-collar to the relief of millions of men (although not perhaps Jeeves).

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