Non-essential retail in nineteenth-century London
As we look forward to the re-opening of non-essential retail outlets in England, we’d like to share a book about nineteenth-century London shops. Nathaniel Whittock’s On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London published in 1840 has illustrated descriptions of a variety of businesses and is available as a digital item.
Storr and Mortimer, goldsmiths and jewellers, was situated at 156 Bond Street. It was one of the original shops when the houses in Bond Street were first built. Whittock praised the Ionic style of the shop front for being neat and elegant. The plants appearing through the trellis work gave a light and pleasing effect.
Turner and Clark, mercers and drapers, had premises in Coventry Street, Haymarket. The shop front was decorated with a light, elegant pediment and ornaments of gilt on white-veined marble.
W.H. Ablett & Co was an outfitting warehouse in Cornhill. Both storeys of the shop were used for displaying articles sold there, including swords!
Astell’s wine and spirit warehouse stood at 119 Tottenham Court Road, on the corner of Grafton Street. Two storeys had been converted into one so that huge vats of alcohol could be accommodated inside. Whittock judged the shop front to be grand but not gaudy.
The costly front of Saunders and Woodley, upholsterers, in Regent Street was in the style of Louis XIV. Willock was pleased by the 'very splendid effect', which he deemed quite appropriate for so showy a business. Piers were formed by the trunks of palm trees terminating in foliage, with capitals of burnished gold. The elegant iron railing was coloured bronze to match the carvings.
Bookseller and stationer Grey was given as an example of a shop converted from a dwelling house in a manner that would not breach restrictions in the lease about commercial use. The parlour windows were used to display books, and the shutters were lined with shallow glass cases sufficiently deep to contain prints and other wares.
Evrington’s India shawl warehouse at 10 Ludgate occupied an old building with low ceilings. Whittock thought the frontage simple and elegant, but not in accordance with the magnificence of the interior.
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
Nathaniel Whittock, On the construction and decoration of the Shop Fronts of London, illustrated with eighteen coloured representations, exhibiting the varied styles of the current period, for the use of builders, carpenters, shopkeepers etc (London, 1840)