Piccadilly Arcade, London


Running from Piccadilly to Jermyn Street, Piccadilly Arcade is home to a beautiful set of individual shops, mostly very high-end, and the majority catering for stylish menswear. It is rather appropriate, therefore, that at the Jermyn St end of the arcade, there is a sculpture of the original leader of (upper-class) men’s fashion, Beau Brummel.

The arcade has its own website, with a map of the current tenants of the shop units, and a description of each. New & Lingwood, at one end, is a treasure trove in itself, not only for its extraordinary range of things like men’s dressing gowns, but also for its little bits of history dotted around its walls, including old advertising posters. The men serving there were also happy to tell some of the stories of the arcade, relating how it had been bombed in 1941, causing the shirt-makers, Budd’s, to move from the Jermyn Street end (which was more badly damaged) to its current spot at the Piccadilly end.

There are men’s shoe shops, men’s grooming, a shop specializing in men’s waistcoats, and even a military memorabilia shop. There is now one business selling women’s clothes, and in another change of direction for the arcade, there is a branch of the café chain Paul. A small shop selling art books forms a nice connection to the post-war tradition for this arcade to house small art galleries (see Pick of the Past below).

The shop fronts are all in stylishly-curved glass, with marble bases, and fine marble flooring. The highlight overall surely, though, must be the two round domed windows bringing light into the arcade below. The row of lamps hanging down along the full length of the arcade are probably more recent additions, but they maintain the vintage feel of this impressive place.

My favourite shop today

I love New & Lingwood’s men’s dressing gowns. I just hope one day I have the resources to pay for one. A beautiful shop, with so much style and equal amounts of history.

My pick of the arcade’s past

When it opened in the spring of 1910, most of the units were occupied by companies which had been established in London for some time, but chose to move into the new arcade, with its fine domes and stylish shop fronts. One of those still survives today – Budd’s, which defined itself then as a ‘hosiery store,’ is now on the Piccadilly end of the arcade, specializing in shirt-making. The store used to be at the Jermyn Street end of the arcade until a bomb fell on the buildings opposite during the War, forcing a number of businesses in Piccadilly Arcade to move.

A 1918 incident involved the owner of a blouse shop in the arcade and the woman she employed to manage the store. Both accused the other of assault after the owner dismissed the manager for not properly looking after the clothes on display. At the court case, the shop manager was found guilty of punching the owner in the head and side of the body; the counter-charge of assault was dismissed, a fine of 5 pounds being imposed on the woman who had lost her job.

A flower shop was opened at No 12 in the arcade in 1920 by a Scots Guards officer who had been blinded in the Great War. Douglas Hope was apparently greatly skilled at picking floral displays, and was known to provide the flowers for many a society wedding in the 1920s. He called his shop ‘Victory’. Although he learned the art of floral arrangement at St Dunstan’s, he was familiar with most of the churches in London where big weddings were held, so could give instructions on which colours to pick.

There was a massive fire in the arcade in 1964, which caused damage worth millions in today’s money to works of art in the Hallsborough Galleries in the arcade. Vandals had entered the arcade and caused damage to a number of shops, and it was thought that one of them may have lit a piece of paper and slid it into a ventilation plate causing the fire to start. A taxi driver spotted the blaze, but not in time enough to save the paintings, including an original Canaletto.

This arcade in films or books

The 1986 Neil Jordan movie Mona Lisa starring Bob Hoskins, Michael Caine and Cathy Tyson had scenes filmed in Piccadilly Arcade

The 1992 movie Patriot Games, starring Harrison Ford, was filmed partly in the arcade.

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Piccadilly Arcade in any other film or book?

Is there a website for this arcade?

Piccadilly Arcade in London does have its own website. Click the link to view.

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