Quadrant Arcade, London


Originally built in the mid-1920s, Quadrant Arcade has recently had a major refurbishment. Its new look is chic, glamorous, fairly modern in its style, but this is still very definitely an arcade and its position at the bottom of Regent Street gives it real kerb appeal.

I visited first when most of the shop units were still empty, just the two fronting onto Regent Street being occupied – one of these an excellent US-based skin care company claimed to be just a temporary pop-up, but this was still in place on a second visit in January 2024.

The arcade runs from Regent Street to Glasshouse Street, with shop units running along its length over two storeys. There are a couple of vacant units as of January 2024, but the businesses that have set up seem to be quite high-end, from that American skincare company, through handbags to a luxurious looking massage centre.

In the windows of two units are drawings of beautiful trees, marked up as ‘Exploring the great trees of London’.

The internal décor of the arcade bears little resemblance to the original building. But it is still a beautiful arcade worthy of An Arcades Project: the floor tiling is almost mesmeric in the way it draws the eye in; meanwhile up above eye level there is hanging ironwork, most definitely 21st century artwork, but a nice reference back to the original 19th century ironwork supports to so many Victorian arcades in the UK and beyond.

Without seeing photos of the original Quadrant Arcade, it’s hard to compare the shop frontages. They look pretty modern to me now, but the curve in the shop fronts facing Regent Street may well follow the line of the original shop units from almost 100 years ago.

Quadrant Arcade is a nice example of a complete overhaul while maintaining both the original function and intention of the arcade, and respecting the essential ingredients of glass ceiling and ironwork support.

My pick of the arcade’s past

The Bystander newspaper of 15 December 1926 declared the Quadrant Arcade to be ‘The world’s finest shopping centre,’ which it predicted would stand the test of years, and “eventually surround itself with as great a Romance as that of the period which made Regent Street famous.” The shop fronts at the time were decorated in green and gold.

A jeweller entering the arcade in 1927 announced to the media that he had bought from the Soviet Government £100,000 worth of precious gems formerly owned by the Tsar’s family (London Daily Chronicle, 28 November 1927). The Royal Family ended up buying some of the pieces from the arcade firm.

Window cleaners with a link to Quadrant Arcade made the news in the 1950s. First a local window cleaner was arrested when a car was stopped by police on suspicion of being full of property stolen from a tobacco shop in the arcade. The three men in the front seat of the vehicle got away at speed but the window cleaner, who claimed they had just given him a lift home, was caught when he fell out of the car drunk. He was found guilty of the robbery. Months later, bogus window cleaners were caught using their ladders to try to break into arcade shops: police spotted that they were using rags to ‘clean’ windows instead of proper chamois leather.

Stories for this section from www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk c/o The British Library Board: 1) Illustrated London News Group; 2) London Daily Chronicle, 28 November 1927; 3) Westminster & Pimlico News, 2 October 1953, Reach plc

This arcade in films or books

1998 film Croupier, starring Clive Owen, has a scene filmed in Quadrant Aracade.

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?

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

My favourite shop in the arcade

I really loved Malin & Goetz, not just for the friendly welcome when I dropped by in January 2024 (including one of the shop assistants having a great story about one of her – famous – relatives), but they also managed to sell me an excellent travel pack of products in tubes of a small enough size to take on a plane. Impressive. If I could afford it, I’d love one day to try the massage salon at the other end of the arcade, too.

Is there a website for this arcade?

Not that I can see, nor any social media. If anyone spots anything as the arcade gets into full swing after its overhaul, do get in touch and put me right.

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