For those of you that follow us on twitter you may remember these beautiful lanterns that we restored in our workshop earlier on in the year. As usual while we are restoring for clients we were slightly evasive the destination of our lanterns, but we can now reveal that the client was one of the fabulous shopping arcades that surrounds London’s Piccadilly. On a recent trip I popped down to the Prince’s Arcade to get some photos, and stopped off for a bit of tourist fun on the way – for my tips for a great day out in Piccadilly and Mayfair read down to the bottom of this post!
The first arcade was built by Lord Cavendish in 1819, to provide a barrier between his home at Burlington House (now The Royal Academy of Arts) and the local riff raff, who threw rubbish over his back wall. Architect Samuel Ware was commissioned to design the opulent Burlington Arcade, which complete with its own guards, the Burlington ‘beadles’, became a haven for the well-heeled gentlemen and ladies of London. Visitors flocked to Piccidilly to buy jewellery, perfumery and fine tailored clothing. The Burlington Arcade still has its beadles, and the Victorian behavioural code they police is still in place. There should be no running, singing, humming or playing an instrument in the arcade, and no bicycles are to be pushed through or ‘unfurled umbrellas’ permitted.
In addition to Burlington you can browse the fine shops of The Royal Opera Arcade (Built 1816-18 by the great Regency landscape architect John Nash), Bond Street’s neo-gothic Royal Arcade (1879), The Piccadilly Arcade (built in 1909-1910 by G Thrale Jell), and finally the youngest of the Piccadilly shopping arcades, Princes Arcade built in 1929-1933, which happens to be the home of our lanterns.
Did you know…The name ‘Piccadilly’ comes from the word ‘pickadill’ which was a type of stiff collar, fashionable in the 17th Century
So back to our lanterns...When they arrived in the shop we thought they looked fabulous, with their black wrought iron frames and clear glass. As fans of sympathetic restoration we were slightly confused when we were asked to powder coat the metal in a pale grey, and fit them with frosted glass.
The lanterns as they arrived to us in the shop
It turns out that the Princes Arcade has recently had a little makeover to make it more attractive to the serious West End shoppers, and having visited the site we couldn’t be more impressed by the finished look of the arcade. It looks very smart with its grey and blue colour scheme, and its refreshing to see that a piece of London’s rich history can be brought into the 21st century without ruining its charm. The arcades are well worth a visit, and I’ve put a little list together of some other attractions if you are visiting the area. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the West End put you off, this alternative shopping experience is worth its weight in GDP.
The Princes Arcade – Amongst the shops in the arcade are the fabulous chocolatiers Prestat, one of the world’s oldest and grandest chocolatiers founded in 1902. Yum!
Fortnum and Mason – OK I am biased as I love their biscuits and have an obsession with buying tinned things for people as christmas presents, but for me Fortnum and Mason’s beats Harrods and Selfridges in the foodie gift department. Their packaging is beautiful and the interior of the shop is majestically gilded and quintessentially English. Apparently its also the favoured food hall of the Royal Family, so you couldn’t be in better company…
Quince Restaurant at The Mayfair Hotel – There are so many fabulous restaurants in this area, particularly if you are looking for something special. I’d recommend skipping the afternoon tea and head straight for the lunch menu at the Quince Restaurant, the turkish inspired food here is truly fantastic and the luxurious decor and warm reception make for a perfect break from the hustle and bustle. What’s not to love?
The Royal Academy of Arts – An obvious landmark in the area but having visited the recent Degas exhibition I was inspired to give this a slot on the blog!
Open top bus tour – We travelled with the Big Bus Company and honestly I can’t recommend this enough. If you enjoy a bit of history and its a nice sunny day an open top bus tour is a perfect way to put your feet up and take in the sights. The commentary was informative and entertaining, and if you are still yearning for more history your ticket covers a Thames boat cruise aswell!