The Burlington Arcade - Piccadilly
If you're wandering around Mayfair and Piccadilly, which as I've mentioned before has a reasonably high concentration of pretty swish shops and certainly quite a few that hold Royal Warrants, then you might find yourself in what is the longest covered shopping street in Britain. It's called the Burlington Arcade and has been providing the discerning and generally wealthy customer with antiques and silver, jewellery and watches, shoes, perfumes and fashion accessories since 1819.
Like a lot of places in London, there is often a story attached, and the Burlington Arcade is no exception. The Royal Academy of Arts is now next door, occupying a rather grand building called Burlington House, which gets its name from Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Burlington who bought it in the 17th century. It was a much later occupant, Lord George Cavendish, who in the early 19th century reputedly got so fed up with people throwing rubbish from the adjoining street in to his garden, that he decided to cover the entire street. He did also state that the newly covered street should also be "for the gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females", which strikes me as being somewhat ambiguous.
Either way I can only surmise that Lord George Cavendish was a bit of a worrier and perhaps a bit of a kill joy. My reason for thinking this (aside from the fact that he covered the whole street in the first place), is because he also employed some former members of the Cavendish family's regiment, the 10th Hussars to act as a sort of police force on his covered shopping street. In fact, you can still see them there today (different guys obviously) dressed in Edwardian frock coats and top hats, forming what is apparently the smallest private police force in existence. You can see one of them on the above photo, his back turned, looking down the arcade. They're known as Beadles and still uphold the rules and regulations of the arcade, so if you do happen to go, remember ... no whistling, no open umbrellas, no singing or playing of musical instruments, definitely don't even think about carrying a large parcel and please, please, please ... no babies' prams thank you very much. Oh yes, there's no running either.
As you walk in, you'll notice that there are a couple of rather sturdy looking bollards in the centre of both entrances. They're a reasonably new addition in the grand scheme of things, another security measure, added in 1964 after six masked men drove straight down the arcade in a Jaguar Mark 10, smashed in to a jewellery shop, stole £35,000 worth of bling and drove off again and were never caught. The funny thing about this incident is that it's mentioned in various sources and the car is always, without fail described as a 'Jaguar Mark 10'. Now I've just done it. I know nothing about cars, but evidently this piece of information seems to be of vital importance to everyone and I doubt if it had been ... I don't know ... a Fiesta, it would get mentioned quite so much. Therefore I wonder whether it's because it was a swish car (I'm assuming it was) and that in itself is unusual, or whether the car could accommodate six fully grown men that is so startling. I have no idea.
Either way, it's not particularly important, so I'll end by saying that if you are in the vicinity, then check out the Burlington Arcade and if you're feeling particularly mischievous, then why not see what happens if you whistle, or run. You could even go all out and play a musical instrument. Once you've been swiftly ejected, then head along to the Royal Academy of Arts, and there under the arched entrance you'll find a rather unusual thing ... a wooden telephone box. It's one of the original prototypes known as the K2 telephone box, made in the 1920's and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. I think three were made and placed discreetly around to see how the public got on with them after a competition had been set to find a new design for the now iconic red telephone box. Just thought I'd mention it.
29/5/2013 09:19:29 pm
Amazing facts here! I've walked by and through it many times (just as a shortcut to get to the other side) and never thought much about how it came to existence. Have you ever tested the whistling? I'm going to have to give it a go....
2/4/2016 05:54:26 pm
I was the second owner of the aforesaid Mark 10 Jaguar (a 1962 3.8 automatic, originally registered as AET9 and subsequently registered as 213PPO). At the time of the robbery, (1964), the car of choice was a Jaguar 3.8 Mk2, preferably a modified example (I currently have a 1964 Coombs version, but they would be a little hard to locate in time to execute a raid). My perception, as a long time Jaguar enthusiast, is that the reason for the change from Mk2 to Mk 10 was two fold, the 10 will comfortably accommodate six adult males and it has independent rear suspension, better suited to handling the steps at each end of the arcade. An S-type has the same IRS but not the interior space
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