|Ancestral heritage hunters seeking to combine a little shopping with their historical research will be pleasurably surprised when they visit The Burlington Arcade. There, next to the Royal Academy and opposite Fortnum and Mason, with an entrance on Piccadilly in the heart of London's West End, and next to Bond Street, they will be timewarped into a relic of the Regency, the longest covered shopping street in the British Isles.
The Arcade was designed by Samuel Ware and built by Lord George Cavendish in 1819. Lord George lived next door in Burlington House and built the Arcade, so the story goes, to stop the rowdy Londoners of the Regency years from throwing oyster shells into his garden.
He was the third and youngest son of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire. He was born on 21 March 1754, married Lady Elizabeth Compton, the daughter and heiress of the 7th Earl of Northampton, was raised to the peerage as Earl of Burlington at the coronation of William IV, and died at Burlington House in 1834 aged 80. (The Earldom of Burlington had been previously held by his maternal grandfather who had died without a male heir to succeed him in that title. The new earl was succeeded by his grandson, and after this grandson succeeded his cousin as Duke of Devonshire, the Earldom became linked to that title.)
Lord George (as he was until he became Lord Burlington and moved into the House of Lords) was considered a progressive politician and survived ten Parliaments as an MP, but his most enduring achievement was the building of The Burlington Arcade.
The Arcade remained in the Cavendish family, and later Charles Compton, the great grandson of Lord Burlington, who was raised to the peerage as Lord Chesham, recruited the Burlington Arcade Beadles (the corps first founded by Lord George, as he then still was, to protect the customers from the ruffians of Regency London) from his regiment, the 10th Hussars.
In the ungenerous years of the Regency, veteran soldiers were heartlessly demobilised into civilian life with only their uniforms. Lord Chesham changed that. He gave the élite of his 10th Hussars civilian careers by recruiting them as constables of The Burlington Arcade. It was their job to patrol this long pavement in what was then London`s wild West End.
The Beadles enforced the Regency laws which prohibited singing, humming, hurrying, making merry and staggering around with too many parcels. The Beadles of today still enforce the Regency laws of courtesy, quiet and decorum. They are instantly recognisable in their immaculately tailored Edwardian frock coats, star-bright buttons and, as the last of London's top-hatted 'bobbies', their gold-braided top hats.
Although many languages are spoken in its picturesque cluster of 40 shops, The Burlington Arcade is quintessentially English. This masterpiece of Regency architecture houses a huge variety of the finest quality goods, from designer fashionwear, cashmere classics, cardigans, silk waistcoats and leather shoes, to antique, handmade and modern jewellery, fine linen, embroidery and lace, fountain pens, bone cutlery, Fabergé eggs and a wide selection of antiques.
If you really seek an excuse to go shopping, then by using the occasion to visit one of the shops' museums you will have one. And to count it as historical research, just simply stroll down the length of the Arcade and enjoy its unique atmosphere. Wherever you look you will find traditional personal service and unrivalled excellence providing quality shopping in a serene environment.
Located at: Piccadilly,
Telephone: 020-7734 4511
Opens: Depends upon shop opening times
Closest Subway Station: Piccadilly Circus Station
to see more atrraction at this station)