Friday 11 April 2008

Friday 4th April 2008 - Sale of the Century (Shops Over 100 Years Old)

Today’s walk is called ‘Sale of the Century’ - where we visit some of the shops around Holborn that are over 100 years old.

Our guide Aly began today’s walk with a brief mention of several businesses which opened their first shops or offices in Holborn and have become household names. Thomas Cook & Son, (Click here for more information of the history of Thomas Cook) travel agents opened their first office in London in 1862 in Great Russell Street and John James Sainsbury opened his first shop in 1869 with his wife Mary Ann at 173 Drury Lane. This was one of the poorest areas in London at that time and the Sainsburys' shop quickly became very popular for selling high quality products at low prices. Success meant further branches were soon opened in other market areas such as Stepney and Islington.

Thomas Cook

Sainsbury's was founded in 1869 by John James and Mary Ann Sainsbury. They opened their first small dairy shop at 173 Drury Lane, London. Drury Lane was one of London's poorest areas and the Sainsburys' shop quickly became popular for offering high-quality products at low prices. It was so successful that further branches were opened in other market streets in Stepney, Islington and Kentish Town.

The original Sainsburys

In 1878 Gamages ( see HERE for more information) opened in Holborn Road on the site of what is now W.H.Smiths and closed in March 1972. It was a department store founded by Mr. A.W. Gamage but prior to it’s closure it had been unusual inasmuch as it premises were away from the main Oxford Street shopping area, being on the edge of the City of London in Holborn.


We walked down Kingsway , around into Aldwych and thence to the Strand to find Twinings Teas. In 1706 Twinings was one of the first companies to introduce tea drinking to Britain. They opened their shop at 216 The Strand where is remains to this day. In 1706 coffee was a more popular drink when Thomas Twining (1675-1741) opened Thoms Coffee House in Deveraux Court. But as tea grew more popular the emphasis changed and they moved to The Strand to The Golden Lion Shop which has the smallest shop front in London. The elegant entrance were designed by Richard Twining, Thomas’ grandson in 1787. There are lions and two Chinese figures who represent Chinese tea. Richard Twining was also involved in the Tea Duty Commutation Act of 1784 which reduced the tax on tea so spreading that great British tradition of drinking tea across the country as it became more affordable. There are some very interesting portraits inside the shop, and it is well worth a look. This claims to be the oldest shop in London continually run by the same family in the same location. (Find more information HERE)

From Twinings, we crossed over The Strand and walking past the Royal Courts of Justice we turned up Bell Yard and across Carey Street into Lincoln’s Inn Archway to find Wildy & Sons Legal Bookshop. It is ideally situated close to the Royal Courts of Justice and the Inns of Court. The shop was founded in 1830 and has always been a family business although the last Wildy died more than 30 years ago. The Simkins family have been partners in the business for over a century and John Simkins, the current proprietor is still maintaining the traditions and standards that have endeared Wildy’s to generations of legal practitioners. It is considered the best stockist of legal books anywhere in the world.

Wildy & Sons

A short walk across New Square to Star Yard brings us the back of Ede & Ravenscroft, bespoke tailors to royalty, the legal profession as well producing ceremonial robes for churchmen and academia as well as individual customers. The front of the shop faces Chancery Lane. Click HERE for more information.

Ede & Ravenscroft, Star Yard

The Shudall family, respected tailors founded the business which would later become Ede & Ravescroft in 1689 and were entrusted with the ultimate commission - creating the robes for the coronation of William and Mary. It is a testament to the skill of the generations of tailors that they have made the ceremonial robes for every coronation since that date. They are also famous for wig making providing wigs for the judiciary. Thomas Ravenscroft opened his first shop in Serle Street making wigs. It was following the marriage of Joseph Ede to Rosanna Ravenscroft in 1871 that brought the two famous families together and add wig making to the range of services.

Today the shop continues to produce the wigs and ceremonial garments that have made them famous and although Ede & Ravenscroft are thought to be the oldest firm of tailors in the world it is still as contemporary as it is traditional. They are the leading wig makers of forensic wigs in the world and still make the three main types - they are the Full Bottomed Wig worn by judges on ceremonial occasion such as the State Opening of Parliament, the Short Bench Wig worn by judges in court and the Bar Wig worn by barristers. They are still made from horsehair and the patent was originally issued in 1822.

From l to r: The Full Bottomed Wig; The Bench Wig and the Bar Wig

We then crossed Chancery Lane and through Staple Inn to High Holborn to Shervingtons Tobacco Shop which was founded in 1864. Called Ye Olde Tobacco Shop. A picture of the shop can be seen on the tins of Old Holborn tobacco. There used to be a tobacco factory in nearby Holborn Buildings which would supply the shop, but this disappeared many years ago.

Well that’s all for today. Hope you enjoyed it!

Photos of Twinings, Wildy & Sons, Ede & Ravenscroft and Shervingtons all copyright Orlicat

1 comment:

Robert Cutts said...

I have put your photo of Gamages on my GEC History site at I hope that's OK. If not please let me know. I would like to acknowledge it with a suitable name. What should I use?
Robert Cutts javascript:void(0)