The arcade was designed with 72 double-storey shop units, to be filled with wares for the middle and upper classes. In those times, it was described as a destination “for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public”. Nowadays, we describe it more succinctly as a “shopping mall”!
Lord George Cavendish wanted the arcade to give employment to “industrious females” although only six of the original leaseholders were female. Despite this, even the male milliners and corset-makers were referred to as ‘Madame’, which was a common convention in the 1820s. Whoever they were, many of the leaseholders lived in the shop units with their families, in cramped conditions amid their stock. In these early days, Lord Cavendish had Burlington Arcade patrolled by ‘beadles’, who wore traditional top hats and knee-length frock coats. Beadles still keep a watchful eye over the arcade to this day.