History at The Athenaeum : Dawn Geddes
This months Mayfair Insider series features Freelance Journalist Dawn Geddes, who tells of her family stay at The Athenaeum
6th April 2019
This historic London auction house dates back to 1766 and is still renowned across the world to this day. Christie’s is the place to go to bid on the finest antiques and rarest goods sourced from around the globe, as well as to soak up the atmosphere of a true London institution. The walls of Christie’s have plenty of stories to tell and in 2017, was the place where the most expensive painting was ever sold at auction, when the Salavator Mundi was sold for $450.3 million!
This wine and spirits merchant is another London stalwart – BBR has been operating in London since the 1600s! It’s actually one of the top ten oldest family-run businesses in the UK and its St James’s Street headquarters is now a Grade II listed building. BBR is the place to discover some of the world’s finest wines, many of which have a royal stamp of approval, since the company has been supplying wine to the Royal Family since the reign of King George III in the 18th century.
This London alley centring on a small courtyard was developed in the 17th century. It’s named after its developer – Thomas Neale – who was known for being a politician, entrepreneur and gambler! Entering Neal’s Yard feels like stepping back in time, with its historical brick shopfronts and quaint atmosphere. Nowadays, it’s a place to buy lotions from Neal’s Yard Remedies and grab a hot drink from Monmouth Coffee.
This high-end department store started life as a grocery store in the 1700s, when it became known for supplying high quality food to the Victorians. It was so successful, it eventually expanded into a department store, and is known as being a luxury shopping destination today. It’s especially well-known for luxury foodstuffs such as teas and jams, but plenty more can be found here. William Fortnum – founder of the store – was a great entrepreneur. A mere footman in the household of Queen Anne, he sold unused wax from candles in the royal household for a profit, and started his empire from there on!
This luxurious covered shopping strip was originally the garden of Burlington House, which was transformed into a covered shopping area after too many passers-by annoyed the family by throwing oyster shells over the wall! Small shop units were subsequently created for London’s artisans to sell their wares in Burlington Arcade, and a range of luxury brands and talented creatives sell goods here today.
For those looking to purchase an umbrella, there is one shop in London known just for this speciality! James Smith & Sons has been selling umbrellas since 1830 in the city, with James Smith himself designing some of the most thoughtfully constructed umbrellas in the world. Nowadays, you can also buy walking sticks, seat sticks and other accessories from the store.
Another luxurious covered shopping arcade, this Grade II listed shopping area dates back to the 1800s. The arcade gained the ‘Royal’ in its title when the shirt maker H. Q. Brettell was visited by Queen Victoria in the 1880s. Nowadays this is a luxury shopping destination, with a range of high-end brands and quaint independent owners selling fashions and gifts.
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