Lamenting the loss of London’s Department Stores — That’s Not My Age

An advert for D.H Evans – which disappeared from Oxford Street in 2001

Who does not like a mooch about their favorite division store? When the pandemic limitations lifted very last 12 months, I headed up to city for a hit of much-missed, immersive glamour. Nothing beats a slow glide up the escalators, sniffing French fragrance on your wrist, past outrageous mannequins and oligarchs (Selfridges) – specially when you have been trapped at property for 6 months.

But 21st-century Oxford Street is a adjusted landscape. At the time, section stores marched its whole size, and their names utilised to roll off the tongue: Marshall & Snelgrove, Bourne & Hollingsworth, Peter Robinson, Waring & Gillow, D. H. Evans (latterly Dwelling of Fraser). The ‘Golden Mile’ was famed for its stunning shopping give. Put up-pandemic, just Selfridges and John Lewis have survived.

We have lost an astonishing 83% of our division shops over the previous six years, from the big chains (Debenhams, Army & Navy, Beales) to cherished independents like Jenners of Edinburgh and Boswells of Oxford. ‘But Mum,’ says my 13-year-outdated daughter, rolling her eyes. ‘Department merchants are so final century.’ Buying has, as we know, moved on.

And yet…


Credit: Image by Glenn Copus/ANL/Shutterstock. The Central Atrium Of London’s Dickins & Jones Department Shop

I have spent the past two a long time immersed in the golden age of browsing, studying my guide on London’s lost department stores. And, unexpectedly, it is created me massively nostalgic for this decorous retail model on the cusp of extinction. Correct from the commence, these ‘Halls of Temptation’ had been built to seduce. Stuffed whole of amazing improvements – from the to start with children’s bicycle (Gamages, 1898), to the first vacuum cleaner (Gorringes, 1903) to the 1st Y-fronts (Simpsons, 1937). Santa’s Grotto was invented by the section keep: J.R. Roberts of Stratford place Father Christmas in a darkened cavern lit by lanterns in 1888. Some 17,000 young children visited.

Even though the West End’s emporia dazzled, some of the most go-receiving firms sprang up in the suburbs. Below, the huge store was the community lynchpin, cossetting buyers with merchandise and services (home furniture repair service, marriage cakes, coal shipping and delivery, clock winding), additionally, the likelihood of a job for daily life. Most of us know another person who worked, having said that briefly, in a section retail outlet, and all of us have our have childhood reminiscences of such areas.

Croydon’s huge ‘houses’ have been specifically amazing. There was Allders, with its sweeping, colonnaded entrance Grants, famed for bespoke tailoring and Kennards, ‘The retailer that entertained to provide, and offered to entertain’. Up on the roof or ‘Playground in the Sky’, you’d locate Wild West reveals, a zoo and Punch & Judy. Downstairs, Mademoiselle Veronica of the Folies Bergère, the World’s Greatest Kicker, would be trying out the hosiery department’s array of silk stockings at 100 kicks a minute. Outdoors, two circus elephants could be blocking the road, publicising a ‘Jumbo Sale’.


Allders office shop – proven 1862 and closed 2012


These ended up phenomenal, stunning, emancipating places. Edwardian girls could linger, un-chaperoned, all working day (thank you Mr Selfridge for the initial ladies’ lav, 1909). But if I could teleport back in time, the place would I go? Lunch at the sumptuous, Art Deco Shinners of Sutton? A style clearly show at Holdrons of Peckham, with its Moderne ‘Lenscrete’ vaulted ceilings (today Khan’s Bargains)? Or a shoplifting spree in the louche gloom of 70s Significant Biba, on Kensington Higher Street, entire with Moorish roof back garden and flamingos?

If you are fortunate more than enough to however reside around a office keep, go mooch all around its classic ecosystem. We can choose none of these spots for granted.



This e-book is for London-lovers, architecture buffs, heritage flâneurs, fashionistas, previous loyal employees, Are You Getting Served obsessives, and any individual who has at any time loved riding the escalator up, up, up.

London’s Misplaced Section Merchants: A Vanished Earth of Dazzle and Dreams (Risk-free Haven Press, £16.99)  The publisher has kindly presented 3 textbooks to give away to TNMA readers. If you’d like to earn a person, make sure you remark under ahead of 10 December 2022.



Tessa Boase sporting a gilet from Maku


Journalist and social historian Tessa Boase life in Hastings with her family.




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