One of London’s greatest charms is its mix of old and new, evident everywhere from its architecture to its retail landscape. Our pick of some of the oldest shops in London takes in seven of the city’s most intriguing historic traders, from cigar specialist James J Fox, which supplied Winston Churchill, to Henry Poole, one of Savile Row’s longest-established luxury tailors.
Hatchards, thought to be London’s oldest bookshop, was opened by eponymous founder John Hatchard in 1797. Since its inception, the store has been frequented by some of the most celebrated residents of London and currently holds three royal warrants. To mark its 220th anniversary in 2017, Hatchards has created a special-edition catalogue which features a selection of the best books sold over the years, accompanied by reviews from its passionate team of booksellers. Literary lovers should visit the fourth floor to explore rare and out-of-print books.
Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LE, +44 (0)20 7439 9921
James J Fox
With previous customers including Sir Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde and royalty from Britain and further afield, it’s no wonder that tobacconist James J Fox is world-renowned. The firm has been providing discerning smokers with fine tobacco and accessories since 1787, and its flagship St James’s Street store is also home to a museum which explores the brand’s rich heritage. Cigar connoisseurs should look out for limited-edition releases, such as the Montecristo Dantès. Inspired by the lead character in Alexandre Dumas’s 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo, these luxury Cuban cigars are presented in a beautiful Semi-Boite Nature wooden box.
James J Fox, 19 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1ES, +44 (0)20 7930 3787
Lock & Co Hatters
Founded over 340 years ago, Lock & Co is one of the oldest hat shops in the world. As if that wasn’t enough reason to pay a visit, the renowned shop also holds a royal warrant from the Prince of Wales and another from his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, and created many of the hats worn to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The world-famous bowler hat was invented here and Lock & Co still sells this classic model, alongside a wide array of contemporary and traditional styles. With headwear a key trend right now, this is a must-visit store during your trip to London.
Lock & Co Hatters, 6 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1EF, +44 (0)20 7930 8874
James Smith & Sons
James Smith opened his eponymous boutique in 1830, providing discerning Londoners with beautiful handmade umbrellas – a necessity for all in a city with such unpredictable weather. By 1857, the business had expanded so much that it moved to larger premises on New Oxford Street and it has been trading here for 160 years. Its Victorian façade has been beautifully preserved and its fame is such that it is often referred to simply as ‘the umbrella shop’. If you’re looking to keep out of the rain in style, there is no better destination in London.
James Smith & Sons, 53 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1BL, +44 (0)20 7836 4731
Savile Row is widely regarded as the home of some of the most talented bespoke tailors in the world, and Henry Poole – affectionately called Pooles by its patrons – is often regarded as its founding tailor. The Savile Row store was opened in 1828 and, in 1865, created the dinner jacket (also known as the tuxedo) after a request from the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. Henry Poole is completely committed to the bespoke process, with each client having their own individual pattern and every element of each suit made on the premises by master craftspeople. You simply can’t go wrong with a suit from Henry Poole.
Henry Poole, 15 Savile Row, London W1S 3PJ, +44 (0)20 7734 5985
Paxton & Whitfield
Founded in 1797, this charming cheesemonger has roots dating back to 1742, when Stephen Cullum set up a specialist cheese stall in Aldwych Market. Its popularity soon necessitated a permanent location and in 1772 Cullum’s son Sam opened a store on Southampton Street. It has long been one of the most respected stores of its kind in London and was appointed cheesemonger to Queen Victoria in 1850. Today, Paxton & Whitfield works with the finest traditional cheesemakers in the UK. Its Jermyn Street store, the company’s home since 1835, stocks a delicious array of fine British cheeses alongside leading international varieties. Cheese lovers need look no further.
Paxton & Whitfield, 93 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6JE, +44 (0)20 7930 0259
Fortnum & Mason
The heritage of prestigious department store Fortnum & Mason dates back to 1705, with its headquarters in Piccadilly opening two years later, in 1707. Founded as a grocery, the store has greatly expanded to offer everything from fashion to homewares, and Fortnum & Mason is most famous for its speciality produce and legendary food hall. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, opened to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, is one of the most quintessentially British destinations in London for afternoon tea.
Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER, +44 (0)20 7734 8040