London has some of the finest, long-established shops whose history is as colourful as the goods they sell. As a celebration of all that is British, just in time for the Queen’s 90th Birthday, Platinum Resident picks out seven of London’s most celebrated emporiums
Words: Rachel Mantock
1 Berry Bros & Rudd
This wine merchant belongs on Diagon Alley, with its exterior the colour of black liquorice, like melted tar running down the sides of the large window arches, settling in glossy lumps on the wall. It was the first wine seller to open an online shop in 1994, but has been trading since the end of the 1600s. The townhouse and cellars house their glorious collection of fine wines and spirits and are also home to their famous wine school. The interior is unashamedly Victorian, with floor to ceiling length iron scales and a striking fireplace.
3 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1EG; bbr.com
2 Lock & Co Hatters
Founded in 1676 by James Lock, this is the oldest hat shop in the world. Seven generations later, it’s still run by the same family at the exact same spot on St James’s Street. Their client list boasts a large number of Prime Ministers, most notably Winston Churchill. Famous for their classic packaging and the renowned Coke bowler hat, a favourite of Charlie Chaplin’s, these hatters are outstandingly bespoke.
6 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1EF; lockhatters.co.uk
3 Prestat Chocolate Shop
Prestat was founded in the 1800s, serving hand-made chocolate truffles to the elite and still makes all its delights by hand today. For years Prestat has supplied chocolates to the British royal family and in 1975 was granted a Royal Warrant as Purveyors of Chocolates to Her Majesty The Queen – which means a box of these luxury chocolates is essential to help the Queen celebrate her 90th birthday! Roald Dahl frequented this colourful emporium of artisan chocolate treats regularly and it’s believed that it gave him the idea for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Hidden at the back of the store is a secret room, containing old packaging and supplies. Owner Bill Keeling swears he has heard the sound of champagne flutes clanking and laughter radiating from behind the secret door.
14 Princes Arcade, London SW1Y 6DS; prestat.co.uk
4 Maggs Bookshop
The distinctive smell of old books – floral notes mixed with almond and undertones of vanilla – hits you as soon as you open the door. It’s the type of place that makes you feel instantly wiser just for having been there. This seller of period literary works, packed with first editions and collectables galore, had its humble beginning in the mid 1800s. They handle manuscripts and novels of the highest quality and value, often lending their expertise to some of the world’s greatest institutions. Nothing can transport you backwards in time faster than an antique book, full of age. It’s escapism at its finest.
46 Curzon Street, London W1J 7UH; maggs.com
5 The Map House
This antiquarian map seller is the oldest in London and has supplied maps to Prime Ministers and the Royal family. Edward VIII was so intrigued by all the old and yellowing maps contained inside The Map House that he used to sneak out of the Palace and work, unpaid, in the basement. Churchill sourced his maps of the Far East from the original shop on St James’s Street, as did Ernest Shackleton with his maps of the Antarctic. As if ancient maps weren’t fabulous and Columbus-esque enough, this Nomad’s paradise also stocks a range of antique telescopes and globes, from English terrestrials to planetarium tellurians.
54 Beauchamp Place, Chelsea SW3 1NY; themaphouse.com
6 Arthur Beale
Originally called John Buckingham and situated on the banks of the then flowing Fleet River, this nautical wonder made ropes for ships and boats four centuries ago. Shaftesbury Avenue has been its home for the last 120 years, where it sits looking like something that has been plucked off an untouched seaside coast and dropped into London. Still habitual in its interior aesthetic and selling customary maritime merchandise such as wire, hooks and compasses, the shop conjures up thoughts of a former, simpler time. It has become the go to place for a classically fashionable Breton striped sailor’s shirt.
194 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JP; arthurbeale.co.uk
7 D.R Harris & Co Chemists & Perfumers
Serving the local gentry since 1790, with a traditional carpet the colour of evergreen leaves and waxed wooden cabinets everywhere, this vintage pharmacy is a time capsule from the past. Creamy bar soaps embossed with the D.R. Harris & Co logo, traditional shaving kits and bottled lavender water line the shelves, along with cologne jars and candles. A marble sink sits in the corner on top of a mahogany cupboard, fitted with gleaming metal taps the colour of gold. The most striking features of the store are the original worn apothecary drawers with faded writing and well-used handles, still in use.
29 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1HB; drharris.co.uk