A brief history of the Burlington Arcade in Mayfair
In August 1815, Lord George Cavendish - younger brother to the Duke of Devonshire - purchased the grand Burlington House, off London's Piccadilly. He immediately set to work with alterations to the property, which at that point was about one hundred and thirty years old, including plans for a piazza of shops alongside it.
In September 1817, an announcement of the piazza's imminent construction was posted in The Gentleman's Magazine, a popular periodical published between 1731 and 1907, stating that it would be:
for the sale of jewellery and other fancy articles... for the gratification of the publick, and to give employment to industrious females
Despite the altruistic nature of this announcement, speculation at the time suggested that Lord Cavendish's primary motive not as first seemed. Like many property owners, Lord Cavendish had the issue of passers-by dropping litter in his garden to deal with. In fact, so concerned was he with the continual dropping of oyster shells on his grounds, that some people claim that is what motivated him to to build along the western side of Burlington House. It is also thought that he was displeased by the open views of his house from the windows of Old Bond Street.
The Burlington Arcade was designed by Lord Cavendish's own architect, Samuel Ware, and ran parallel to Old Bond Street, and almost exactly matched it in length. Entrances to the Arcade were placed at either end: one in Picadilly and one in Burlington Gardens. It contained seventy-two retail units, each with an upstairs space in which shop keepers often lived.
Work was finished on the arcade in 1819, and it opened on March 10th to much acclaim.
Despite subsequent and oft-repeated claims that this was the first shopping arcade in England, it is actually pre-dated by the Royal Opera Arcade, which opened in 1818 on Pall Mall. But whilst the Royal Opera Arcade only had shops along one side, the Burlington Arcade has shops either side of its 200 yard long parade, making the first of its kind recorded in this country.
The Burlington Arcade is patrolled by Beadles - a small private police force. Historically, they were employed to keep out "ruffians" and maintain orderly behaviour. Bluewater shopping centre famously banned hoodies recently, but the Burlington Arcade was upholding similar standards for its time, over 150 years ago with a code of conduct that prohibited singing, running and carrying large parcels. Many of the rules still exist and the Beadles have the power to eject transgressors.
The shops inside the Arcade are mostly luxury accessory shops and include Franchetti Bond, Polistas (as seen on the BBC's Dragons' Den), Pickett, Richard Ogden and Crockett & Jones.
In 2013, a new 180-metre carpet was unveiled for the Burlington Arcade designed by interior design company, Linley.
See also: The Royal Arcade