Burlington Arcade Shops
Burlington Arcade is a classic example of Regency architecture, combining heritage with modern shopping for Mayfair’s many visitors. Initially commissioned by Lord Cavendish to be built on his land surrounding Burlington House, he created this covered promenade of shops for the public’s enjoyment, something he has succeeded in even up until this day.
Housing over 40 shops, it is England’s oldest and longest shopping arcade. It runs south from Burlington Gardens, adjoining Piccadilly, parallel to Bond Street. The arched ceiling lets natural light shine in through skylights at the top for an inviting atmosphere that still provides shelter from the capital’s notoriously inclement weather. The shops inside are two stories high, initially providing housing for shop owners, though now used as store rooms and offices. The floor was renovated in 2015, but its owners carefully incorporated a design in keeping with 19th-century architecture. They sourced the stone from British suppliers, including Burlington Quarry, a company founded by a relative of the same Lord Cavendish who commissioned the arcade.
At either end of the arcade, uniformed men in top hats, known as ‘Beadles’, hold the fort. The Burlington Beadle Guard is the smallest private police force in the world. Though their role today is mainly ceremonial, they are always on hand to offer information and directions to visitors. You may be interested in booking a Beadle tour, taking advantage of their unparalleled arcade knowledge. Depending on your time restraints, you can meet with a Beadle for a quick introduction and a photo opportunity or take the entire 45-minute tour along the length of the arcade uncovering its history.
Today, the shops housed under its beautiful canopy are some of the most luxurious, including jewellers, milliners, parfumiers, and even a shoe shine service. As a London landmark, it has also been used as the backdrop for several blockbuster films, including ‘Patriot Games’, ‘101 Dalmations’, and ‘Scandal’.
When was Burlington Arcade built?
It was opened to the public on 20 March 1819 and remained the UK’s oldest and longest shopping arcade. The covered shopping promenade measures 179 metres long and was commissioned by Lord George Cavendish, who owned the nearby Burlington House (now the Royal Academy). Urban legend has it that he wanted to build it to stop people throwing rubbish and oyster shells over the walls of his garden, but it also provided a pleasant place to shop for the local neighbourhood. The completed arcade housed 51 shops and cost almost £32,000 to build, around £2.36m in today’s money. It also had Britain’s first public electric lamps.
Who owns Burlington Arcade?
It was sold to David and Simon Reuben in May 2018 for £300 million. The billionaire brothers have built their fortune through property investment and are the second wealthiest family in the UK, with a combined worth of £18.6 billion. They own several premium spots around London, including the building occupied by the Ferrari showroom in Knightsbridge and the Curtain Hotel in Shoreditch.
Before this, Burlington Arcade had been owned by Meyer Bergman and Thor Equities, who purchased it in 2010. During this time, they invested heavily in refurbishing the arcade, including replacing the floor and introducing a new lighting scheme.
Which is the oldest shop in Burlington Arcade?
It’s not just the arcade with a rich history; many shops inside it do too. Jewellers Richard Ogden is one of the longest-standing tenants in Burlington Arcade, having opened up shop there in 1951. However, jewellery has been the Ogden family business since 1893, now run by Richard’s son Robert, dating it back even further than its time in the arcade.
Another jewellery store in the Arcade has an even more extended history. Though Hancocks has only occupied a shop in the arcade since 1992, the business itself dates back to 1849. In 1856, Hancocks was entrusted with creating the medal for the highest military award, the Victoria Cross, an honour that the family-run business still holds today.
Who are the Burlington Arcade Beadles?
The Beadles are the oldest and smallest police force in the world. They have been guarding the arcade since it opened in 1819 and were originally members of the family regiment of Lord Cavendish, who commissioned the arcade, known as the 10th Hussars.
The Beadles’ role today is not just security but also upholding decorum, with activities such as singing and running banned. Whistling is also famously banned from the arcade as it was used as a signal between pick-pockets to warn them of approaching Beadles in the early years of its existence. Today, it wouldn’t be hard to spot a Beadle as they still wear Victorian-inspired uniforms created by Savile Row tailor Henry Poole.
What are the opening hours?
Burlington Arcade is open from 9 am until 7:30 pm from Monday to Saturday. On Sunday, the arcade is open from 11 am until 6 pm. Please check notices for opening times during public holidays. The opening times of individual stores situated within the arcade may vary. The arcade is gated at both ends during closing hours.