Up until the late 17th century, the land behind Piccadilly was mostly green fields owned by the mansions that lined it. When a developer, named Sir Thomas Bond, bought one, he had bigger plans to turn it into an area that could be enjoyed by the wealthy neighbours surrounding it. It was an instant hit. The entire of Mayfair was being developed at that time and those in high society wanted to be a part of this trendy new part of town, whether to live or to socialise. There were invariably a lot of fashionable men and women spotted on the street, as noted in a number of journals from the time, and Bond Street’s relationship with style began. It was busier than its neighbouring streets too as it connected Piccadilly with Oxford Street, making it a prime spot for tailors, chocolatiers, wigmakers and art dealers to move in.
Some of the most famous trend-setters frequented Bond Street, securing it a reputation that remains to this day. In 1784, the beautiful and highly political Duchess of Devonshire called for a boycott of shopping in Covent Garden after its residents voted against her favoured candidate, suggesting people take their business to Bond Street instead. The infamous dandy Beau Brummell was also a regular who didn’t just buy but dictated what the retailers would sell. As such it’s always been the destination for fictional characters in high places too. The street is mentioned in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility as the shopping trip of choice for Marianne and in Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf as Clarissa prepares for her party.
The fashionable types who use to stroll the street purely to be ‘seen’ became known as the Bond Street Loungers and while they did not cause any major disruption, they were generally disliked for being posers. As other parts of the city became fashionable, the Loungers soon moved on and its association with socializing diminished but its reputation for shopping continued.
A few minor developments to the street, such as the edition of the Royal Arcade in 1879 which meant the Clarendon Hotel, a longtime fixture since the street’s early days, disappeared making way for even more shopping. London and the West End has been through many changes since Bond Street first appeared in the 1720s but the road’s luxury appeal as the most desirable shopping destination around has never faded.