Shopping in London


Ludgate Hill with the Cambridge coach leaving the Belle Sauvage Inn
Ludgate Hill with the Cambridge coach leaving the Belle Sauvage Inn

" This afternoon, some ladies, having an opinion of my fancy in clothes, desir'd me to accompany 'em to Ludgate-Hill, which I take to be as agreeable an amusement as a lady can pass away three or four hours in; the shops are perfect gilded theatres...We went into a shop which had three partners, two of 'em were to flourish out their silks and, after an obliging smile and a pretty mouth made, Cicero-like, to expatiate on their goodness; and the other's sole business was to be gentleman-usher of the shop, to stand completely dress'd at the door, bow to all the coaches that pass by, and hand ladies out and in." Quoted from a piece on shops, The Female Tatler, No. 9 from 1709.

Shopping
as agreeable an amusement as a lady can pass away
three or four hours in

Ludgate Hill is an ancient part of London dating from the Roman city. The Lud Gate on this London hill was demolished along with the other city gates in 1760. The area was the most fashionable shopping area in the 17th century. Even after Bond Street became the center of fashionable shops, Ludgate Hill continued to be a busy area of shops and travelers passing through the Bell Sauvage Inn.

"First one passes a watchmaker's, then a silk or fan store, now a silversmith's, a china or glass shop. The spirits booths are particularly tempting, for the English are in any case fond of strong drink. Here crystal flasks of every shape and form are exhibited: each one has a light behind it, which makes all the different coloured spirits sparkle. Just as alluring are the confectioners and fruiterers, where, behind the handsome glass windows, pyramids of pineapples, figs, grapes, oranges and all manner of fruits are on show. Most of all we admired a stall with Argand and other lamps, situated in a corner-house, and forming a really dazzling spectacle; every variety of lamp, crystal, lacquer, and metal ones; silver and brass in every possible shade; large and small lamps.
Up to eleven o'clock at night there are as many people along the street as at Frankfurt during the fair, not to mention the eternal stream of coaches. The arrangement of shops…with their adjoining living rooms, makes a very pleasant sight. For right through the excellently illuminated shop one can see many a charming family scene enacted."

Description by German visitor Sophie von la Roche from Sophie in London, 1786 (translated by C. Williams in 1933). As Sophie observes London shops had long hours generally from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Sir Thomas Bond gave his name to Bond Street The close friend of King Charles II partnered with a group of wealthy bankers and merchants to buy the area from the Duke of Albemarle for £36,000 and develop it.

Old Bond Street was laid out in 1686 extending from Piccadilly to what is now known as Burlington Gardens. It wasn't until 1721 that the street, as New Bond Street, was extended through open fields to join Oxford Street.

By the middle of the 18th century, Bond Street had become a paradise for the fashionable shopper offering an increasing selection of goods both home-grown and imported. This period saw a dramatic increase in consumer goods. As England became more affluent due to trade, a strong middle class developed and trade put money in the pockets of even laborers creating a strong demand for retail goods.



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