Page 43

Mayfair even nominally, but there are still fascinating remnants of them. At one time, it was unseemly to carry your own purchases so, having made and paid for your selections, they’d be wrapped up and taken downstairs; there’s a narrow tunnel that spans the length of both sides of the Arcade, along which an employee would scamper, to deliver one’s shopping to a waiting attendant or carriage. These downstairs areas would often house the storekeepers as well as their stock; street urchins would also doss down here, running errands in exchange for a crust of bread and a safe, warm place spend the night.

to create larger stores - Burlington Arcade, which will celebrate its 200th birthday next year, is as rich in history as its shops are in rare and precious goods. It’s also guarded by the world’s oldest and smallest private police force - the extravagantly attired Beadles.

On tour with the Beadles

The Arcade, as impressive and beautiful as it already is, really comes to life on a wander with Head Beadle, Mark Lord. He draws attention to a section of flooring outside The Vintage Watch Company, where a slightly worn patch is testament to the magnetic appeal of the Rolex display; we stand and watch for a while, as (primarily male) passerby after passerby slows their steps and swivels a full 90 degrees to scour the window. There are tales of underworld activities carried out behind the Arcade’s elegant facade of respectability: a rather wonderful character named Madame Parsons, who sold exquisite Parisian bonnets in the mid19th century, was using her store as a front for her brothel in nearby Regent St. This, however, was just one of her duplicitous acts: upon her death it was discovered that ‘she’ was actually a ‘he’. Gender-bending, to at least some extent, wasn’t at all beyond the Arcade’s social mores: in keeping with Lord Cavendish’s aim of giving “employment to industrious females,” everyone working there, regardless of gender, had to be addressed as “Madame.”

Whether Royal or ‘regular’ The Beadles are the world’s oldest and smallest private police force

History lives on

Prostitution also played a significant role in the Arcade’s history, and although this was definitely not encouraged, it’s had a lasting impact on the rules in force within its walls. Whistling, for instance, is to this day prohibited, since this was the signal traditionally used by prostitutes and their pimps, who often inhabited the upper floors, to warn ‘respectable’ gentlemen that the police or beadles were on the lookout; it was also the signal given by people on the upper levels to pickpockets. Some of the other guidelines of bygone days may not still be enforced,

Jewels of unimaginable rarity wink and dazzle from several of the Arcade’s shop windows; in Hancocks, these range from quail-egg sized stones in every colour to a Van Cleef & Arpels brooch in the form of a scarecrow. This jeweller, established in 1849, also has the honour of having produced every single one of the 1358 Victoria Crosses that have been presented since 1857. Elsewhere, heady fragrances scent the air: perfumiers in the Arcade include True Grace, Kilian, Frederic Malle, Chanel, Roja and of course, Penhaligon’s which, like Hancocks, bears a Royal Warrant. “One of the things that makes the Arcade so special is the depth and breadth of knowledge contained within such a small area,” says Mark Lord. He


The gates at either end of the Arcade were installed after an audacious robbery in 1964

Jul_167_RacingLife.indd 41



28/06/2018 12:55

Profile for Thoroughbred Owner Breeder

Thoroughbred Owner Breeder  

Incorporating Pacemaker - July 2018 July's issue features a fascinating interview with Chasemore Farm's Andrew Black who is making his mark...

Thoroughbred Owner Breeder  

Incorporating Pacemaker - July 2018 July's issue features a fascinating interview with Chasemore Farm's Andrew Black who is making his mark...