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26 February 2010

Go shopping in Britain's first shopping arcade

Opened in 1819, Mayfair's Burlington Arcade was Britain’s very first shopping Arcade, and still claims to be the longest covered shopping street in England. You have to be pretty rich if you want to build a shopping arcade in Mayfair to stop people throwing stuff over your wall, but that's apparently why Lord George Cavendish built the Burlington Arcade, so sick was he with passers-by throwing oyster shells into his garden.

The arcade is pretty upmarket, and there is little the likes of your author would realistically want to buy. It is pretty, however, and its smart uniform shop fronts and a glazed roof are given even more charm by the uniformed Burlington Arcade Beadles who patrol the length in top hats and tailcoats, claiming to be the smallest police force in the world.

When the arcade opened, the Beadles were hired to ensure that no whistling, singing, playing of musical instruments and running took place. These rules were reputedly to stop thieves and pick-pockets from communicating and fleeing, but the carrying of large parcels, opening of umbrellas or use of babies’ prams in the arcade was also forbidden.

These rules are still enforced to this day and your author can certainly vouch for it, having faced the wrath of a senior Beadle and narrowly avoided ejection whilst attempting a test whistle in December. For more on all aspects of the arcade, see http://www.burlington-arcade.co.uk/

^Picture by Phil_Parker^


  1. I was very interested in shopping arcades in different cities throughout last year. This was especially true with the early arcades like Burlington, because they "set the standard":

    Then have a look at how Melbourne, Sydney and other cities modelled themselves on Burlington. They are gorgeous!

    I will create a link to your Burlington because I love your photo better than I love mine :) Thanks

  2. Oh, I love that you tested out the whistling ban. What dedication for your readers! Rx

  3. I also went there in December and saw a shop selling special rotating mechanical boxes that a self winding watch can be attached to so that the watch will keep time even when the owner isn't wearing it. That's all the shop sold. How useless is that ?

  4. Thanks for your comments guys.

    Hels - really interesting to read your article. It's not my photo (see credit at the bottom) but I agree it's a good one.

    Roshni - I try do my best, but I think it was more brought on by my inability to take figures of authority in silly uniforms seriously.

    And Mark - It seems to be full of that sort of useless rubbish. I do not understand how people make money from selling this stuff. I assume they just have rich mummies and daddies.