Goodbye Piccadilly

180px-Simpsons_of_Piccadilly_2005 When was the last time you had your inside leg measured? Or for that matter you were asked rather discreetly “and on what side does Sir dress?”

One of the last bastions of sartorial elegance is hanging up its tape measure for the last time at the end of the year.
Baron of Piccadilly one of London’s quirkier outfitters is to close, as Crown Estates their landlord plans to pull down their block for re-development.

Further along the road was Simpsons of Piccadilly, now a Waterstones book store. Simpsons opened in 1936 in what is now a listed building, the Art Deco design was the first shop in Britain to have an uninterrupted curved-glass frontage. This new style was made possible by arc-welding a wide-span steel frame, rather than earlier techniques which involved using bulky bolted joints.

[T]he company built as a quality clothing store specifically for men had the ethos that Simpson of Piccadilly was to be a purveyor of ‘quality clothes for the well-heeled’. Indeed, the store regularly attracted the ‘tweed set’ including Royals, MPs, dignitaries and country landowners.

During the early 1950s, scriptwriter Jeremy Lloyd was employed as a junior assistant at Simpsons; he drew on his experiences to come-up with the idea for the highly-popular television sitcom Are You Being Served?

At least Fortnums are still in Piccadilly, the store that gave you such exotic foods as Harts Horn; Gable Worm Seed; Saffron and Dirty White Candy, and incidentally were the first in 1886 to stock the entire output of a Mr Heinz’s newly invented canned food.

3 thoughts on “Goodbye Piccadilly”

  1. Being tall, I have difficulty buying trousers “off the peg” (though things are improving as people’s average height is increasing and even M&S have revised their trouser leg-length upwards) but my finances have never stretched to bespoke tailoring apart from the odd Burton’s.

    I therefore never went into the famous glass-fronted store when it was a clothing emporium but have been there many times since it has been occupied by Waterstones. For me, its most remarkable feature is the staircase which goes up the whole height of the building and spirals around a central well.

    I am not very good with heights and can easily give myself a queasy feeling by looking down into that well that is largely occupied by that huge chandelier.

    When the building was designed, average adult heights were less than now and the handrail therefore seems to have been positioned for children and there is a notice warning customers of this.

    I usually go up and down on the wall side of the staircase, except for those moments when I am tempted, timorously, to look down into the well and shudder!


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