Returning again to the 1930’s Monopoly set that I discovered in the attic. This time it’s all about money ‘Pass Go and Collect £200’, £200 doesn’t seem much today, but remember you can buy Mayfair from the Duke of Westminster for only £400, what a bargain. Assuming you have collected your £200 where do you go to spend your gain, the shops of course.
Forget Oxford Street, Regent Street is by far a more elegant place to shop. Designed by John Nash, the original construction with its elegant curves had a covered colonnade for pedestrians to walk under to protect them from the elements as they moved from shop to shop.
It proved rather popular for prostitutes to use as a cat-walk while displaying their wares so it was demolished by 1920. The shop fronts now just look like any other row of shops. Hamleys would look rather interesting for the children with the “ladies” parading outside.
Yes you are right Bond Street doesn’t exist. Old Bond Street is only 14 years older than its newer sibling, both acquired the aristocratic seal of approval when the Duchess of Devonshire in 1784, after a fit of pique, organised a boycott against the hitherto smarter shops of Covent Garden.
Modern Bond Streets are packed with designer label flagship stores and jewellers which have become a favourite with smash and grab thieves on motorbikes. Separating the two streets is pedestrianised and has a sculpture depicting Churchill and Roosevelt seated on a bench.
Named after the curious ruff much favoured by Elizabethans, the starched collar was called a piccadill. J. C. Cording the suppliers of tweed and cords to the huntin’, fishin’ and shootin’ set is part owned by “Slowhand” himself Eric Clapton. Waterstones opposite was once Simpsons of Piccadilly department store and Jeremy Lloyd having worked as a shop assistant there based his 1970 comedy Are You Being Served on his experience. While Fortnum & Mason was started by William Fortnum Queen Anne’s footman who saved his pennies to start the store by selling cut price candles to the palace.
The Americans wanted to buy the freehold to build their embassy, but the Grosvenor family never sell, all are leased. When told they couldn’t buy the land they insisted and petitioned Parliament; the Grosvenor family were heavily leaned on but all to no avail. Then the Duke thought of a good compromise. He told them that if they were to return to the Grosvenor family all those lands in the United States stolen after the American War of Independence including Maine and New York he would allow them to buy their site on the west side of Grosvenor Square, they backed down.
A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 1st April 2011