London’s Burlington Arcade

© Cheryl Bolen, 2014

Almost two hundred years after it was built, the Burlington Arcade still remains one of the most prestigious shopping areas in London. The upscale shopping promenade, which features arcades, bowed store fronts, and a glazed roof, opened on Piccadilly in 1819. The “mall” was to serve as a prototype for its many imitators over the past two centuries.

Burlington Arcade is adjacent to Burlington House, which the 6th Duke of Devonshire sold to his uncle, Lord George Cavendish (1754-1834) in 1815. Lord George loved his house and adjacent garden, which was one of a handful of aristocratic London homes that were surrounded by gardens. Unfortunately, the wall around his garden was no deterrent to those who threw oyster shells, dirt, and broken bottles onto his property.

Burlington Arcade, 1837

Burlington Arcade, 1837

To keep his garden clear of litter, Lord George commissioned Samuel Ware to design the arcade to run along the western perimeter of his property, and it opened in 1819 with 72 two-story units. The arcade separated Burlington House from Albany, another magnificent home built by Lord and Lady Melbourne nearly three decades earlier. Like Burlington House, the walled property around Albany consisted of a parking court, outbuildings, and garden.

inside arcade

Inside London’s posh Burlington Arcade today

Just steps from Piccadilly Circus, Burlington Arcade’s shops offers high-quality goods ranging from fine cashmere and jewelry to leather goods. Just as it was during Lord George Cavendish’s lifetime, the arcade is still patrolled by beadles in top hats and frock coats, modeled after Lord George’s regiment, the 10th Hussars. And it still is a go-to place for top-quality goods. Next blog: Burlington House

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3 thoughts on “London’s Burlington Arcade

  1. How fascinating! I need to look up Burlington House and Albany House–these various architectural devices to change and upgrade are endlessly interesting to me.

  2. Yes, I agree with Angelyn. Next time I go to London, I will have to visit this area. However, isn’t the Albany House on the opposite side of Burlington House from the arcade? Your article prompted me to research Albany and I came up with a fascinating recent article/blog by a long-term resident of Albany…sounds like an island oasis in the hustle and bustle of London, and very well guarded, too. http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/11/londons-best-and-most-secretive-address/

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