Since I’ve been known to be a bit fond of shopping, researching where the fashionable gentlemen in my books might go to outfit themselves kept me occupied longer than it probably should have. I’ve gathered together all my notes and decided to share the highlights with you here.
Lord Granville Leveson-Gower by Thomas Lawrence, c1804-1809
(Yale Center for British Art)
During the Regency era, London tailors were considered the best in Europe. Any man who was interested in presenting himself as an arbiter of taste, let alone one of the Dandy set, knew he needed to shop in London. Two of the best-known tailors of the day were Schweitzer and Davidson of 12 Cork Street and John Weston, located at 34 Old Bond Street. Weston was known to be the most expensive tailor in London and a favorite of Beau Brummell and the Prince Regent.
Wool Broadcloth Greatcoat with Silk Velvet Trim by John Weston, 1803-1810
Boots were what the fashionable man wore during the day. Hoby, on the corner of Piccadilly and St. James’s Street next to the Old Guards Club, was known as the finest boot maker in London. Their clients included George III, the Prince Regent, Lord Byron, Beau Brummell, members of the ton, and many officers in the army and navy. The Duke of Wellington thought so much of George Hoby that he worked with the boot maker to modify a Hessian boot to his specifications. In 1817, the Duke instructed Mr Hoby to cut his boots shorter and make them tighter. He wanted the trimming removed and the “V” shape straightened out. This new style of boot became the iconic Wellington boot.
Wellington boots made by Hoby between 1817 and 1852.
For his beaver hat, a man of fashion could go to Lock & Co Hatters (1676-present) located at 6 St. James’s Street. Lock made hats for Lord Nelson, as well as the plumed hat the Duke of Wellington wore to Waterloo. They also made military helmets for officers in the Hussars and Royal Dragoon Guards, and the folding chapeau-bras gentlemen wore to Court or to Almack’s. Lock & Co. is still in existence and continues to make hats of the finest quality.
Across St. James’s Street, a gentleman could venture into Harris’s Apothecary, which was originally located at Number 11. Harris’s opened in 1790 and established a reputation selling Lavender Water, Classic Cologne and English Flower perfumes. They also were known for shaving supplies, soaps, and creams. The company is still in operation, and today you can find them down the street at Number 29 under the name D.R. Harris & Company.
D.R. Harris & Company, London
After a day in the shops, a gentleman might continue on to Number 3 St. James’s Street, where he could stop in Berry’s for a bottle of his favorite port. Berry’s was established in 1698 as a grocer. In 1810 the owners began to focus more on wine. Beginning in the late 18th century, it became fashionable to be weighed by the shop’s weighing scales. Such notable names in Berry’s weighing books include royal princes, Lord Byron, Beau Brummell and William Pitt the Younger. In the 1940’s the name changed to Berry Bros. & Rudd and that name is still used by the shop today.
If a gentleman wanted to have his hair cut by someone other than his valet, he could go to Flex Rowland, who was located at the Thatched House Tavern on Haymarket. It is said that Rowland invented macassar oil, which men used in their hair, and specialized in military style haircuts. I found this description in “Round About Piccadilly and Pall Mall or, A Ramble from Haymarket to Hyde Park” by Henry Benjamin Wheatley, published in 1870:
Beneath the tavern front was a range of low-built shops, including that of Flex Rowland, the fashionable hair-dresser, who made a fortune by the sale of his macassar oil.
If a gentleman had a penchant for watch fobs, rings, and snuff boxes, he would certainly know about Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell Jewelers, located at 32 Ludgate Hill (est. 1788). They were the principle jeweler and goldsmith of the Prince Regent. Other prominent jewelers of the day included Phillip’s on Bond Street, Gray’s on Sackville Street, and Jeffrey’s. The Prince Regent was so fond of Jeffrey’s that at one point he owed the jeweler £89,00 in unpaid bills.
Gold-mounted tortoiseshell snuff boxes, supplied by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, were a favorite royal gift. The richness of their decoration varied according to the status of the recipient. Rundell’s accounts include a number of boxes of the type shown below. A similar tortoiseshell box was sold by Rundell to George IV in 1821 for £81 18s.
To fill up his snuff box, the fashionable gentleman would visit Fribourg & Treyer in Haymarket (1790-1981), known throughout London as the purveryor of the finest snuff in Town.
One of the best parts about researching these places was seeing how many of them are still in operation. I had visited a few of them the last time I was in London, and now I have one more to see the next time I’m in Town. It’s wonderful to be able to enter a store and know that you can still shop like a Regency gentleman.
If you know of other London shops from the Georgian era that are still in existence that might have appealed to a fashionable gentleman, please post a comment and let me know. I’d love to add them to my list.