Created By: Elizabeth Brown
If you want to see what old fashioned British luxury really looks like, go to Jermyn Street. This historic thoroughfare, which runs between Piccadilly and Pall Mall, contains perhaps the most concentrated collection of old-school shops and restaurants anywhere in London.
Its relative quiet, compared to the more famous streets around it, make it ideal for a stroll, soaking up the atmosphere of Regency London where dandies once shopped for the perfect cravat or headed to a louche gentleman’s club for an evening of insalubrious entertainments.
Jermyn Street is protected by Westminster Council, which has pledged to preserve its famous menswear shops. But above street level and in its surrounding streets, glamorous new homes at record-breaking prices are being developed in an attempt to lure buyers over from Mayfair and Knightsbridge.
At first glance
Long, slim and lined by shops with old-fashioned storefronts, Jermyn Street gives a glimpse of what London’s shopping streets must have been like before the international chainstores moved in. Sales pitches are subtle, interiors are generally panelled and cosy, and staff know their clients by name and collar size.
“Jermyn Street has got a lot of charm and character,” says Charles Lloyd, a director at Savills. “It is quite traditional and the Crown Estate has invested in improving the street. There are still a lot of independent shops, you have also got some good restaurants and a beautiful church, St James’s, designed by Sir Christopher Wren.”
Although Jermyn Street enjoys special planning protection there is always pressure on its independent traders. Franses, a consultancy and dealership specialising in tapestries, rugs, and textiles, is currently fighting plans for the expansion of the neighbouring Cavendish hotel which would see it removed from the street after more than a quarter of a century.
The street is named for Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, who developed the area in around 1663. Jermyn was a somewhat scandalous figure rumoured to be inappropriately close to Henrietta Maria of France, the wife of King Charles I and mother of King Charles II.
In its early days Jermyn Street was almost entirely residential – it has been home to Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Walter Scott and William Gladstone. But over time its houses started to be converted into shops dedicated to gentlemen’s apparel making it synonymous with British fashion and, of course, George Bryan “Beau” Brummell.
Brummell was the classic middle-class suburban boy who dreamt of bigger things. During a stint in the 10th Royal Hussars he managed to befriend the Prince Regent (later King George IV).Brummell rapidly realised a military life was not for him and moved to Mayfair where he rented a house and reinvented himself as a man about town, confidant of the prince and style icon. He favoured elegantly cut full-length trousers and jackets, immaculate shirts, and cravats, and is thus credited with inventing the modern suit.
This point of interest is part of the tour: London Shopping Tour