A St. James’s Institution: Fortnum & Mason

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Facade of Fortnum & Mason

We have looked at the history of our local area in St. James’s several times before (to refresh your memory, have a look here, here, and here).  Today we are going to look at a local St. James’s institution that is just a stones throw away from our gallery: Fortnum & Mason.


The shopfront at Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason was founded in 1707 by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason on the corner of Duke Street and Piccadilly.  The store was originally founded as a grocery store and it rapidly grew in the Victorian era to supply exotic and specialty provisions, including ‘dry and green turtle’ and ‘boar’s head.’  In 1851, Fortnum & Mason received the first place prize at the Great Exhibition as importers of dried fruits and dessert goods.

Fortnum & Mason wasn’t just known for its imported and exotic foods: it also is the inventor of the Scotch egg in 1738.  The store was perfectly located for travellers heading west out of London, and the hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and breadcrumbs was an ideal bit of food to take on ones travels.

Fortnum 1

Fortnum & Mason today

From the beginning the store has had royal connections: William Fortnum was a footman in the household of Queen Anne, and Fortnum’s grandson Charles served in the royal court of Queen Charlotte.

Charles Dickens once wrote about the famed department store and its iconic hampers, writing, ‘Look where I will… I see Fortnum & Mason.  All the hampers fly wide open and the green downs burst into a blossom of lobster salad!’


The clock on the shopfront at Fortnum & Mason

When you are next in St. James’s, stop by Fortnum & Mason to see the grand department store today, which has expanded beyond its delectable food and drink offerings.  If you happen to be walking by when you hear bells chiming (every fifteen minutes), look up!  The clock’s bells come from the same foundry as Big Ben.  Every hour you will see William Fortnum and Hugh Mason appear on each side of the clock.  And of course, after visiting Fortnum & Mason, stop by Mackinnon Fine Furniture to see our latest pieces on display.

One thought on “A St. James’s Institution: Fortnum & Mason

  1. Pingback: A Shopping Tradition in St. James’s: The Arcades | The Source

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