Posts Tagged ‘Economist Plaza’

Mayfair & St James’s 1987

Monday, September 7th, 2020
St George St, Mayfair, Westminster, 1987 87-5n-52-positive_2400

J C Wells Ltd at 12 St George St, founded in 1829, were one of a number of small tailors in this and surrounding streets not far from Saville Row, and already served an international clientèle, selling suits in the USA since 1927 when they merged with Cooling Lawrence and Wells and Cordas and Bright to become ‘Wells of Mayfair’ around 1976. For a while there were one of Saville Row’s most succesful tailors, but went out of business in 1992 and were acquired in Davies & Son.

The photograph is of Wells of Mayfair’s premises around the corner at 47 Maddox St. I was attracted particularly by the map of the world showing the many places where their suits dressed the wealthy. Their bespoke tailoring did not come cheap, but it was certainly not ‘fast fashion’ and some are still worn – and sold – fifty years after they were made.

Conduit  St, Mayfair, Westminster, 1987 87-5n-53-positive_2400

I found empty windows like this rather more interesting than when they were full of goods, and they had a rather eerie quality, emphasised here by what appears to be the ghost of a necklace on the central stand. I’m not sure if that was really visible when I took the picture – either where a necklace has shaded the material from being darkened by the sun or as a reflection in the window through which I made the picture. It could even be a fault caused in the film processing. But whatever it was caused by it adds to the image.

I took a second frame of another of the shop’s windows with a similar empty jewellery stand, but with what appears to be a ghostly hand and arm in the picture (presumably for displaying bracelets, watches and rings.) You can find this, along with other pictures, in my album 1987 London Photos – linked here.

Conduit  St, Mayfair, Westminster, 1987 87-5n-55-positive_2400

Although my contact sheet states Conduit St, I think this is Jack Barclay on the corner of Bruton Place and Berkeley Square, part of H R Owen who also deal in Rolls Royce, Ferrari and other expensive gas guzzlers.

John “Jack” Donald Barclay was one of the wealthy British motorists who drove Bentley sports cars in the 1920s to victories, though his career was cut short as his mother would only settle a huge gambling debt he had run up in Le Touquet on condition he stopped racing. He had previously been selling Vauxhalls as Barclay & Wyse and in 1927 opened the shop named after him, dealing in both Bentleys and Rollers. It moved to Berkeley Square in 1953 and is the world’s oldest and most famous Bentley dealership.

King St, St James's, Westminster, 1987 87-6a-22-positive_2400

I think this part of King St has since been demolished with a new prestige office block in place of both Silks cocktail bar and the art dealer next door.

I felt an immediate sympathy with the running man at right, trying to get away from the West End and its conspicuous wealth, though doubtless on sale for some obscene sum, but it was the jockey walking into the cocktail bar, his arm outstretched, that made me take two more or less identical frames. I’d made the first when another man, possible a waiter, came to stand in the doorway and watched me around the corner. I’m not entirely sure he improves the scene.

Crown Passage, St James's, Westminster, 1987 87-6a-25-positive_2400

Crown Passage, also in St James’s, was more my kind of street, one where you could actually buy something of use, with a sandwich shop, an ironmongers, Early Birds Fine Foods, a tobacconist and sweet shop and a pub and more.

The Red Lion is still there, but I think most of the other shops have changed hands and the street has been rather tidied up.

Jermyn St, St James's, Westminster, 1987 87-6a-41-positive_2400

Wiltons restauarant, begun by George William Wilton as a shellfish-mongers off Haymarket in 1742, is still at 55 Jermyn St and reopens after COVID-19 on Monday 7th September, coincidentally the day I intend to publish this post.

In the early 19th century the stall changed its name to Wilton’s Shellfish Mongers and Oyster Rooms and set up in a series of locations in St James’s having to move as the area was redeveloped. By 1868 it was established in King St where the Prince of Wales was a loyal customer and it received 868 its first Royal Warrant as Purveyor of Oysters to Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales.

The family sold the shop in 1889 and it moved larger premises, and there were several later owners and moves. On Wilton’s site you can read the story of how the then owner Mrs Bessie Leal got so fed up with wartime bombing that she “folded her tea towel, unpinned her apron and then proclaimed that she no longer wished to live in London during the War and wished to sell Wiltons”. The only customer dining at the time, a regular, Mr Olaf Hambro told her to “put the restaurant at the end of the bill!”

Under Hambro’s ownership and the manager he appointed, Jimmy Marks, Wiltons became a world-famous institution, moving in 1964 to Bury St, and in 1984 to this shop in Jermyn St, dressing its waitresses like nannies who treated the aristocratic customers like children in a nursery.

You might like to book and try a half dozen Loch Ryan Natives No2 for £30, or perhaps 30g of Beluga Caviar for £180, washed down perhaps with a glass of Taittinger “Comtes de Champagne” 2006 at £45.00

Sculptures, Economist Plaza, St James's St, St James's, Westminster, 1987 87-6a-43-positive_2400

The buildings for the Economist group in 1960-64 are the only remaining London buildings by Alison and Peter Smithson, two of the UK’s most influential post-war architects. They were listed Grade II* the year after I made these pictures. The plaza was refurbished in 2018 and renamed as Smithson Plaza.

The plaza has exhibited a wide range of sculpture by prominent sculptors over the years. I’ve forgotten who these were made by.

Economist Plaza, St James's St, St James's, Westminster, 1987 87-6a-46-positive_2400

From the Plaza, and below, from St James’s St.

Boodles Club, Economist Building, St James's St, St James's, Westminster, 1987 87-6a-54-positive_2400

The Economist site is next door to Boodle’s, perhaps the most ludicrously named of London’s clubs for wealthy men. Often called ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ though many of the members were not. Boodle’s, a Private Members’ Club was founded in 1762 by the Earl of Shelburne, later the Marquess of Lansdowne and Prime Minister. Originally at 49-51 Pall Mall, it moved to 28 St. James’s Street in 1782. It got its silly name from its Head Waiter, Edward Boodle.

Boodle’s owned a part of the land needed for the Economist site and released it being given a part of the new building and now has its entrance in the Economist Plaza. Among former members have been Beau Brummel, Winston Churchill, Ian Fleming, Edward Gibbon, David Hume, Adam Smith, the Duke of Wellington and William Wilberforce.

More from 1987 London Photos later.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.