Fortnum & Mason is without a doubt one of the most iconic buildings in the whole of London. You may think you know everything about the beloved, world-famous store; after all, you know it stocks delicious tea, makes mouth-watering chocolates you can handpick and gift, and serves the queen. But there’s much more to the famed store than first meets the eye. And here at the Piccadilly London West End, we know all the secrets of this luxurious and opulent building that attracts visitors form all four corners of the globe.
Located in one of the most exclusive areas of the city, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve been swept back in time as soon as you enter. Having been a presence on London’s high street since 1707 – when they were little more than a shop at St. James’s Market – the company still retains its old-world look and feel. And its history is no better documented than in its famous clock. Weighing in at more than four tonnes, it comes to life every hour, on the hour. A tourist attraction for those who happen to be stopping by when the clock chimes, the two men who appear and bow to one another are the co-founders, William Fortnum and Hugh Mason.
The famous F&M scotch egg
Who doesn’t love a scotch egg every now and then? Well did you know that this famous snack has been around since 1738 according to the famous shop? Fortnum & Mason says it invented the Scotch egg as a travellers’ snack almost 300 years ago.
Its secret ties with a budget brand
Fortnum & Mason may have a long reputation for exuding luxury and richness, but did you know that its parent company also owns one of the most well-known budget brands in the UK? Wittington Investments owns the beloved store, and also owns cheap and cheerful, Primark.
Ready meal pioneers
In 1851, the company unveiled pre-prepared foods at the Great Exhibition. Meals included poultry and game in aspic, boar’s head, hard-boiled eggs in forcemeat (also known as the Scottish egg), dry and green turtle, and truffles. They were all decorated and prepared, meaning no preparation – including cutting – was required. This move paved the way for the ready meals that we know today and, those original pre-prepared meals from the Great Exhibition evolved into what we know as the famous F&M hampers today.
The store is more famous now for its traditional (and not so traditional) teas and food, but it was actually candles that first brought the brand to life. William Fortnum was a footman in the royal household of Queen Anne. And with the Queen having a fondness for candles, the Royal household insisted on having fresh candles available every single night. This demand resulted in a lot of unused wax. Fortnum sold this wax to anyone who would buy it, making a tidy profit -which obviously came in handy when it came to opening his namesake store.
Forward thinking posties
Before the Post Office was established, many shops could set up a business to send and receive mail. Fortnum & Mason went one step further by providing letter boxes which were emptied six times every day. Continuing until the Post Office was formed in 1839, the company also offered soldiers and sailors a discount on the service.
When Napoleon attempted to conquer Britain, Fortnum & Mason helped the resistance by providing British soldiers and sailors with dried fruits, spices, and honey. Some even say this played a pivotal role in his crushing defeat.
So there you have it; some weird and wonderful facts about one of the capital’s most iconic stores. If you want to stay near the famous shop, the Piccadilly London West End is just a short stroll from this famed store.