London’s Oxford Street has come a long way from its humble origins as a noisy market place where independent traders would sell their commodities. Today we might see hordes of red buses packed into lines on the street. Back then there were horses and carts which noisily trotted down the cobblestoned streets. Oxford Street also used to be called Tyburn Road and used to be the main route to Oxford. It was a perilous route used to transport prisoners by cart from the now demolished Newgate Prison to the gallows near Marble Arch. The famous term “on the wagon” meaning not to drink is said by some to derive from this journey when the people carting the condemned men would stop off at an inn for an alcoholic drink, and the landlord of the pub would ask if he should pour the condemned man a drink. It is said that the retort was often “not him- he’s on the wagon”.
Today Oxford Street is the capitals most prominent shopping destination, drawing millions of people each year to browse its department stores and boutique shops. Let’s take a brief look at the origin and history of some of the streets’ staple department stores.
A Colourful History
Selfridges as it is known today is a conglomerate of high end department stores and is one of the most financially successful in the UK. It all started with a man with a dream from Chicago, who had his heart set on opening his dream store. His name was Harry Gordon Selfridge and with his spirit of innovation and creativity he managed to get Selfridges open in 1909. The store became the second biggest store in London after Harrods. During the wanton 20’s and 30’s the stores roof had a visionary terraced garden an all-girls club and cafes. The building quickly became popular for its eloquent design and for the fact that it was always a front runner in new trends. It was so celebrated that it hosted the first televised demonstration on a Television which was performed by John Logie Baird in 1925. Less than ten years later in 1939 War World II had begun ravaging large areas of London. Selfridges was bombed several times causing considerable damage to the once beautiful roof gardens. Although it was later restored to its pristine origins, the large display windows, for which the store is famously known for, were bricked up as a safety precaution.
Many people may not have known that the first ever HMV flagship store was opened on Oxford street by English composer Sir Edward Elgar. In remembrance of the memorable occasion, the store was imprinted with a cobalt blue and gold inscribed plaque marking it “the world’s most famous music store”. HMV, which stands for His Masters Voice is still going strong at 363 Oxford Street, despite having to close other stores due to low sales, and tanking debt.
It you thought Sir Edward Elgar’s visit to Oxford was just not remarkable enough, then how about a visit from the Queen of England. In 1953, the streets of London were filled with around 3 million people, all there to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The ruby and gold coronation cart, which weighs more than four tons advanced through Oxford Street, pulled by a team of eight horses. In a famous black and white picture, the procession can be seen passing the HMV store, as thousands of people gather around in admiration.
The Piccadilly West End Hotel
Oxford Street isn’t just known for its snazzy shopping destinations and fine dining, and there are splendid accommodation choices to suit whatever your heart desires.
One hotel in particular is the prestigious 5 star Piccadilly West End Hotel, which sits in a noble spot on the corner of Shaftsbury Avenue. Located a short distance away from the iconic Shaftsbury Memorial Fountain, or Eros, as its more commonly known, the hotel is a trendy, urban hideaway for wandering romantics and travelling tourists alike. The warmly, inviting atmosphere in this contemporary luxury accommodation is a big hit thanks to well thought out architecture and a choice of deluxe and club suites. With food being an important staple of any luxury hotel, guests are sure to find the spirited, authentic Hankies a great choice, if you’re looking for Indian street that promises a delicious experience. With their world class signature dishes and a range of both piping hot and ice coldbeverages that will quell your thirst, it would be truly wise to contemplate the perks this accommodation has to offer.