By Derek Robertson
London has a long and rich history; hand-written Roma tablets suggest the city was founded around AD 70, and from 1831 to 1925 it was the world’s largest city.
It’s also long been a centre for trade and enterprise, various businesses and entrepreneurs flourishing throughout the centuries as the capital’s importance in the world steadily increased. And some of the most noble, traditional shops and trades remain in the hands of the same families centuries after their founding, defying modernity and the passage of time to prosper in the 21st Century.
Lock & Co Hatters (1676)
If bespoke headwear is what you’re after, then Lock & Co – which has been perfecting millinery for over 340 years – is the place for you. Lord Nelson, Oscar Wilde, and Winston Churchill have all been clients, no surprise given the precision and care they put into crafting the perfect hat (their famous conformateur gives extremely precise measurements). And as well as an unrivalled range of men’s classics such as boaters, top hats and trilbies, they now sell a women’s ready-to-wear range and a couture collection made upstairs by their master craftsmen.
Berry Brothers & Rudd Booze
Berry Brothers & Rudd Booze has figured heavily in London’s history, from the Gin Craze of the 18th Century to the invention and export of stout, porter, and India Pale Ale. Still going strong in its original location after eight generations of family ownership, the capital’s oldest wine company has an illustrious past; as well being supplier to the Royal Family since 1830, it provided wine for the Titanic and remains one of the city’s premiere wine and spirit merchants. It’s also located across the road from St James Palace, something that no doubt aided its prestige and royal connections.
Ede & Ravenscroft (1689)
Saville Row might get all the fame and recognition, but the humble trade of tailoring was being perfected long before W1S became the centre of the sartorial universe. What started as robe maker to the judiciary and landed gentry has become the foremost supplier of formal wear for Royalty, academics, and the legal and clerical professions. But it’s not just gowns and arcane attire; they also do a bespoke range of shirts, suits and other tailoring to help all manner of people look sharp.
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Twinings & Co (1706)
There’s nothing quite as quintessentially British as a good ‘ol cup of tea, and Twinings have been brewing up a storm on The Strand since 1706. Now boasting over 200 teas in stock, their original shop also hosts a loose tea bar for tastings and a small museum that spans the history of the company and the drink that made it famous. And it’s not just the world’s biggest purveyor of tea – its logo, created in 1787, remains the oldest corporate logo in the world and graces some of the prettiest packaging you’re likely to find anywhere.
James J Fox (1787)
Sir Winston Churchill, wartime Prime Minister and one of the most iconic Brits of all time, was rarely pictured without one of his beloved Romeo Y Julieta cigars dangling from his mouth. And at the height of his popularity, they were supplied by James J Fox, the oldest cigar merchant in the world, from their prominent shop on St James’s Street. They remain purveyors of some of the finest cigars and smoking accessories anywhere, and while everything can be ordered online, a visit to the shop is well worth it – aside from a sumptuous interior and the largest walk-in humidor in the UK, they also have a museum dedicated to the cigar’s rich, storied history.