My London travels: A department store? Wow!

Still walking around London, looking at wonderful buildings of which there is an abundance.

Look at this one – it is on Wigmore Street,which runs parallel to Oxford Street. But in contrast with the maddening noise and crowds of London’s main shopping venue, the Wigmore Street is quiet and serene.  And what did I suddenly see on the other side?

This majestic building:

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It is huge, it occupies an entire block, designed in Edwardian baroque and is very impressive.

It looks quite clean which is unusual taking into account the big city ecology.  As I found out later, it is because it is clad in Doulton’s famous Carrara tiles (yes, the very same Doulton of the celebrated china ware) who guaranteed that his tiles would defy the smog. Which they did.

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The building is decorated with several statues symbolizing  industry and commerce (again, my later findings 🙂 ) It is further decorated with angels, wreaths and garlands and a central tower into the bargain.

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You could say straight away that it was never originally designed as a town house or an office block, or a government office.

What is (or was) it?!

 

Well, in fact it used to be a department store. A shop. A branch of Debenhams.

Of course, it was not just ANY shop, any Debenhams branch.

In fact, it was a home to a 200-years business. It started in 1778 by a draper’s business of  one William Clark. William Debenhams became a partner in 1813 and the name was changed to Clark and Debenhams. Then Clement Freebody became a partner in 1851, and the name was changed again to Debenhams & Freebody. Freebody later sold his share of business. At the beginning of the 20th century the firm enjoyed a great success, business expanded across the whole England.

And the building on Wigmore street built in 1907-08 became an emblem of this success.

The building looked very quiet and majestic. I crossed over the road to the grand entrance and peeked through the door. All I could see was an imposing staircase straight in front of me which was unusual for shops of that era.

I could just imagine all those shoppers a hundred years ago trotting upstairs and downstairs, ladies lifting their skirts not to trip over the hem, gentlemen doffing their hats when passing acquaintances…

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Well, it is all in the past now. The Wigmore Street address is still used by Debenhams plc, but the building is occupied mainly by offices.

 

Sic transit gloria mundi

(“Thus passes the glory of the world.”)

 

 

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