William Fortnum was a footman, Hugh Mason was his landlord. In 1707 the two collaborated to set up shop together and the rest is history. Quintessentially English, Quintessentially British, Fortnum & Mason is exquisite both inside and out.
With it's many foods, fruits, spices, and teas, Fortnum's is most famously a proper food hall. The store started due to William Fortnum's hobbying interest in being a grocer. Later, his grandson Charles would introduce more specialty items and luxury ready-made foods. Fortnum's is after all the inventor of the Scotch egg, a savory egg dish dating back almost 300 years! Obviously Fortnum's is where one might go to get their Christmas pudding. And it's all about quality here, folks. Food lovers rejoice.
Six flights high, each floor seems to have its own personality to add to the story:
Basement - wine, cheese, chocolate, and charcuterie
Ground floor - tea, coffee, and confectionery
First floor - home goods, hampers*, china, glassware, ice in the Parlor, and the Candle room**
Second floor - dedicated to the ladies with jewelry, handbags, perfumes, hat making, and pampering rooms
Third floor - personal items and personalized items, including leather goods and accessories for the gents
Fourth floor - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Tea salon
Not bad for a grocery market turned department store.
Though was Fortnum a mere footman, he held this position in the royal house of Queen Anne, no less. Shortly thereafter Fortnum's grandson, Charles, also served Royalty, Queen Charlotte. Needless to say, Fortnum's is entrenched in British Royal history. A royal family favorite.
Not only are the products themselves fancy smancy, but the store itself is a site to see. Decorated in marble and crystal and all things lovely, it's easy to feel a look-but-don't-touch mentality. Even from the outside just the window dressings themselves can gawk attention.
So, while in London, touring the sights, popping in and out of pubs, don't forget to soak it all in with a stop by this oldie but goodie. Located a stone's throw away from its humble beginnings in St. James's Market, the flagship store on Picadilly Street is a must see.
* Mind you, when we say hampers here, it means a picnic basket, not a basket where one might toss dirty garments.
** The Candle Room is iconic considering capital for the enterprise came when Fortnum the footman was selling the Royal family's discarded candles for re-use. Talk about any early renewables initiative! One we are all quite thankful for.