Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Festive Ginger Jaunt

Hullo! This is the fifth in a series of jaunts I've undertaken, by and for The King's Ginger. I stayed close to home this time, to visit and explore a part of London I love, one that King Edward himself would have known well. And this time, I took a fancy pants photographer, too! It's time to take a stroll down to St James's.


All the photos in this post are by the talented Hanson Leatherby.

St James's is one of London's most aristocratic areas. Home to many of the longest established and best-known Gentlemen's Clubs, St James's Street itself boasts an array of shops, some of which have been in place for centuries. While the eventual destination was, of course, Berry Bros. & Rudd itself, home of the King's Ginger, some exploring was definitely on the cards first. I've walked up and down St James's many times, and never had an occasion to enter any of the imposing establishments. But that was all about to change! For Edward himself would have undoubtedly have entered every one of these shops, and as I am on his trail, so must I.

The first shop we entered was James J. Fox, the Cigar Merchant, situated in St James's for over 200 years. Since 1787 to be precise.




King Edward was very much partial to a fine cigar. King Edward brand cigars, named for Bertie himself are still available; but when alive, the King would have only the very finest for himself. The shop is quite remarkably exempt from the smoking ban, and in fact has a smoking lounge, so the smell of tobacco enveloped Hanson and I as we entered. As well as being gracious enough to let us walk around snapping and snooping, it turns out they also have a museum in the basement, packed with historical mementos and ephemera.




 

This box of cigars actually dates from Edwards last years as the Playboy Prince.

Another famous cigar fan - Winston Churchill - was the subject of much memorabilia in the museum. And a rather regal chair and ashtray that I had to try out... of course.


Anyway, all the fumes from the smoke were making me quite lightheaded, so we headed out for some smelling salts. Well, to the chemist a few doors up.

D.R. Harris has also been in its present location for more than 200 years. It sells a vast array of traditional paraphernalia, from shaving equipment to brushes to gentleman's nail clippers and so on; and a carries a huge range of toiletries. Soaps, scents and unguents, all packaged in sturdy, no-nonsense bottles and tubs. A truly splendid place.


Didn't think much of the delivery chap's outfit. Wellies in town... I mean, really.


While they don't have a museum as such (and actually apologised to us for that!), they do have some wonderful old pieces on display, huge old advertising props for perfume and old glass bottles. Plus the antique pharmacist's cabinet above.


The manager didn't have any Bertie anecdotes for me, but I'm sure he or members of his household would have popped in. been Christmas may be over, but this would be a treasure trove of future gifts for grandads, and dads... and any vintage-appreciating men in your life, quite frankly.

Onwards and indeed upwards, for the next stop on our mystery tour was Lock & Co. Hat makers to Royalty, and found at No. 6 St James's Street for more than 300 years.


 The Lock & Co website states that, 'established not later than 1676 to wait upon the Court at St. James's, the business now serves customers from all corners of the earth. Its survival is the consequence of progressive conservatism, of confidence in quality and a demonstration of the effectiveness of persistent personality and individuality in an increasingly mass-minded world.'

Quite true, I would say. Its hats are the best of the best, as demonstrated by the popular radio DJ who was in there buying titfers for his dad and father in law at the same time as us. Hugely fond of dressing well as King Edward was, both before and after he ascended the throne; he would have had his pick of the toppers and felt creations on offer. Lock & Co also made the very first Bowler hat in 1849. A sort of hard hat crossed with a fashion statement, the bowler was a staple in comedy, in banking, and, remarkably, in the Wild West. Presumably due to its practicality when riding... or fighting!





The hat sizes of the Great and Good: Charlie Chaplin, Evelyn Waugh, Laurence Olivier... Lord Lucan even!


The sense of history you get in Lock's is immense. From the antique hats lining the walls to the actual wood of the shop front itself. Three centuries of wear, tear and paint have given it the most amazing texture. You can't help but run your hands over it... quickly in case the shopkeepers spot you! I'm only joking, they were all just as lovely as the others!

Next door to Lock & Co is Lobb the Shoemakers. Another stalwart of the street, Lobb himself was a Cornish farmboy with a limp, who learned the trade and came to London. Such was his skill at his craft that he won all sorts of awards, culminating in the Golden Ticket of the time - a Royal Warrant to make shoes for, of course, Edward, Prince of Wales. Edward's taste for the finer things was truly from head to toe. His patronage ensured the success of the business, as where he went, others followed: 'kings, maharajahs, actors, singers, politicians, business moguls and literati'.

We didn't dare go in, as Hanson and I both have a particular weakness for shoes. It's a truly dangerous place, and if anyone would like to stump up £7,000 so I can have a bespoke pair of snakeskin pumps made, I'd be most grateful.





 Last but not least, it was on to visit the home of King's Ginger itself, Berry Bros & Rudd. I don't think I can do justice to its long and interesting history in such a short space, but I will try.

Berry's has also been in its present location, no.3 St James's Street, for over 300 years. The shop front is unchanged and has that same wonderful texture as Lock & Co.


Founded in 1698 by an enterprising widow named Bourne, the first Royal Warrant was awarded in the reign of George III, in the 1700s. They continue to hold it to this day, but not all Royals have had the honour of having libations created specifically for them. I have related the story of the creation of KGL several times on here, so you don't need to hear it again. But, given the season and its reason for creation (protection from the cold), King's Ginger was much in evidence in the window displays.


Inside, it was bustling with businessmen and ladies buying bottles of aged wine for the festive season, but they let me stand around 'modelling' a bottle of the ginger nectar among the warm wood panelling and random iron machinery. The famous weighing scales upon which famous customers used to record their own weight still stand in the centre of the room.


The sense of history stretching back over the centuries as you stand in Berry's is immense. I thoroughly recommend popping in if you pass - there's so much to look at on the walls and shelves.


If you were luck enough to receive a bottle of The King's Ginger for Christmas, or can pick one up today, even; then here's my top two festive and New Year's Eve recipes.

King's Ginger Mulled Wine

  • 750ml red wine
  • 250ml The King's Ginger
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 lemons zested (plus flesh of 1 lemon)
  • 1 orange zested
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • 1 star anise
The recipe says to 'simmer over a low heat for 3 hours, then double strain with fine sieve', but I heated it up until it was hot... and that was perfectly fine. It's so warming, and very very strong!

When you're getting ready to party, this is guaranteed to get you in the mood...

The Ginger Royale
  • 35ml The King's Ginger
  • 140ml Champagne
'Pour a generous measure of The King's Ginger into a flute. Add chilled Champagne to taste. Then find some attractive friends with whom to share this delicious and efficacious concoction.' Sounds about right to me!


Last, but no least, let me tell you about my outfit!


I'm wearing a halterneck jumpsuit that actually came from ASOS (amazingly, still available!), after I saw it on Retrochick's blog. I am only wearing it on the bottom half, though - I rolled it down and used the neck ties as a belt! A 1930s style jumper that came from a high street shop is underneath a 1940s jacket that's part of a suit. The A-line beige skirt does absolutely nothing for me, unfortunately; but the shoulder and hip detail of the jacket is exquisite. And the cut fits me like it's bespoke. I'm also wearing my winter sheepskin shoes bought from Miss L Fire. Do excuse the rather unstyled hair! Thanks again to Hanson for snapping me.

Happy New Year to one and all of my amazing readers. I am heading to a vintage event locally, it's called Die Freche Muse and it should be fabulous fun. I just can't decide what to wear!

Have a good one, gang! See you next year.

Lots of love,

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

22 comments:

  1. The colours in your outfit are just great! I love the green of the palazzo pants, and the jacket is fantastic. What a great find!

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  2. This has been the my last blog post readings of 2011 - and what a treat it has been. I love these historical jaunts of yours - I always learn something new. It makes me wonder if the people who stomp those streets daily know - or ponder at all - the history of the buildings about them.

    Top ooootfit too :)

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  3. Also my last blog post reading of 2011 & love the history in this post, thank you!

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  4. All looks and sounds amazing- thanks for sharing.
    All the best for the New Year….
    Tupney
    xxx

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  5. You should have went into Lobb's. It is a really nice place inside with the workshop is clear view of the shop floor. Went in there once to buy a pair of bootlaces for a friend in Finland.

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  6. Great look. I love how you stay true to yourself and your love for vintage, despite all the trends. It's truly inspiring. :)

    Like clutches? Check out my clutch obsession post:
    http://beirutchic.blogspot.com/2011/12/clutch-final-obsession-of-2011.html

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  7. I am due a visit to Lock's to spend a gift certificate...I will pluck up the courage to visit some of the other fine old shops having read this!

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  8. I think this is my fave trip out of all of them. So beautiful-loved the pipes-looked like a super nice trip! xox

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  9. I really enjoyed this post! What a great walk through history :)

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  10. i found this post incredibly interesting and insightful. beautiful to boot!

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  11. Your photographer is unfortunately not very talented, as my eye keeps getting drawn to the model rather than the advertised product in these shots...

    Anyhow, with Evelyn Waugh's hatter, this post was obviously aimed at me and my ilk, but I unfortunately live in one of the former colonies.

    Somewhere, beyond the sea
    Somewhere, waitin' for me
    King's Ginger stands in highball glass
    And waits for my sips and my praisin'

    Somewhere beyond the sea
    It's there chillin' for me
    Over the rocks and mixed with gin
    Ain't it a sin, there's no mailin'...

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  12. What a fascinating post - it's great to hear about these historical gems of places, which seem to be ticking over quite nicely even with the world constantly changing around them.

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  13. May God profusely bless you this Christmass season, girl, and may the peace of Christ fill your heart this year and every year till we arrive in the Great Beyond. Be at peace. See ya soon.

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  14. I just love your style! But wellies in town - absolutely, wellies for always!!

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  15. your blog is absolutely amazing to me, just feeling like going back few centuries and getting inspired. :)

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  16. If I may add:
    Bertie was an extremely vain man, his love of hats stemmed from his attempts to hide early onset baldness.In fact, he made many a quack rich with his use of lotions and potions with which he tried to reverse his 'affliction'. His most notable contribution to hatters was his popularisation of the Homburg Hat which he discovered on a trip to the German city of the same name.

    As for shoes, he was a great lover of the 'low shoe'. Prior to this, most men wore boots to at least the ankle. Being able to wear such shoes were a mark of a man who was unworried or unaffected by the dirt and muck on the streets of the time

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  17. I've walked past all of those lovely shops, but I do actually buy wine/sherry/port/madeira from Berry Bros & Rudd. Sadly, I have never encountered you there!

    Happy New Year!

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  18. Of course, one can always tell when a man has a Lobb on by the way that he walks.....

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  19. Lord Lucan! Oh dear, oh dear...

    ~Vixen~ x

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  20. All looks and sounds amazing-love your style!

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