Royal Warrants in the West End | Look Up London

Discover the West End’s Royal Warrant Holders

In celebration of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, I’m working with Art of London to put together a special ‘Royal Warrants’ tour of historic businesses with Royal connections in the West End. Art of London brings together the UK’s biggest cultural institutions and showcases art in every form, behind the legendary doors of institutions, theatres and retail. 

Here’s an insider look at some of the businesses and institutions, their incredible history craftmanship that makes them so special.

But first, what’s a Royal Warrant?

If you look up around St James’s and Piccadilly, you might’ve spotted these little symbols.

They inform you that this business has the Royal stamp of approval and that they regularly supply goods or services to the Royal Household.

The Monarch decides who is able to bestow the honour of a Royal Warrant and these are known as ‘Grantors’ They include HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales and, before his death in 2021, HRH Duke of Edinburgh.

Royal Warrants can trace their history back to 1155 which King Henry II granted a Royal Charter to the Weaver’s Company, giving them the right to trade in the City of London.

The tradition of displaying Royal Arms dates back to the 18th century and the Royal Warrant Holders Association – today numbering over 800 grantees – which was formed in 1840. So, you know if you see one, you’re in very good hands!

Floris London

In 1730 Juan Famenias Floris and his wife Elizabeth set up a shop creating and selling perfumes alongside specialist combs and brushes. 

Today, the 300-year-old perfumery continues to create quality fragrances from the finest essential oils and essences from around the world, crafting a meticulous ‘symphony of art and science’ in a sustainable yet innovative way. 

Still a family business and run by the 8th and 9th generations of the Floris family, they hold Royal Warrants from HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales. However, they are perhaps more famous for their iconic scent; No.89, the preferred fragrance of James Bond as mentioned by Ian Fleming, a regular customer himself.

Paxton & Whitfield

In 1742 Stephen Cullum was running a market stall in Aldwych. His son, Sam expanded the business, moving to the upmarket St James’s and by the 1790s he’d taken on two partners: Harry Paxton and Charles Whitfield, creating Britain’s oldest cheesemonger. 

In 1850 the company received its first Royal Warrant, appointed as cheesemonger to Queen Victoria, and as pioneers in artisan cheese-making, have gone on to hold seven Royal Warrants.

Today they still hold the Warrant from HM The Queen as well as HRH The Prince of Wales.

Prestat

Formerly established in 1902, this chocolatier had earlier beginnings in 1895 when Antoine DuFour brought his family’s chocolate truffle recipe to England.

It was popular from the very beginning attracting customers such as Road Dahl, author of the famous children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and in 1975 they received their first Royal Warrant from HM The Queen, later receiving another from The Queen Mother in 1999.

Prestat remains one of the few British artisan chocolatiers to make all its own chocolates, giving them complete control over recipes and sourcing of raw ingredients, and allowing them to retain the natural aromatics of cacao in some of their products. 

Fortnum & Mason

The iconic shop front on Piccadilly gives passersby a great reason to look up. Wait for the clock to stick the hour and two figures appear: William Fortnum and Hugh Mason.

Hugh was a businessman, owning a small store in St James’s Market and living locally. William was a builder, attracted to the expanding West End in the wake of the Great Fire of London in 1666. Seemingly abandoning his builder aspirations, William took a post in the Royal household of Queen Anne. Whilst working there the Queen requested the candles to be replaced daily. Not wanting to be wasteful, when William asked what should be done with unused wax he was permitted to sell these prized items from his shop, a canny addition to his business!

Their grocery store quickly gained a reputation for supplying the finest quality of food, tea and preserves. The provided London’s gentry with their basic provisions but also experimented with new ideas including the scotch egg; invented in 1738 as the perfect travelling snack.

Today they hold two Royal Warrants, from HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales.

John Lobb

John Lobb was a Cornish farm boy, born in 1829 with aspirations for fame and fortune. His drive led him to walk from Cornwall to London (surely instilling an appreciation for quality footwear!) where he arrived in 1851 as an apprentice bootmaker.

He travelled to Australia during the gold rush, reported creating a hollow-heeled boot so workers could smuggle nuggets of gold. Back in England, he made a pair of riding boots for the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) Lobb was granted his first Royal Warrant. 

At 29 St James’s Street since 1880, today the firm is run by the 5th generation of the Lobb family making their famous bespoke handmade-to-measure shoes and boots, catering to ‘the most discerning tastes and requirements’. They hold Royal Warrants from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales.

Turnbull & Asser

In 1980 Prince Charles was made a Grantor and his first port of call? Turnbull and Asser. Today whenever in need of a new shirt, The Prince of Wales still heads to Bury Street where their bespoke and impeccable service can be found.

The business started with John Arthur Turnbull, a hosier and shirtmaker opened a shop in St James’s in 1885. In 1893 he brought the salesman; Ernest Asser into the business and when Turnbull died the name changed to Turnbull & Asser. This heritage brand continues to pride itself on its superior craftmanship, creating luxurious and made-to-measure shirts and ties for royalty, artists and stars of the stage. 

Hatchard’s

Established in 1797 by John Hatchard, London’s oldest bookshop can be found at 187 Piccadilly. Within four years, founder John Hatchard had built the largest business in the London book trade and was a pioneer in encouraging people to buy and read books.

Hatchard’s Piccadilly shop became a hub for social reformers including anti-slavery campaigners like William Wilberforce but he also caught royal attention, with Queen Charlotte, wife of King George II becoming a customer in the early days of the business.

Priding itself in its ability to always match the perfect title to every customer, today Hatchards holds three Royal Warrants; HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales.

The Royal Academy of Arts 

In 1768 a group of 36 artists and architects signed a petition. Sir William Chambers (a renowned architect responsible for Somerset House) presented it to King George III with the aim of establishing ‘A society for promoting the Arts of Design” as we all an annual exhibition and school. With the King’s approval, the Royal Academy was born.

Today the RA still has a special relationship with the Sovereign and HM The Queen is the current Patron, Protector and Supporter, even personally paying a visit in 2018 to celebrate their 250th Anniversary. 

Their first grand home was at Somerset House but (after a short stint sharing with the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square) they moved into Burlington House in 1867 and have been there ever since, paying a mere £1 rent per year for 999 years thanks to the haggling on the then-RA President: Francis Grant.

Her Majesty’s Theatre

In 1705 the Queen’s Theatre (named after Queen Anne) was established by John Vanbrugh on Haymarket. It served as an opera house because spoken drama was only allowed for theatres that could boast a Royal Patent (such as the Theatre Royal Drury Lane).

Image Credit: Public Domain / Seth Anderson

Unsuccessful as a venue, it was at least praised for its charming architecture. When Queen Anne died the name changed to the King’s Theatre – a tradition of following the current monarch which still continues to this day, changing to Her Majesty’s Theatre on the accession of Queen Victoria, and so on through the years to Queen Elizabeth’s reign today.

The current theatre building is the fourth on the site, built in 1897, and when it opened the Pall Mall Gazette described it as possessing “a charm and a distinction peculiarly its own, and there is no doubt that it will take its place at once among the first of London’s favourite playhouses.”

It has hosted the Phantom of the Opera since September 1986, the second-longest running musical in London after Les Misérables.

More landmarks to discover

The Ritz – The first and only hotel to be awarded a Royal Warrant, The Prince of Wales held a birthday party here in 2002. (150 Piccadilly)

The Wolseley – A perfect place to enjoy finger sandwiches and tea, introduced to Britain by Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II. (160 Piccadilly)

The Weiss GalleryEstablished in 1985, they are specialists in Tudor and Stuart portraiture, often featuring royals through history. (59 Jermyn Street)

Hawes & Curtis, Shirtmakers – Granted a Royal Warrant in 1922, they were commissioned to design the khaki shirts and ties that HM The Queen wore in the Women’s Royal Army Corps in 1949. (34 Jermyn Street)

Burlington Arcade – Laid out in 1819 and home to a number of Royal Warrant holders. (51 Piccadilly)


This blog post is a paid partnership with Art of London. Read more about them here.

More London Inspiration

Get the latest London secrets to your email
See the city from a new angle, discovering little things you miss everyday and get the latest news about upcoming tours.
Once a week. No spam, just inspiration.
Your details will never be shared with any 3rd parties

Latest Blog Posts

  • History in the Brickwork at the Peabody St John’s Hill Estate

    I’ve come to expect that there’s nearly always an historic reason behind things you spot in London. From street names to sculptures, there’s always a story! Such is the case with this curious brickwork on the Peabody St John’s Hill Estate. On the face of......

  • Discover the West End’s Royal Warrant Holders

    In celebration of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, I’m working with Art of London to put together a special ‘Royal Warrants’ tour of historic businesses with Royal connections in the West End. Art of London brings together the UK’s biggest cultural institutions and showcases art in......

  • M&S Oxford Street | Pantheon History Look Up London

    M&S Oxford Street | The Former Pantheon

    Oxford Street has a bad rep from Londoners, but there’s a surprising among of fabulous history if you know where to look. From a hidden little oasis to the more gruesome reminders at Tottenham Court Road and Marble Arch, often you have to look up......

  • Inside Crosby Moran Hall | Look Up London

    Inside Crosby Moran Hall

    I’m constantly surprised by the wonderful doors that have opened since starting this blog back in 2015. A case in point was that a few weeks ago I wrote about the extraordinary history of Crosby Hall; the Medieval Mansion that was moved 5 miles across......

  • Putney Bridge WWII Pillbox | Look Up London

    A WWII Relic at Putney Bridge Station

    If you look up along Ranelagh Gardens, atop the railway viaduct for Putney Bridge Tube Station, you can spy a curious WWII Relic; a Pillbox. This concrete pillbox was erected in 1940 across Britain, a final line of defence should Germany invade during WWII. They......

  • Lavers and Barraud Stained Glass Works | Look Up London

    Lavers and Barraud Stained Glass Works

    Look up at 22 Endell Street in Covent Garden, and you’ll see the striking facade of a former stained glass studio. Built in 1859 and designed by Robert Jewell Withers, between the multi-coloured decorative brickwork you can make out the proclamation in stone; Lavers and......

2 Comments

  • Great post. Impressive content. Landmarks covered sound interesting places to explore.

    June 1, 2022 at 7:05 am
  • David R Coe

    Reply

    As an ex-Londoner now retired in the warmth of Florida’s Sun Coast, these postings are a sweet reminder of the city I called home for so many years and walked through so many times.

    June 1, 2022 at 5:02 pm

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

BOOK NOW