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London's Lost Department Stores

London’s sumptuous Victorian and Edwardian department stores changed the capital – and changed its women. Shoppers of every rank were lavishly wooed, seduced and often undone by the temptations laid out before them in these new ‘cathedrals of desire’.

Starting on Oxford Street’s ‘golden mile’, we'll set off on a cultural tour of the capital’s big stores – from snooty Marshall & Snelgrove, to Pontings, ‘House of Value’; from Kennards’ wart-removal service, to the live flamingos atop Derry & Toms; from Bodgers of Ilford, to Bon Marché of Brixton.

How did it feel to enter a great store in 1850 – and in 1950? What was it like to serve? From shoppers to shop girls, publicity stunts to wow factor window dressing, this is a fascinating slice of vanished social history, superbly illustrated with rare period images.

London’s Lost Department Stores shines a light on 50 former great emporia.


HEAR MORE: 'The Elephant Gang' goes shoplifting at D.H. Evans, 1936 (1 min film).

'A charming book . . . You’ll need a robust constitution to read this chronicle of the rise, decline and death of the family-run department store without weeping . . . Heartbreakingly poignant. 

Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Spectator

'Highly recommended. This is definitely one for your London shelves.' 

Mike Paterson, London Historians

'Nostalgics will sigh over evocations of London's vanished retail emporia . . .  A trip back in time to the great 'Halls of Temptation' in the golden age of shopping.' 

Rose Shepherd, Saga Magazine


'A gloriously nostalgic look at the grand old days of the grand department stores, but very clear about the darker side. I suspect that if given as a Christmas present to your parents and grandparents, they will quickly look up a familiar name and sigh in delight at childhood memories of the glamour of their local department store. And spend the entire Christmas lunch talking about it.

Ian Visits


'An easy-reading snapshot of an array of these now sadly departed grand stores including many familiar names, further brought to life by the terrific selection of photos. Easily dipped into whenever the reader fancies a bit of nostalgia and wants to be transported to a period when retail really was delivering an incredible amount of theatre to shoppers.'

Glynn Davis, Retail Insider

‘Department stores are far more than shops. Their closure feels like losing a park, a library, an arts or leisure centre. Every town mourns these lost urban sitting rooms.’

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

'A lovely book that I can pick up every now and again and always find a page or two of complete and instant delight. I'm an old retired shop assistant who had the great good fortune to start my 'career' in the early sixties and saw and worked in some of the wonderful establishments you feature in the book. In my humble opinion, retailing today is the merest shadow of its once glorious self.'

Howard Bills, Good Reads

'The book highlights the revolution in retailing, merchandising in particular, making shopping a pleasure and emphasising service, which has almost gone out of the window. Of the stores mentioned I visited 27 of them over the years and knew many of the owners . . . ' 

Graham Barber, Barbers of Fulham (1891 - 1994)

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