St James's: a craft guide
Words Mark Hooper
For those who didn’t make our craft tour, there’s still time to discover the unique stories of one of London’s most fascinating areas…
As part of our London Craft Week activity (with an emphasis on the ‘active’) – we lead a ‘Walk and Talk’ of St James’s, taking in some of the events taking place and getting the chance to see the creativity behind the scenes of some of the most established brands in the region.
St James’s has always been associated with craftsmanship in the broadest sense. After Charles II sold the land to Henry Jermyn for development in the 1660s, the area swiftly became renowned for its ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ – attracting businesses that catered for its upmarket residents; it is now synonymous with shoemakers, tailors, outfitters, shirtmakers, fragrance-makers, wine merchants and more.
It is an area that is constantly evolving – the recent re-opening of St James’s Market being a case in point – but without losing sight of its illustrious past. (Among the many blue plaques revealing the area’s famous residents are those commemorating everyone from Sir Isaac Newton to Ho Chi Minh, composer Chopin to computer pioneer Ada Lovelace.)
Many of those original skills are still demonstrated today, even from the same premises, creating hubs of craftsmanship in the relatively small area that is bordered by Piccadilly in the north and The Mall in the south, and runs east-west from Green Park to Haymarket. For instance, taking just one craft as an example, some of the most famous shoemakers in the country all congregate along a few streets: John Lobb, JM Weston, Church’s, Tricker’s, Edward Green, Crockett & Jones… the list goes on. Meanwhile, Floris London have operated out of the same premises continually since 1730, showing innovation in the fragrance market and not a little forethought (during our walk, Edward Bodenham, the current – and ninth – head of the family firm pointed out that their scents have always been ‘gender neutral’).
For those who didn’t make it on the tour, fear not: a specially forged interactive 3D map, The Secrets of St James’s, now sits in St James’s Market Pavilion – by touching a location on the map, a window within the Pavilion lights up, telling a story of St James’s – all with a curated soundtrack by Chopin (of course).