Notebook

Surprisingly, the biggest shops were not initially sited in the centre, but were rather like today’s out-of-town developments, attracted to the fringes of the metropolis for the same reason: the cheapness of land. Thus Harrods, which had first been transformed from a small grocery to a general store in 1861, was already flourishing by 1880 and employing 100 people. The biggest success story, though, was at Bayswater where Whiteley’s became the most impressive of the early department stores. The Westbourne Grove shop opened in 1863, a few weeks after the first section of the Metropolitan, which terminated a mile away in Paddington… The District [Line] considered the market to be so important that it even launched a parcels service to relieve shoppers of their goods on the homeward journey. A trip to the shops in Bayswater or Knightsbridge, or later Oxford Street, was little different from a visit today to the huge modern malls such as Bluewater or Lakeside.

Christian Wolmar, “The Subterranean Railway”.

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