Nuggets – bite size chunks of London


William White­ley came to Lon­don from the West Rid­ing of York­shire in the mid-1850s and by 1863 had saved enough mon­ey to estab­lish his own busi­ness in West­bourne Grove, sell­ing rib­bons, laces, trim­mings and fan­cy goods.

White­ley proved to be a very astute mer­chant and by 1876 he had acquired 15 adja­cent prop­er­ties, cre­at­ing London’s first ‘great empo­ri­um’. To pro­vide fresh pro­duce for his shops, he estab­lished an exten­sive agri­cul­tur­al estate beside the Riv­er Crane in Han­worth, and spent much of his time liv­ing in a small bun­ga­low there, despite his enor­mous wealth.

White­ley called him­self ‘the Uni­ver­sal Provider’ and boast­ed that he could sup­ply ‘any­thing from a pin to an ele­phant at short notice’. He is said to have proved his cre­den­tials by deliv­er­ing a large spec­i­men of the lat­ter to a pre­vi­ous­ly scep­ti­cal Church of Eng­land cler­gy­man at 4pm on the day the order was placed.

On 24 Jan­u­ary 1907 William White­ley was shot dead in his own office by a young man who claimed to be his ille­git­i­mate son.

His legit­i­mate sons relo­cat­ed the busi­ness to an impos­ing new build­ing on Queen’s Road (now Queensway) in 1911. Lat­er own­ers, the Unit­ed Drap­ery Stores Group, closed the store in 1981 and the build­ing was sub­se­quent­ly con­vert­ed to a shop­ping and leisure cen­tre.

The shop­ping cen­tre closed in Decem­ber 2018 in prepa­ra­tion for the rad­i­cal refur­bish­ment of the build­ing and the con­struc­tion of an accom­pa­ny­ing pair of 10-storey blocks with more than 100 new homes, plus town­hous­es to the rear on Redan Place. There will be a hotel and cin­e­ma, in addi­tion to the shops and eater­ies of the revamped mall. The project archi­tect is Fos­ter + Part­ners.

In a sep­a­rate but relat­ed project, the dowdy shop­ping parade (plus 27 exist­ing homes) across Queensway from White­leys will be replaced by a long, low-rise block with retail­ers at street lev­el and 94 apart­ments in the four storeys above them – and behind, on Inver­ness Ter­race. The Queensway Parade scheme – also designed by Fos­ter + Part­ners, is shown on the right in the devel­op­er’s CGI below (with White­leys on the left).
Hidden London: Queensway Parade