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