Fortnum & Mason often referred to as Fortnum’s is an upmarket department store situated in Piccadilly in Central London, where it was established by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason. William Fortnum was a footman in the royal household of Queen Anne. He also had a sideline business as a grocer and convinced his landlord, Hugh Mason, to be his associate. They founded the first Fortnum & Mason store in Mason’s small shop in St James’s Market in 1707.
Founded as a grocery store, Fortnum’s reputation was built on supplying quality food, and saw rapid growth throughout the Victorian era. Though Fortnum’s developed into a department store, it continues to focus on stocking a variety of exotic and speciality provisions. The store has since opened several other departments, such as the Gentlemen’s department on the third floor. It is also the location of a celebrated tea shop and several restaurants. For information go to www.fortnumandmason.com.
Fortnum & Mason is famed for its loose-leaf tea and its world-renowned luxury picnic hampers, which the store first distributed to Victorian High Society for events such as the Henley Regatta and Ascot Races. These hampers, which contain luxury items such as Stilton cheese, champagne, quails’ eggs and smoked salmon, remain popular today, especially at Christmas time.
Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented the Scotch egg in 1738. The store began to stock speciality items, namely ready-to-eat luxury meals such as fresh poultry or game served in aspic jelly. In 1886, after having bought the entire stock of five cases of a new product made by H.J. Heinz, Fortnum & Mason became the first store in Britain to stock tins of baked beans.
The store is also famous for its clock (see above). On the hour every hour an 80 second ceremony is played out when Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason come out to check that the store is up to its normal high standards. On being satisfied that all is in order, they then retire until the next hourly inspection is due.
In March 2012, the Queen, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge made their first official joint visit to Fortnum & Mason when the Queen opened the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the fourth floor.
There are now additional stores at St Pancras railway station, Heathrow Terminal 5, Dubai as well as various stockists worldwide. The company is still privately owned.
For accommodation in London go to www.chsrentals.com/london.