fortnumandmasonlogo012Every classy London girl knows where to go for the poshest gift-hamper around town, Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly Circus. Fortnum & Mason has been a London staple in the drygoods business since 1707.

In 1705 the Fortnum family came to London to help rebuild after the Great Fire and rented a room in Hugh Mason’s house. William Fortum moved up another rung, from builder to footman, when he scored a spot in the Queen’s household. Back then the royals insisted on new candles every day, so being the budding entrepreneur he was, William took those half-used candles candles, sold em, and used the profits to start a dry-goods business in St. James Market with Mr. Mason.

Throughout the 1700’s the explosion in trade with the East India Company helped Hugh and William become quite successful and established Fortnum & Mason as one of the finest tea purveyors this side of the pond (“this” refering to the Britsh side, because we are reading in an English Accent right?). During the Napoleonic wars their dried fruit and nuts supplied many a soldier, and then in the late 1850’s they became pioneers in the “ready-to-eat luxury foods” business, with items such as poultry and game in aspic, boar’s head, mangoes and more. Hmmm I think I like the selection at Whole Foods a little better. Anyways, Fortnum & Mason hampers were popping up everywhere from Wimbledon, to Henley, to the Crimean peninsula (Queen Victoria sent Florence Nightingale beef tea during the war there).

fortnum3The Main Floor

By the late 1800’s Fortnum & Mason was a household name and the premier provider of exotic and luxury foods. Need an ostrich egg, Heinz Baked Beans (they introduced the product to Britain), Fortnum’s got it! During the war years Fortnum’s biscuit tins accompanied soldiers to the trenches. They even attempted to open a store on Madison Avenue in New York City, but then the Depression struck and they closed. Later they expanded the store to include a few tearooms, a restaurant and furniture and clothing departments. In the 20th Century they also installed the famous clock, their symbol the world over.

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Then, one day in 1999 Lottie and her Mother, on a trip to London, popped into the store. Mom was in London during the swinging 60’s and her own Mum took her there all the time for high tea and shopping. The mother and daughter spent at least an hour picking out teas, cookies, and other goodies to bring home to the family, then ended the spree with teatime at The St. James Resturant on the top floor of the store. Wow were their scones perfection and their clotted cream so sweet. Lottie even tried welsh rarebit, have you?

On a trip back to London during college Lottie insisted all her classmates go back once again, they still talk about the afternoon and those scones! I win. This time we mingled with the commonfolk at The Gallery overlooking the main floor. And now, Fortnum & Mason has a US webiste, no longer do we have to pay in pounds sterling and get charged exorbitant shipping costs. In fact, through Daily Candy you can get free shipping and 10% off your order. I recommend the Royal Blend Tea and the Tradtional Shortbread. And, if you really like this post please send me The Treasury Hamper, you can have it delived to my box at the Royal Ascot.

fortnumFortnum & Mason Today

Cheerio!

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