One of the wonderful things about London’s Regent Street is that each building is at least Grade II Listed, and that means that there is a story behind every facade.

Take Banana Republic and Armani A/X: until its closure in 2006, that entire block was given over to Dickens & Jones, one of London’s most venerable department stores, situated on Regent Street since 1835. Or Superdry, in the wonderful old Austin Reed building at 103–113 Regent Street, with its fabulous sweeping staircases and 1920s Art Deco barbers shop – which is now a Superdry hair salon.

For those that aren’t familiar with it, Regent Street is a glorious north – south sweep that bisects central London, reaching almost from Regent’s Park (Portland Pace completes it) to Piccadilly Circus and just beyond. It was completed by John Nash in 1825 at the behest of the Prince Regent, later George IV to link the park, ostensibly with the Charing Cross area, but really with his grand London home, Carlton House in St James. Although Nash’s street plan remains, none of Nash’s buildings themselves remain, bar All Soul’s Church on Langham Place at the very top end of Regent Street.

Of the buildings on the street, 121 Regent Street, further down towards Piccadilly Circus has fascinated me since I first saw its Wurlitzer organ at a store launch in 2006.

At first glance it is the shiny new, all singing, all dancing Burberry flagship. But to anyone who worked in central London ten years ago or so it was a nondescript boarded up building for ages, until it became a giant new Habitat store

But that’s not what makes it interesting. Oh no. Constructed in just three months in 1888, on the site of an old fruit market, the original building was known as the New Gallery, with a lavish interior of faux marble columns, platinum leaf and galleried halls, which played host to exhibitions of work by some of the leading artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, from Burne-Jones to Holman Hunt.

After briefly becoming a restaurant, in 1913 it became a cinema, with a Wurlitzer organ – and in 1938 was the first UK cinema to show Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It became a Seventh Day Adventist Church between 1953 and the mid 1990s until it was boarded up.

So when you enter the Burberry flagship, walk straight on through and down the steps into the main atrium, and you’ll be able to see the backbone of the building and imagine the gallery and then the grand cinema that it once was. Look up behind you in the apex of the curve of the mezzanine gallery and you’ll see the embrasure of the old projectionist’s window. (The Wurlitzer organ is still there too, although it’s hidden away these days.)

And to the far left of the building’s frontage is a separate front door into a slip of a room: as of last week it now houses the Burberry Beauty range, but once upon a time it was the cinema’s ticket office.

Burberry beauty Regent's Street

Although narrow, the soaring ceiling makes it a suitably grand location for Burberry Beauty: a beauty hall in miniature. It’s a lovely space, designed to allow the cosmetics to be tested and tried, with make-up experts on hand to guide. There’s no pressure to buy, and you can ask for make-up touch ups if someone is available.

Burberry beauty Regent's Street

I like the look and feel of Burberry Beauty: the finesse and engineering of the packaging, (the lipstick tubes in particular are fabulous), and the neat embossing of the Burberry check on each and every colour cosmetic product speaks to Christopher Bailey’s forensic level of care upon the tiniest detail.

Burberry eyeshadow

And the product? I’ve been using the Smokey Grey eyeshadow palette this week, and found the colour pigment to be excellent, with a silky, very finely milled texture. The colour is quite sheer, but builds beautifully. I like the texture & taste of the lipsticks, and the colours are just interesting enough, (they are never going to encroach on MAC ‘s colour cosmetic territory). The entire range is perfect for a natural face, perfectly in keeping with the Burberry English Rose look.

Burberry beauty Regent's Street

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Do you remember Galeries Lafayette? Well, no – you’re probably too young! But I can never remember exactly where it was.
Wish that DIckens and Jones was still there, and Barker’s in Kensington. It was so easy when you just went to a coat dept for a coat instead of all these bitty concessions.


i totally agree. there seems to have been far more dignity and glamor to shopping back in the day of venerable department stores. Every major US city also had its own luxury department store at one point in time. Bonwit Teller in NYC, I.Magnin in San Fransisco, Bullocks Wilshire in Los Angelus, Daytons in Minneapolis: ALL OF THEM were bought by bloody Macys! Bullocks Wilshire was housed in a beautiful Art Deco building, and when Macys took over they dismembered it, removing all the original fixtures and lighting to distribute them amongst their other stores (thankfully (and unusually– America is not big on architectural conservation), they were eventually forced to restore them to the original building).
I get so sad for old buildings. I honestly feel like I’m watching a murder scene when they’re destroyed. All that work and care that went into them…


I love those Burberry quads, too.


LOVE this post, I have always ADORED Regent Street – reminds me of Paris xxx


What a fantastic post – I love the secret histories that buildings hide. In the House of Fraser store in Cardiff you can still see the remains of the chapel that was incorporated in the building many years ago. I’ve been lucky enough to go up into the spaces above the Morgan Arcade which used to be part of the David Morgan department store where there are still panels of lovely stained glass, traces of the colour coded lighting system that signalled senior staff members to check in with the boss and many other details that hint at past grandeur.

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