Opened in 1819, Burlington Arcade was built on order of the 1st Earl of Burlington. Why? Well, reportedly, to stop passers-by throwing oyster shells into his adjacent garden. Of course, that's not what the press-release said. According to Cawthorne's 'The Strange Laws of Old Britain' , the Arcade was constructed 'for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public.' Sounds a bit fishy to me.
The Burlington Beadles
Of course, not all members of 'the public' were welcome. To protect the genteel shoppers from London's riff-raff, the Arcade was equipped with its very own private police force: the Burlington Arcade Beadles. This force can still be found patrolling there today, complete with their original uniform of frock coats and top hats, designed by Henry Poole himself.
They are ill-equipped, however, to deal with the more potent threats thrown their way. In 1964, six Jaguar Mark X driving hoodlums stormed down the Arcade, scattering pedestrians, smashing windows and ultimately making off with £35k worth of jewellery. The Burlington Arcade Beadles would need a tank to deal with that. Or gates... They got gates.
Rules, Rules, Rules...
Of the rules that they are better equipped to uphold, the Burlington Arcade Beadles are tasked with the prevention of singing, humming, running, riding bicycles, behaving boisterously and... hurrying. Must be a nightmare for the shop clerks. Then again, this is London, a city which, to this day, feels the need to ban barbers from practising surgery... and surgeons from cutting hair. Well, at least they're being fair.
From time to time the Arcade receives a complete makeover to mark a special occasion, as it did for the latest James Bond film - No Time To Die.
One more thing...
Of course, not all rules are for everyone. All animals are equal, but some are more equal. And the most equal animal of them all is... Sir Paul McCartney! At least as far as Burlington Arcade is concerned. Yes, legend has it that he is the only person exempt from these rules. He can hum, sing, bicycle and even hurry to his heart's content.
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our London Puzzle Tours - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of London.
Looking for things to do in Mayfair? Check out our article on the top things to do in Mayfair for more suggestions.
Or, for similar places further afield, check out our articles on Melbourne's Royal Arcade and Paris' Galerie Vivienne.