Thursday, 21 May 2015

Welcome, Regan Walker! Shopping on Oxford Street in Georgian London

Grace: I’m thrilled to welcome guest author, Regan Walker to “Fall in Love with History”. Regan posts on the subject of shopping, and contemporary accounts of what it was like to shop on 18th century Oxford Street. Enjoy!

I’m honoured to have read a preview copy of Regan’s latest release, To Tame the Wind, and I loved it. Let’s just say I’d rate Regan on a similar level to one of my favourite HR authors, Tessa Dare. And with 21 reviews to date, all of which are 5 stars, I'd say a lot of readers agree with me.

Anyhow, without further ado…over to Regan. 

Shopping on Oxford Street in Georgian London  
by Regan Walker

Shopping on Oxford Street in the late 18th century? Oh yes! You would have loved it.
Oxford Street from the Tyburn turnpike end.
Hyde Park to the right of the picture. 

Today, Oxford Street is a thoroughfare in the West End of London, but its origins go far back to the Roman roads. Between the 12th century and the year of my story, To Tame the Wind, 1782, it was variously known as Tyburn Road, Uxbridge Road, Worcester Road and Oxford Road. It became notorious as the route taken by prisoners on their final journey from Newgate Prison to the gallows at Tyburn near Marble Arch. Beginning about 1729, however, it became known as Oxford Street.

London’s population grew tremendously in the 18th century from about 630,000 in 1715 to 740,000 in 1760. It’s port, the London Pool on the Thames, was the busiest in the world. Much money was spent in building beautiful town houses, pleasure gardens, squares, museums—and shops. To venture into London’s streets was to brave pickpockets, cutthroats, bawds and bullies, not to mention mud and filth, stench from sewage and the black rain from the sea coal that was burned for heating. But on Oxford Street, where window-shopping had become a past time of the upper classes, things were better.

Though Sophie de la Roche, a German visitor to London in 1786, thought the houses in London were not so splendid as those in Paris, she raved about the shops on Oxford Street:
We strolled up and down lovely Oxford Street this evening, for some goods look more attractive by artificial light…First one passes a watchmaker’s, then a silk or fan store, now a silversmiths, a china or glass shop. Just as alluring are the confectioners and fruiterers, where, behind the handsome glass windows, pyramids of pineapples, figs, grapes, oranges and all manner of fruits are on show.
Contemporary map of Oxford Street

When my heroine in To Tame the Wind, Claire Donet, goes shopping with Cornelia, Lady Danvers, it is to Oxford Street where they browse the shop windows while Cornelia fills Claire in on the rather interesting origins of the hero, Captain Simon Powell.

While much negative could be said about the streets of London which were ever dirty and plagued by mud puddles, when it came to Oxford Street, Sophie de la Roche noted:

A street taking half an hour to cover from end to end, with double rows of brightly shining lamps, in the middle of which stands an equally long row of beautifully lacquered coaches, and on another side of these there is room for two coaches to pass one another and the pavement inlaid with flagstones can stand six people deep and allows one to gaze at the splendidly rich shop fronts in comfort.

Another visitor to London, de la Rochefoucauld, remarked,

Everything the merchant possesses is displayed behind windows which are always beautifully clean and the shops are built with a little projection on to the street so that they can be seen from three sides.

Of course he is talking about bay windows, seen in many shops today.

 At one time London shops displayed painted signs. There were roasted pigs and spotted lions, dogs and gridirons, which had no connection with the things sold in the shop. The signs posed problems, of course, making noise as they creaked in the wind and sometimes falling onto those shopping. In 1766, the signs were removed and to replace them and to tell shoppers what good were being offered, some shops displayed symbols of their trade, like the barber's pole, the grocer's sugar loaf, the golden arm holding a mallet (the sign of the goldsmith). Others put up their names and occupations on signs above their shops. Hence, Mrs. Duval the modiste in my novel (and an actual modiste of the time), though located on Bond Street, featured an spool of thread as well as her name painted on the glass.

One foreign traveler to London, after viewing the new signs, remarked,

‘Dealer in foreign spirituous liquors' is by far the most frequent.

Ha! Some things never change.

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               NY Times Bestselling author Shirlee Busbee


All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell's schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear... her.


The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire's father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.

To learn more about Regan visit: 

Twitter: @RegansReview (


  1. Hi, Grace! So good to be a guest on your blog and to share some bits of my research for To Tame the Wind. Thanks!

  2. Great info. Thanks for this historical note. I am about to purchase your book.
    Sandra McCart, aka Sandra Masters.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Sandra. And let me know how you like To Tame the Wind. It's one of my favorites. And when you read it, remember Jean Donet's story is yet to come (Echo in the Wind).

  3. Great info. Most of my novels do have a "shopping" street. Oxford Street will now be a favorite in my future. Intend to purchase your book To Tame The Wind now.
    Met you at California Dreamin' Contest at
    Beth Yarnell's Desscription class. You were a good moderator questioner.

    1. Hi, Sandra. Thanks so much. I'm glad you can use the post in your research. You must let me know how you like To Tame the Wind. Thanks for the compliment in my being a moderator. One tries.

  4. Hello: I met Regan at the California Dreamin' Conference in Brea, Ca. She helped moderate Beth Yarnell's Description class. Intend to order To Tame the Wind pronto.

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks, Charlene. I'm so glad you liked the post. And appreciate your comment!


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