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The Oldest Shopping Arcade in the World - a brief history
The Royal Opera Arcade was completed in 1818 and is the world's oldest existing shopping arcade. There was an arcade leading to the Parthenon but it is no longer standing. The Burlington Arcade is often thought to be the oldest, however built 1818-1819, it was completed a year after The Royal Opera Arcade, its conception also followed that of Nash and Repton’s Arcade. The shopping arcade is brilliant in its conception, dramatically increasing the retail frontage of an area. It is the forerunner of modern day shopping centres.
It consists of a covered walk some twelve feet wide, parallel with the Haymarket and extending between Pall Mall and Charles II Street. On its west side are eighteen (originally nineteen) small shops, each with a basement and a mezzanine room.
Her Majesty's theatere (previously London's Royal Opera House) is located next door and was built by (Sir) John Vanbrugh in 1704–5. In 1816–18. Nash & Repton provided the theatre with façades on its three other sides and in doing so added the Royal Opera Arcade to the West. This version of the theatre and all the surrounding premises except the Royal Opera Arcade were demolished in the 1890’s.
St James’s and Pall Mall
Pall Mall takes its name from the game ‘paille-maille’, a cross between croquet and golf, that was played here in the early-17th century. For over 150 years this dignified street has been at the heart of London’s clubland. Gentlemans' clubs evolved from the 17th century coffee houses as meeting places where men could find refuge from their womenfolk. However, most of the exclusive gentlemens’ clubs there today date from the 19th century.
The Institute of Directors was the colonnaded United Services Club built by John Nash in 1827, and it was the Duke of Wellington’s favourite club.
The Athenaeum is adjacent to it on the other side of Waterloo Place. Designed by Decimus Burton in 1830.
The Travellers’ Club and The Reform Club, spawned by the 1832 Reform Act were built by Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament.
The RAC Club, founded in 1897 is the most recent, and least class-conscious, of the clubs.