I love old Victorian London shops. They conjure up a timeless past, where Ladies were still treated with respect and being a Gentleman was still something to aspire to. And none reflects that age and is more quintessentially English, than James Smith & Son Umbrellas.
Standing on the same busy London road junction near Holborn for over 150 years, is a shop so captured in time, that it’s hard to believe it’s not a replica of the original.
Selling high quality umbrellas here since 1857, there is no pretence here – the windows are crammed full of the things. They do however sell Walking Sticks and Parasols too and some of their bespoke products can cost thousands of pounds!
This not surprisingly, is the oldest Umbrella Shop in Europe and the original family are still involved in the business. But though most of their products are very traditional, they still have a few interesting modern tricks up their sleeve. I rather fancy one of their made to order ‘drinking sticks’ which hold two slim glasses, a tiny flask and canes whose handles untwist to become a corkscrew. Very James Bond. All it needs is the Stiletto dagger
The English have always been obsessed with their weather and with rain never that far away, James Smith & Sons Umbrellas, just a walk away from the British Museum, definitely qualifies as a London institution in its own right.