Today let’s take a look at Fortnum & Mason, a longstanding department store and another well-known Royal Warrant holder.
Fortnum & Mason was founded in 1707 by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason. Fortnum was a footman to Queen Anne and operated a side business as a grocer. Given the Royal Family’s inclination for new candles every night, Fortnum would sell the half-used wax. He convinced his landlord, Mason, to go into business together and soon their eponymous store opened in St James’s Market.
The connection to the Royal Family proved helpful to Fortnum and Mason, and soon they began dealing in high end foods. Fortnum & Mason also boasted a post office from 1794 until the opening of the General Post Office in 1839.
Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented the Scotch Egg in 1738, an easy meal that withstands a long trip. At the Great Exhibition of 1851, the grocers won first prize as importers of dried fruits and dessert goods. Other luxury foods that they introduced and trended include poultry and other game in aspic, boar heads, truffles, and mangoes.
After the horrible conditions facing soldiers during the Crimean War was made public in 1854, according to Fortnum & Mason’s website, Queen Victoria responded by “sending Fortnum’s an order ‘to dispatch without delay to Miss Nightingale in Scutari a huge consignment of concentrated beef tea.’”
In 1964, a distinctive four-ton clock was installed under the instruction of new manager W. Garfield Weston, a Canadian businessman. Every hour, two four-foot-high models of Fortnum and Mason emerge from doors in the clock face and bow to each other while 18th century music plays.
The department store was granted a Royal Warrant in 1955, as “Grocers & Provisions Merchants” and “Tea Merchants.”
In its 300-year history, Fortnum & Mason has touched a lot of British history. Baked beans from Mr. Heinz in the United States were introduced to Britain through the grocery store in 1886.
In 1911 Suffragettes who were imprisoned after breaking the store windows were sent hampers of food from the store.
The first British Everest Expedition was provisioned with food from Fortnum & Mason.
The record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was released in 1984 through Fortnum & Mason; the first and only time music has been sold there.
Today there are four Fortnum & Mason locations: three in Great Britain and one in the United Arab Emirates. The flagship location still stands along with one in Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, one in the St Pancras International Station, and one in Dubai that opened in 2013.
In more recent times, Her Majesty visited Fortnum & Mason during her Diamond Jubilee year, in March 2012. Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duchess of Cambridge paid a visit so that the Queen could open the Diamond Jubilee Tea Station, and to inspect several types of teas and biscuits that would be sent to troops around the world.
You can visit Fortnum & Mason’s website by going to https://www.fortnumandmason.com