The next two entries in Exploring London’s 100 most popular posts countdown…
Jane Austen is known to have patronised many shops while in London (mainly concerned with fabrics) – here’s just a few…
• Twinings – The Austen family is known to have bought their tea from the famous merchant’s 300-year-old premises which still stands in the Strand near Temple Bar; a letter survives which Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra in reference to an order.
• Newton’s – A linen drapers formerly located at 14 Coventry Street just off Leicester Square. Jane is known to have visited here with her niece Fanny.
• Wilding & Kent – Upmarket drapers, located in Grafton House on the corner of New Bond and Grafton Streets. Jane, who is known to have visited frequently, complained of the queues there.
• Layton & Shear’s – A fashionable mercer’s shop located at 9 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, conveniently located next door to where Jane lived for a time with her brother Henry.
There are others – this is just a sample!
Correction: The Fanny mentioned who visited Newton’s with Jane Austen was her niece, not her sister (although she apparently thought of her like “almost another sister”).
Opened in the Strand in 1706, Thomas Twining’s tea shop can still be found there today.
Twining, a tea merchant whose family originally hailed from Gloucestershire, started selling tea from what had been a coffee house – Tom’s Coffee House – in an effort to tap into tea’s growing popularity. It had apparently been introduced to England by Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of King Charles II, soon after the Restoration.
Amid resistance from other coffee house owners and despite high taxes on tea, Twining’s venture succeeded, attracting a wealthy clientele which apparently included Jane Austen, thanks at least in part to its location on the border between the City of Westminster and the City of London.
By 1717, Twining had purchased three houses adjacent to his coffee house and converted them into a shop which still stands today at number 216 Strand (the original Tom’s Coffee House was located behind this premises). He was soon selling more dry tea than wet at the sign of the “Golden Lyon”.
Following Thomas’ death in 1741, Twining’s son Daniel took over the business and by the mid-1700s, was exporting to America where he counted the Governor of Boston among his clients (but, apparently it was not Twining’s tea which was tossed into the sea at the Boston Tea Party).
It was Daniel’s son (and Thomas’ grandson), Richard Twining, who was successful in lobbying for the lowering of tea taxes and so paving the way for tea to become the commonly consumed drink it is today. It was also Richard who built the shop’s current entrance portal in 1787 incorporating the golden lion.
The Twinings shop today is the oldest in the City of Westminster while the company’s logo, which dates back to 1787, is the oldest commercial logo in continuous use.
Twinings, which since 1964 had been owned by Associated British Foods, was granted a Royal Warrant in 1837 by Queen Victoria.
For more, see www.twinings.co.uk.