- English Shops and Shopping: An Architectural History
Kathryn Morrison's English Shops and Shopping: An Architectural History chronicles the history of retailing and the architecture that has enhanced and reflected the exchange [End Page 130] of goods from the Middle Ages to the present. The book resulted from sixteen months of fieldwork to survey and document extant retail buildings in England for the former Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and English Heritage. The survey findings of Morrison and her staff are supplemented with documentary research and archival images to provide the context for the buildings discussed and to reveal the impact on the built environment produced by evolutions in transportation, construction materials, and technology as well as cultural factors, including changes in legislation, planning, economics, fashion and foreign influences.
The book is arranged chronologically in fourteen chapters. Morrison begins with the fundamental impact of trade during the Middle Ages on both the lives of individuals and the development of urban centers and introduces and explains the various types of traders, commodities, and means of exchange as well as the places for exchange prior to 1700. These include markets and fairs, and particular buildings such as market buildings, shops, row shops, and selds. The analysis then moves on to discuss the major shift in attitude toward shopping from a basic necessity to a leisure pursuit, instigated in the late sixteenth century by the creation of London's Royal Exchange and other shopping galleries. The destruction of London's shops in the Great Fire of 1666 resulted in commercial enterprises moving west to Covent Garden, the Strand, or Holburn and, in the early eighteenth century, the more fashionable shops moving even further west to the area around St. James's. Changes went beyond location to include regulations to curtail the projections of shops, the introduction of glazed facades, and the development of specialized shops offering new customer services. The book details the evolution of storefront design from 1750 to 2000 and discusses specialist traders, including jewelers, chemists, drapers, shoemakers, grocers, and butchers, and their shops.
Chapters 5 through 8 discuss the extensive changes brought about in the nineteenth century due to the introduction of new facilities for shopping, including the introduction of arcades and bazaars housing a variety of traders in one building under the control of a single proprietor, who established and enforced rules to maintain the respectability of the venture. Morrison credits the English and French bazaars for being "the most architecturally adventurous retail establishments of the early to mid-nineteenth century" and says "it is no exaggeration to claim that the proprietors of the bazaars were the first to create places of theatre and spectacle as settings for retail activity" (93). She recognizes the designers of the bazaars, such as the architect Owen Jones (Crystal Palace Bazaar, London, 1858), for exploiting the potential of iron and glass "to create vast centralized spaces surrounded by galleries and lit naturally from above" (93). Morrison maintains that the bazaar was probably an English concept, founded on the earlier exchanges, but recognizes the French Galerie de Bois (1786) as the precedent for the first English arcade (the Royal Opera Arcade, 1817). The text discusses the popularity of London's Burlington Arcade and the subsequent adoption of the building type in ports and resort areas. Morrison also outlines the promotion of arcades in utopian schemes in the Victorian era and their continuance and transformation in the twentieth century. Market halls, warehouses and emporia, and cooperative stores are the topics of three separate chapters.
The book examines twentieth-century developments such as national chain stores, niche-market retailing, shopping malls, and superstores with reference to the cultural environment that produced them. Retail development in the first half of the twentieth century, when the most extravagant and innovative stores were built in London, is contrasted with the malls and retail parks developed in the latter half of the century, away from...