Fortnum & Mason

Coordinates: 51°30′30″N 0°08′18″W / 51.5083°N 0.1384°W / 51.5083; -0.1384
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Fortnum & Mason
Founded1707; 316 years ago (1707)
FoundersWilliam Fortnum
Hugh Mason
181 Piccadilly
Westminster, London, W1
United Kingdom
Number of locations
5 (2019)[1]
Area served
United Kingdom
Hong Kong
Worldwide (via stockists and online)
Key people
Chairman: Kate Hobhouse CEO: Tom Athron
ProductsLuxury goods
Number of employees
708 (2016)[2]
ParentWittington Investments Ltd

Fortnum & Mason (colloquially often shortened to just Fortnum's) is an upmarket department store in London, England. The main store is located at 181 Piccadilly in the St James's area of London, where it was established in 1707 by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason. There are additional stores at The Royal Exchange, St Pancras railway station and Heathrow Airport in Greater London, at K11 Musea in Hong Kong, as well as various stockists worldwide. Fortnum & Mason is privately owned by Wittington Investments Limited.[3]

Founded as a grocery store, Fortnum's reputation was built on supplying quality food, and it saw rapid growth throughout the Victorian era. Although Fortnum's developed into a department store, it continues to focus on stocking a variety of exotic and speciality foods, along with 'basic' provisions.[4]

The main store has since opened several other departments, such as the gentlemen's department on the first floor. It also contains a tea shop and several restaurants.


Fortnum & Mason

William Fortnum was a footman in the household of Queen Anne. The royal family's insistence on having new candles every night resulted in large amounts of half-used wax, which Fortnum promptly resold. Fortnum also had a side business as a grocer. He convinced his landlord, Hugh Mason, to be his associate, and they founded the first Fortnum & Mason store in Mason's small shop at St James's Market in 1707. In 1761, William Fortnum's grandson Charles went into the service of Queen Charlotte, and the connection with the royal court led to an increase in business. Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented the Scotch egg, in 1738.[5][6] The store began to stock speciality items, namely ready-to-eat luxury meals such as poultry or game served in aspic jelly.[7]

The fruit and flowers section on the ground floor

During the Napoleonic Wars, the emporium supplied dried fruit, spices and other preserves to British officers. In the Victorian era, it was frequently called upon to provide food for prestigious court functions. Queen Victoria sent shipments of Fortnum & Mason's concentrated beef tea to Florence Nightingale's hospitals during the Crimean War.[8]

Main staircase

Charles Drury Edward Fortnum (1820–1899), of the family, was a distinguished art collector and a Trustee of the British Museum, to which he donated his collection of Islamic ceramics.[9]

In 1886, after having bought the entire stock of five cases of a new product made by H. J. Heinz, Fortnum & Mason became the first store in Britain to stock tins of baked beans.[8]

The mechanical clock on the main façade

The shop at 181–184 Piccadilly was rebuilt between 1926 and 1927 to a Neo-Georgian design by the architects Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie. The building also incorporates 22–27 Duke Street and 42–45 Jermyn Street.[10]

In April 1951, the Canadian businessman W. Garfield Weston acquired the store and became its chairman following a boardroom coup.[11] In 1964, he commissioned a four-ton clock to be installed above the main entrance of the store as a tribute to its founders. Every hour, 4-foot-high (1.2 m) models of William Fortnum and Hugh Mason emerge and bow to each other, with chimes and 18th-century style music playing in the background. The chimes were incorporated into Jonathan Dove's orchestral adaptation of Zeb Soanes' children's book Gaspard's Foxtrot, which depicts the clock and its figures as illustrated by James Mayhew. Since Garfield Weston's death in 1978, the store has been run by two of his granddaughters, Jana Khayat and Kate Hobhouse. The Chief Executive Officer is Tom Athron, who joined the business in December 2020.

The store underwent a £24 million refurbishment in 2007 as part of its tercentenary celebrations.[12]

In March 2012, Queen Elizabeth II, Camilla (then Duchess of Cornwall]]) and Catherine (then Duchess of Cambridge) made their first official joint visit to Fortnum & Mason. During this visit, they were each presented with their own personalised hampers.[13] The Queen opened the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the fourth floor.

In November 2013, the company's first additional store was opened at St Pancras International station.[14] The retailer has since opened stores and restaurants at Heathrow Terminal 5 (in 2014) and at The Royal Exchange (in 2018).

Fortnum & Mason opened its first standalone store outside Britain in Dubai on 21 March 2014. This store closed on 9 July 2017.[15]

On 4 April 2019, it was announced that Fortnum & Mason would open a Hong Kong store at K11 Musea in September 2019. The 7,000 square-foot space features a retail store and restaurant.[16]

Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards[edit]

Fortnum & Mason runs an annual food and drinks awards scheme.[17] According to the company's former CEO Ewan Venters, the awards recognise ‘the pinnacle of high achievement in food and drink across the media’. The awards celebrate writers, publishers, presenters, image-makers and personalities working in the food and drink industry.

The 2018 awards ceremony was hosted by Claudia Winkleman and winners included Nadiya Hussain, Nigel Slater and Jay Rayner.[17]

Royal warrants[edit]

Fortnum & Mason holds two royal warrants, the first granted by Queen Elizabeth II as Grocers and Provisions Merchants, and the second by Charles, then Prince of Wales as Tea Merchants and Grocers.[18]

Their first royal warrant was granted in 1910 by Queen Alexandra. Later Royal Warrants were granted to Fortnum & Mason by King George V, though Fortnum & Mason temporarily lost their warrant for his son, King George VI, in 1948, due to post war rationing of the time. The warrant for King George VI was restored in 1951.[18]

Later, King George VI and his consort Queen Elizabeth, known as The Queen Mother after the death of King George VI in 1952, both granted Fortnum & Mason Royal Warrants.[18]

Platinum Jubilee[edit]

In 2022, Fortnum & Mason was a sponsor of the Platinum Pudding Competition, as part of the official celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[19][20][21]

Fortnum & Mason was also one of sixteen partners of the Platinum Jubilee Pageant, held on 5 June 2022.[19][22]


In November 2010, animal rights group PETA UK began a campaign against Fortnum & Mason's sale of foie gras, citing the cruelty in the production process. The group regularly held demonstrations involving celebrities, activists and volunteers outside the store. Celebrities supporting the campaign included Geezer Butler, Sir Roger Moore,[23] Owain Yeoman,[24] Tamara Ecclestone,[25] Bill Oddie,[26] Twiggy[27] and Morrissey.[28] In 2011, Fortnum & Mason was reprimanded by Westminster Trading Standards for misleading customers about its animal welfare standards.[29] As a result, the grocer changed its corporate social responsibility document to state that only UK suppliers are required to adhere to its welfare standards. In December 2020, Fortnum & Mason ceased sale of foie gras in favour of the ethical alternative, foie royale.

On 26 March 2011, Fortnum & Mason was targeted by the group UK Uncut, who broke off from the main 2011 anti-cuts protest march to target the tax avoidance policies of Associated British Foods, which, like Fortnum & Mason, is owned by Wittington Investments.[30] This took the form of a mass sit-in, with some 138 UK Uncut protesters arrested.[31]

In popular culture[edit]

Fortnum's history of offering a wide variety of foodstuffs is referenced in the 1960 Hammer Studios film, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll. Set in 1870s London, Mr Hyde quips regarding a lively and risqué London nightspot, "Rather like Fortnum & Mason ... you can buy anything here."

In Alan Bennett's play The Madness of George III (also made into a 1994 film), set in the late 1780s, a footman named Fortnum leaves in a huff to start a "provision merchant's in Piccadilly." This is an anachronistic reference to the founding of the store, as William Fortnum's position as a footman in the royal household was many decades earlier, in the reign of Queen Anne.

In Anthony Trollope's novel "The Claverings," Sir Hugh Clavering disdains to trust Fortnum and Mason to provision his yachting trip to Norway. "He was not a man to trust any Fortnum or any Mason as to the excellence of the article to be supplied, or as to the price."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Our Stores
  2. ^ "Directors' report". Companies House. 12 July 2015.
  3. ^ "Wittington Investments Limited". Companies House. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  4. ^ Suzy Gershman (2006). Born to Shop London. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-7645-9891-3. Retrieved 5 February 2013. Fortnum & Mason.
  5. ^ "Single Hen Scotch Egg". Fortnum & Mason. Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  6. ^ Glancey, Jonathan (5 November 2007). "A facial at Fortnums? Never!". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  7. ^ "1700s". F&M. Archived from the original on 2 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  8. ^ a b "1800s". F&M. Archived from the original on 25 October 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  9. ^ Lee Sorensen. "Dictionary of Art Historians". Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  10. ^ Sheppard, F, H. W. (1960). Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. London: London County Council. pp. 251–270. Retrieved 18 December 2021.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "Lord Ampthill". The Daily Telegraph. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  12. ^ "2007". F&M. 11 May 2006. Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  13. ^ "The Queen, Catherine and Camilla visit Fortnum & Mason". BBC News. 1 March 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  14. ^ "Fortnum & Mason to open first new store in 307 years". The Daily Telegraph. 11 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  15. ^ Nagraj, Aarti (17 August 2017). "UK luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason confirms Dubai store closure". Gulf Business. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  16. ^ Wilson Fok (4 April 2019). "Fortnum & Mason To Debut Its Hong Kong Flagship At K11 Musea This September". Asia Tatler.
  17. ^ a b Onwuemezi, Natasha (11 May 2018). "Hussain and Slater win Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards". The Bookseller. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  18. ^ a b c "Fortnum's & the Royal Family". Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  19. ^ a b Emma.Goodey (1 June 2021). "Plans announced for The Queen's Platinum Jubilee Central Weekend 2022". The Royal Family. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  20. ^ "The Platinum Pudding Competition". The Queen's Platinum Jubilee 2022. 10 January 2022. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  21. ^ "The Platinum Pudding Competition | A Recipe Fit for The Queen". Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  22. ^ "John Lewis Partnership - Major British Brands Come Together To Support the Platinum Jubilee Pageant". Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  23. ^ "Sir Roger Moore Says, 'Foie Gras Is Cruel, Not Yule'". PETA. 24 December 2010. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  24. ^ "Owain Yeoman Joins Foie Gras". Female First. 16 June 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  25. ^ "Tamara Ecclestone: 'I've got a basic palate and simple needs'". Croatian Times. 2 December 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  26. ^ "Bill 'Santa' Oddie Delivers Bag of Coal to 'Naughty' Fortnum & Mason". PETA. 10 November 2011. Archived from the original on 18 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  27. ^ "Twiggy Steps Up Foie Gras Campaign". Contactmusic. 23 June 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  28. ^ "Morrissey vs. Gordon Ramsay in Foie Gras Fracas | Animal Writes |". Archived from the original on 14 August 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  29. ^ Jamie Doward and Jemima Owen (17 December 2011). "Fortnum and Mason faces celebrity battle over its sale of 'cruel' foie gras". The Observer.
  30. ^ "UK Uncut Occupy Tax Dodgers Fortnum and Mason" (Press release). 26 March 2011. Archived from the original on 29 March 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  31. ^ Sunny Hundal (27 March 2011). Occupation of Fortnum & Mason by UKuncut was peaceful. Retrieved 5 February 2013.

External links[edit]

51°30′30″N 0°08′18″W / 51.5083°N 0.1384°W / 51.5083; -0.1384