Whiteleys

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Coordinates: 51°30′52.6″N 0°11′18.4″W / 51.514611°N 0.188444°W / 51.514611; -0.188444

Whiteleys
Location Bayswater, UK
Opening date 26 July 1989
Owner Brunei family
Website www.whiteleys.com
Whiteleys

Whiteleys is a large shopping centre in Bayswater, London, England, which opened in 1989. It has been built in the retail space of the former William Whiteley Limited department store, and opened in 1911 as London's first department store. The store's main entrance was located on Queensway.

History[edit]

The original Whiteleys department store was created by William Whiteley, who started a drapery shop at 31 Westbourne Grove in 1863.

In 1907, William Whiteley was murdered by Horace George Rayner, who claimed to be his illegitimate son, "Cecil Whiteley". After his death, the board including two of Whiteley's sons allowed the leases on the various Westbourne Grove properties to lapse and moved into a new purpose built store on Queens Road (now called Queensway).[1]

The building was designed by John Belcher and John James Joass, and was opened by the Lord Mayor of London in 1911.[1] It was the height of luxury at the time, including both a theatre and a golf-course on the roof. It appears in a number of early 20th-century novels, and in Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion, where Eliza Doolittle is sent "to Whiteleys to be attired." In the late 1920s, Dr. A. J. Cronin, the novelist, was appointed the medical officer of Whiteleys, and in 1927 rival store Selfridges purchased the business.

The building was designated a Grade II Listed Building in 1970.[2]

The department store closed down in 1981 remaining empty until the building was purchased by a firm called the Whiteleys Partnership in 1986, later acquired by the Standard Life Assurance Company. Extensive reconstruction followed; the façade and some interior features such as stairs and railings remain, but essentially the building was demolished and rebuilt. During this reconstruction a tower crane collapsed, killing workmen and the driver of a car. It reopened on 26 July 1989 as a shopping centre.

In September 2013 the centre was bought by a Brunei family trust for £100 million, in an off market deal.[3]

In 2016, a £1bn redevelopment plan for the Whiteleys shopping centre was approved. It would include two new ten storey blocks with 100 new homes and a hotel.[4]

Operations[edit]

Design and layout[edit]

On 26 July 1989 Whiteleys was re-opened as a shopping centre. The shopping centre never worked as a retail destination and became much maligned by the wealthy and sophisticated residents of nearby Notting Hill. Since 2005 a slow change of direction began under a new management regime which incorporated substantial physical improvements to the interior, the replacement of McDonald's with Rowley Leigh's new restaurant Le Café Anglais and a new food hall in the central mall area. On site management have claimed in the press that this is the start of a transformation of the building and its shops.[citation needed]

The ground-floor fountain, with its inspiring sculpture, certainly disappeared unannounced around that time. In June 2008 the ground floor was transformed into what the management have called a 'foodstore', essentially a larger, more glamorous version of a department store foodhall, designed by Lifeschutz Davidson Sandilands and operated by renowned restaurateur Dominic Ford it is called 'Food Inc' and sells fresh fish, meat, dry goods, wine and meat from the shopping centre's own farm.

This year a new vintage store, Victory Vintage, opened on the first floor opposite GAP. One of the largest retail spaces on the first floor was formerly operated by Borders, but is now part of the Toys-R-Us chain. Other stores include branches of clothing stores Zara and French Connection and 'The Real China.'

Current occupants[edit]

The current Whiteleys contains a large number of shops and places to eat including Marks & Spencer, HMV, Starbucks and a sushi bar. Leisure facilities include an Odeon cinema and bowling alley.

Within the current Whiteleys building there is a TV production company called Princess Productions who own office space and a TV studio, which has been used for British breakfast TV show RI:SE, The Wright Stuff, Sunday Brunch, T4 and Too Much TV.

Former occupants[edit]

Until April 2010 Whiteleys also housed the online retailer Net-a-Porter. The company's main offices are now situated in Westfield London.

In popular culture[edit]

Whiteleys is mentioned in several books and has appeared in numerous films, TV shows; most notably:

  • In War of the Wenuses, an 1898 parody of The War of the Worlds, one of the main battles between Earth women and Venusian women takes place outside the original store in Westbourne Grove.
  • In the cinematic version of Billion Dollar Brain the hero uses an X-Ray machine in Whiteleys' shoe department to examine the contents of a sealed package.
  • In the TV series adaption of The Tripods, filmed in 1983, the run-down Whiteleys building is used to portray an abandoned department store in 21st century Paris.
  • In the film Closer, starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, the upper floor of Whiteleys hosts an art gallery exhibition, and is the only scene where all four actors appear together at the same time.
  • The 2013 BBC1 thriller series The Escape Artist filmed scenes there.
  • In 2016 the store was featured extensively in the storyline of the popular ITV drama Mr Selfridge with the take-over by Selfridges.
  • Whiteley’s Folly by Linda Stratmann (2004, Sutton Publishing) is a biography of William Whiteley, and a history of the store.
  • Whiteleys is mentioned the book The Diary of a Nobody written by the brothers George and Weedon Grossmith published in June 1892.

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]