Saturday 11 July 2020

The Exchanges - Royal and New

Shopping, for the fashionable when in London, meant a visit to either the Royal Exchange or the New Exchange. The Royal Exchange was built in 1567 by Thomas Gresham, and officially opened on 23 January 1571 by Elizabeth I, who allowed the building its royal title.  The New Exchange was built by Sir Robert Cecil, and was opened by James I on 11 April 1609. The shops of both included many that catered for fashion requirements of the elite.  
Hollar. The Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange was colonnaded, with around 120 shops on the ground and first floors, they surrounded an open courtyard, as can be seen in the engraving by Hollar. The original Royal Exchange burnt down in the 1666 Great Fire of London, though it was immediately rebuilt, Pepys records going to see the first stone laid on 23 October 1667. (Saunders, 1997) The New Exchange was built as competition for the Royal, and was situated on the Strand, outside the walls of the City of London. It was very similar in style to the Royal and had about one hundred shops. On visiting London Grand Duke Cosmo of Tuscany wrote of the New Exchange. “It contains two long and double galleries, one above the other, in which are distributed in several rows great numbers of very rich shops of drapers and mercers filled with goods of every kind, and with manufactures of the most beautiful description. These are for the most part under the care of well-dressed women, who are busily employed in work, although many are served by young men called apprentices.” (Cosimo III Grand Duke, 1823)

The shops were quite small, and similar to those that can be seen in Abraham Bosse's engraving of the Parisian equivalent, the Palais Royale (below). Here are three shops side by side, on the left a book shop, in the centre a shop selling fans and gloves, and on the right a shop selling rebatos, bands and cuffs.

Bosse 1636 Gallerie du Palais
The range of goods that could be bought was extensive. Pepys often records shopping at the exchanges. At the New on 10th April 1663 “There laid out 10s. upon pendents and painted leather gloves, very pretty and all the mode.” 20th December 1665 at the Royal “laying out a little money there for two pair of thread stockings, cost 8s.” He also bought prints, plays and books at the Exchanges. In 1663 Pepys looked for some lace at the Royal but instead bought from “the great laceman in Cheapside, and bought one cost me 4l. more by 20s. than I intended, but when I came to see them I was resolved to buy one worth wearing with credit, and so to the New Exchange, and there put it to making,” which indicates that he could have stuff made up at the Exchanges. The household accounts of the Earl and Countess of Bath indicate that they also shopped at the exchanges. In 1646, as the first part of the English Civil War was coming to an end the accounts record “to Mr Bayles in the New Exchange for gloves 18s”, and later the same year, “for handkerchief, band and cuffs welted in the Old [Royal] Exchange 12s” (Gray, 1996)

Cosimo III Grand Duke, 1823. Travels of Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, through England during the reign of Charles II (1669). Monthly Review, Issue Jan, pp. 33-43.
Gray, T., 1996. Devon Household Accounts 1627-59. Part 2. Exeter: Devon and Cornwall Record Society, new series, vol. 39, 267.
Saunders, A., 1997. The Royal Exchange. London: London Topographical Society.

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