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James Smith & Sons
Photograph: Andy Parsons

London’s oldest shops

From a 200-year-old cheesemongers to the oldest magic shop in the world – check out London's ancient and old-fashioned shops, which have been serving customers for generations

By Things To Do Editors
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London is a city constantly evolving, where skyscrapers flash up in the blink of an eye and shops and restaurants regenerate into more incarnations than Doctor Who. But among the capital’s new-fangled trappings these shopping institutions have endured and are still open for business after hundreds of years. Whether you’re after magic supplies or Mariners’ gear, these time capsules of the high street have got you covered. Here are the oldest shops in London.

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The oldest shops in London

© Andy Parsons

Davenports Magic Shop

Things to do Strand

In the depths of Charing Cross station you’ll find Davenports. Opened in 1898 by 16-year-old music hall performer Lewis Davenport, this institution now holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s oldest family-run magic shop. Bill Davenport is the latest of Lewis’s descendants to run the family business and has been working in the shop since he was a kid. Go to find boxes of colourful silks and ropes, metal rings, fake thumbs, and of course the classic cups and balls. But the best-selling item is a good old-fashioned deck of cards. 

James Smith & Sons

Shopping Gifts and souvenirs Covent Garden

Come rain or shine, this Victorian-era shop on New Oxford Street has been keeping Londoners dry with its handsome umbrellas since it opened in 1830. Alongside the expected traditional brollies (such as a classic City umbrella with a hickory crook), you'll find high-tech folding models and sun parasols – plus walking sticks and canes, which are each one cut to the correct length for the customer. And if your brolly does fall foul of the elements - they'll repair it for you. 

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Arthur Beale

Shopping Shaftesbury Avenue

In need of any marine supplies? Arthur Beale has been London's one-stop shop for all your nautical needs for more than 400 years. Beale is a retail survivor, hanging on long after many of the other chandlers went bust. It may look old-fashioned – and it stubbornly holds out against this new-fangled internet thing – but the stock is as useful now as it ever was for sailors. Here you’ll find everything from reels of rope, ship’s bells, barometers and brass navigation lights to basic boating hardware. 

Paxton & Whitfield

Shopping Specialist food and drink St James’s

Fromage fans, if you want to know who to thank for bringing stilton to London, this 222-year-old artisan cheesemonger in Piccadilly is the place. Sniff your way through a wide range of British and continental European cheeses. Among the unusual English varieties to look out for are Oxford isis (washed in mead), caradon blue from Cornwall and naturally smoked ‘ceodre’ cheddar. Pick up one of their tasty sandwiches at lunchtime.

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© Michelle Grant

Algerian Coffee Stores

Shopping Off licences Soho

Established in 1887, Londoners in search of caffeine have flocked for decades to this Soho institution for freshly ground beans, loose tea, brewing equipment and cheap take-away coffee. It still uses its original wooden counter, shelving and display case and the range of coffees here is improbably large, with a high number of house blends alongside single-origin beans, flavoured beans, rarities and Fairtrade coffees. 

Cash to splash?

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