London’s first department store was not Selfridge’s. Neither was it Liberty’s or Harrods, but William Whiteley Limited in Bayswater. Founded by the eponymous Whiteley as a drapery shop at 31 Westbourne Grove in 1863, by 1867 the entrepreneur had acquired a row of shops containing 17 departments. A dressmaker, estate agency, refreshment room and food outlets followed, as well as a building and decorating department in 1876. In 1896 William Whiteley Limited earned a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria.
When the modern-day Whiteleys was opened in 1911, it was considered the height of luxury. It was reportedly the largest shop in the world, and designers John Belcher and John James Joass had gone all out, even incorporating a theatre and a golf course on the roof (shopping metropolises decked out with amenities à la Westfield were not commonplace at the time).
The department store even inspired popular culture, appearing in a number of 20th Century novels, as well as George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion, in which Eliza Doolittle is sent “to Whiteleys to be attired”.
Whiteleys changed hands numerous times during the 20th Century and was designated Grade II-listed status in 1970. It was finally bought by Meyer Bergman in 2013.
The real estate investor has spent the last few years renovating over 1.1 million sq ft into a mixture of home, retail units and leisure facilities, including cafes, restaurants, a cinema, and a state-of-the-art gym, with the bulk of the upper floors being turned into 139 high-specification residences. It will also comprise a Six Senses hotel with 110 rooms and 14 branded residences, as well as a spa and a members’ social and wellness club.
Which brings us to the exciting bit: you now have the chance to live in the history-laden site of William Whiteley Limited, the nation’s original department store. The first residences have already launched – and they’re impressive.
Internationally renowned architect Foster + Partners has been entrusted with home design, which brings together modern architecture while respecting and highlighting the building’s restored Grade II-listed features. Its entire frontage and iconic dome have been retained, and Whiteleys’ famous clock and sculptures take pride of place. Residences consist of one- to five-bedroom homes and are generous in terms of space, with ceiling heights of up to six metres. Prices start at £1.5 million.
The inclusion of Six Senses, meanwhile, represents the hotel brand’s first foray into the UK. Designed by AvroKO, Whiteley’s iron staircase will become the centrepiece of the hotel, which will boast 110 rooms, a lobby bar and lounge, all-day dining restaurant, and a Six Senses Spa with a fitness studio, 20-metre indoor pool, steam room and sauna, relaxation room and the Alchemy Bar. Residents of The Whiteley will have access to Six Senses services and amenities.
The project is set to complete in late 2023, and will represent the beginning of a new era for Bayswater. Historically, this area of W2 has been the least expensive of the neighbourhoods encircling Hyde Park. But its prime location is undeniable, and will only be enhanced by the opening of Crossrail in nearby Paddington. Plus, over £3 billion of collective landowner investment like The Whiteley is expected in the coming years, with other luxurious residential developments in the area including Park Modern, which should see off any demand issues raised by the slightly shabby Queensway.
Bayswater is about to have its Cinderella story – you heard it here first.
For more information visit thewhiteleylondon.com