Located in the heart of Mayfair, Flemings is perfectly positioned on the doorstep of some of London’s most iconic institutions. The Burlington Arcade, which celebrated its 200th anniversary this year, is among London’s best-loved shopping Arcades. We met with Mark Lord who oversees the team of Beadles that guard the Arcade every day. Mark has been working at Burlington Arcade for 17 years.
Mark, can you tell us a little bit about you and what your role is at the Arcade?
My role is to make sure everything runs smoothly day-to-day in the Arcade and that there are no issues. I deal with the tenants and general maintenance for example, but also with the general public to help answer their questions. You would think most of the questions they ask are about the Arcade, but most of them are related to Mayfair in general. We get a lot of queries about restaurants, exhibitions and so on, so you could say we are the concierge of Mayfair!
What is the daily life of the smallest police force in the UK?
Our ‘police’ title is an honorary one. Traditionally, Beadles were meant to keep the country in order and they could be employed by churches or families. Our role here is to keep the Arcade in order.
What makes Burlington Arcade so special in your opinion?
First and foremost, its history. But also, what is so amazing about this Arcade in my opinion is the knowledge and passion of the people who work here. There really is a great expertise in crafts like jewellery and shoes for instance, and people are so enthusiastic… I know that when I send someone to a shop, they will be perfectly taken care of.
Do you have any funny anecdotes about the Arcade that you would be happy to share?
Something which always puts a smile on my face is when celebrities come to the Arcade. The staff always respect their privacy, but some customers have a hard time hiding their surprise or admiration, which can lead to comic situations. I remember when Pierce Brosnan once came to the Arcade, we had a lady who nearly fainted! Or when celebrities like Liz Hurley come, I can see men losing their focus and staring in awe.
We know that apart from Paul McCartney, no one is allowed to whistle in the Arcade. Has anyone ever broken the rule?
Apart from Paul McCartney and… Jaiden! He is a young boy whose uncle once came to me and told me about his nephew and his troubles at school. Since Jaiden was fond of history, we arranged to take him for a tour around the Arcade. We let him wear our hats, told him stories, and I could see the story of Paul McCartney being the only person allowed to whistle in the Arcade really stuck with him. So, I promised him that if he got a very good school report, he could get a licence to whistle in the Arcade too.
A few years later, while at work, I heard a voice behind me say ‘Hi Mark, do you remember me?’. I recognised the voice straightaway as the uncle’s one. He had come to tell me that his nephew received a very good school report. Then as agreed, we issued a special license for Jaiden to whistle in the Arcade!
Are there any other specific rule to the Arcade?
Yes, we have a few. You are not allowed to bring in a bicycle, an open umbrella or play a musical instrument. You are not allowed to hurry either, so take your time and no running!
What is the craziest thing one could purchase in the Arcade?
You are spoiled for choice!
Perfume, shoes, jewellery, we cover a wide range of shops… But the most interesting part is that you can get many things that are tailored-made to you. You can make and name your very own lipstick or perfume for example.
You are guaranteed to find something unique.
What did the Arcade keep from the times it was built?
We are lucky because the Arcade kept most of its architecture, except for its floor, entrance, and one of the front doors.
I think it is one of the reasons why people love to go to the Burlington Arcade. It remains the same and gives a warm feeling of familiarity.
We like to provide a special and personal experience to people. With a 48 hours’ notice, we can give customers a tour, with no charge or time limit, so you can really experience the excellence of the Burlington Arcade.
And with Christmas around the corner, there is no better place to find a unique gift for a loved-one!