Fortnum & Mason is considered by many as having the best food hall in the world offering the highest quality, most luxurious and exquisitely presented produce you can find. Fortnum & Mason hampers are amongst the most coveted gifts.
In the early 1700’s William Fortnum was employed as a footman in the household of Queen Anne. In 1707 he and his then landlord Mr. Mason, established their grocery supply business. In 1761, William Fortnum’s grandson Charles, went into the service of Queen Charlotte and the Royal Court education and subsequent affiliation, led to an increase in business.
The store began to stock speciality items, then rare ready-to-eat luxury meals such as fresh poultry and game served in preserving aspic jelly.
Over the centuries anecdotes abound about Fortnum & Mason’s role in supplying the very best of produce to royalty, Britain’s armies overseas (and also sending fortifying beef tea to Florence Nightingale in the Crimea). The 1922 Everest expedition, for example, simply couldn’t start without 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne (the appropriately-named Montebello 1915).
Substantial supplies were shipped to Egypt for the Tutankhamun expedition in 1923; Charles Dickens bought a hamper to celebrate finishing a book (A Christmas Carol?). Dickens also wrote of one Epsom Derby ; “Look where I will…. I see Fortnum & Mason. All the hampers fly wide open and the green downs burst into a blossom of lobster salad!”.
Edward VIII had Scottish kippers and Seville marmalade shipped to Paris for his wedding breakfast when he married Wallis Simpson.
Fortnum & Mason is a British institution in its own right. A visit to London cannot be considered complete until one has ‘experienced’ one of the finest stores on the world.
Located for over 300 years at 181 – 183 Piccadilly, Fortnum & Mason is unique.The beautiful eau du nil façade and famous window displays attract admirers from near and far. In 1964 Fortnum and Mason installed an ornate mechanical clock to grace the outside of their Piccadilly home. Every hour, four foot high replicas of the original Mr. Fortnum and Mr. Mason emerge and bow to each other to the sound of bells (made at the same foundry as Big Ben). The clock is one of the largest examples of its kind, weighing in at over 4 tonnes. You will often see people gathering on the street opposite the store to view the spectacle. Fortnum & Mason has held a number of warrants dating back over nearly 150 years.
On March 2nd, 1863 they were appointed Grocers to HRH the Prince of Wales; on April 1st, 1867 as Oilmen to their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein; October 5th, 1867 as Furnishers to the Establishment of HRH the Crown Princess of Prussia, Princess Royal of Great Britain and Ireland; December 12th, as 1867 Confectioners and Foreign Warehousemen to HRH the Princess of Wales; June 8th, 1887 as Foreign Warehousemen to HRH the Prince of Wales; July 16th as Purveyors of Oilery to HM the Queen.
The iconic Fortnum & Mason Hampers are in particular a Christmas tradition, though can be seen at all major events during the British ‘season’ in the summer months such as Royal Ascot races and the Royal Henley Regatta. From a £5 cannister of tea to a £20,000 hamper containing every conceivable delicacy including a jeroboam of vintage champagne, there is a hamper for everyone.
You can shop at Fortnum & Mason’s online store for Hampers and gifts and have them sent directly to loved ones at home or overseas.