Come rain or shine, next time you’re in central London hail a cab and ask for “The Umbrella shop” every taxi driver will know where to find this hidden gem! With it`s Victorian shop front design and untouched interior you will be warmly welcomed into the world of walking sticks, dress canes, umbrellas and much, much more. Founded in the 1830s, this is the oldest umbrella shop in London.
James Smith & Sons works with established family companies from around Europe. Sourcing the highest quality components that they need to craft their walking sticks and umbrella collections. A few of the handles are still hand carved by craftsman in the uk and unique wooden handles are supplied from the forests of Europe and Asia.
Phil, the store manager gave me a tour of the store before opening hours. A real treat, as when the open sign was turned and the doors unlocked the daily flow of customers began. The store is brimming with a large variety of styles and functional designs. There are plenty of knowledgeable sales personnel on hand to advise you on which style would best suit your needs and give tips on how to take care of your purchase.
Which is the oldest umbrella you have in-store?
An 18th century walrus tusk and brass umbrella, the fabric would have originally been silk and the ribs made of whalebone.
I see you have a variety of styles in the cabinet, what type of umbrellas are these?
Here we have a drinking stick umbrella, which was popular in the 19th century, there`s also a games stick with concealed dice, a horse measuring stick and swordstick.
How would you describe the signature style of a traditional English umbrella and which is your personal favourite?
It should be functional and reserved in design. My favourite is the horn handle umbrella with olive wood shaft, as it is not only stylish but sturdy and comfortable to hold.
Which umbrellas would you class as essential accessories?
A small umbrella which fits in your bag, a sturdy, stylish folding design for windy days and a smart, formal style for weddings and funerals.
Do you have an on-site workshop?
Yes we do, we produce our own umbrellas, make alterations and of course offer a repairs service.
Thank you Phil and your team for having me at James Smith & Sons, armed with my new umbrella I will be ready for any stormy days and any April showers!
When I am working in London I like to uncover new shopping experiences and gain insight into the traditional stores which have influenced design as we know it today. If there is anything you would particularly like me to explore, please let me know so I can add it to my style stories for you!