His warehouse, a substantial 300 by 150 feet, stood at the north-west corner of Soho Square. In it, he rented counter space--standings--to about 150 vendors at 3 pence per foot per day. Below is Soho Square in 1816 from Papworth's Views of London:
The Soho Bazaar was a benevolent exercise offering respectable women an opportunity to sell whatever fancy goods they could make in their homes. There was a certain stigma attached to public selling, and the righteous were quick to see opportunity for moral turpitude in the retail trade. In fact a ballad was published by printer James Calnach, deriding the leisured classes who frequented the Bazaar.
The Soho Bazaar
Ladies in furs and gemmen in spurs,
Who lollop and lounge about all day:
The Bazaar in Soho is completely the go--
Walk into the shop of Grimaldi!
Come from afar, here's the Bazaar!--
But if you won't deal with us, stay where you are."
But the majority of the public were supportive of the venture, and the popularity of the Bazaar was evidenced by the carriages that thronged the Square. Supporters like Joseph Nightingale "envisioned bazaars as the perfect mixture of capitalism and charity..." and one William Jerdan wrote a letter to the New Monthly Magazine. He declared the bazaar to help "a multitude of persons who have heretofore been condemned to penury and hopelessness by the insuperable difficulties and equally insuperable delicacies of their situation". The lady retailers were required to wear plain and modest clothes, there was a matron overseeing the whole, and unusually for the time, prices were fixed and marked on the product. The Gentlemen's Magazine remarked that the premises were "large, dry, commodious, well lighted, warmed, ventilated, and properly watched".
Goods sold in the early years included hats, reticules, lace, shawls, and toys; later the Bazaar included bookshops and bakeries and more. La Belle Assemblee, the famed ladies' periodical, published a news item regarding the Bazaar in 1826:
The Soho Bazaar
Possibly it may be information to some of the readers of La Belle Assemblee to state that, in consequence of the increased attendance of company, and of the increased demand for standings, at this place of fashionable resort, an additional suite of rooms has been opened up-stairs. This bazaar is well entitled to the patronage it enjoys, were it only for the support which it affords to young and respectable women.
An interesting sidelight to the Soho Bazaar is that famed artist, J.M.W. Turner, was attending school at the Soho Academy also in the Square. He was a frequenter of the Bazaar, and was quoted thus:
"As a boy, I used to lie for hours on my back watching the skies, and then go home and paint them; and there was a stall in Soho Bazaar where they sold drawing materials, and they used to buy my skies. They gave me 1s6d for the small ones and 3s6d for the larger ones."
The Soho Bazaar spawned a great fashion for bazaars (the name came from the Turkish with Italian intervention) and by 1830 there were many throughout London. One of the most famous was the Pantheon Bazaar, below as the building appeared in 1816 when it was still in use as an assembly room.
Then in the 1830's it was transformed and below is its appearance in 1845:
There is no drawing extant of the Soho Bazaar but I like to think it must have been somewhat similar, at least, to the Pantheon, with the great pillars of the warehouse rising above the selling floor. In June 1816 George Cruickshank issued a caricature entitled 'A Bazaar'--it was rife with references to the supposed negative and injurious aspects of such establishments.
Nevertheless charity bazaars proliferated throughout the 19th century, but excepting only that of the "Ladies Royal Benevolent Society" who began their charity fancy sales in 1813, the Soho Bazaar was the first. And it continued until 1885--a good run by any standards.
Ginny is a pioneer in the field of electronic publishing. Her first e-book, Heart Broken, Heart Whole, was released in 1996. Both Bear Hugs and Faith, Hope and Charity were finalists in the EPPIE contest. She has served in writing organizations in many capacities, including first President of EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection and the first EPIC conference chair.
Ginny’s books are available from Awe-Struck Publishing, and Uncial Press, in a variety of electronic formats. Visit her web site, www.ginnymcblain.com.
I hope you can join us. 'Til next time,
- Dyer, Gary R. "The Vanity Fair of Nineteenth Century England." Nineteenth Century Literature, vol. 46 no. 2 (Sept. 1991): 196-222.
- Prochaska, F. K. "Charity Bazaars in Nineteenth-Century England." Journal of British Studies, vol. 16 no. 2 (Spring, 1977): 62-84.
- Hindley, Charles. Life and Times of James Calnach. 1878.
- Knight, Charles. London. 1851.
- Whitlock, Tammy C. Crime, Gender and Consumer Culture in 19th Century England. Ashgate, 2005.
- "The Soho Bazaar." BBC h2g2 Entry. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A684434