Town mouse on the Burlington Arcade

I’ve just visited the jewellers Richard Ogden, whose shop has been in the Burlington Arcade since the 1950s. Interested in the Arcade’s history, I made an appointment with Robert Ogden, who was practically born there. I don’t go to jewellers much, for fear of temptation, but what happened when I went in?

I found we were already friends without knowing it; our children go to the same school. Indeed, we both belong to an association of dads known, for reasons into which I haven’t enquired, as the Sausage Club. After a moment’s mutual confusion, Robert told some vivid tales of the Arcade’s past.

Proximity to clubland made it a natural haunt of the Victorian demi monde. In the 1860s, Fanny and Stella might have been seen, followed by a bevy of admirers; they were really two boys sons of a judge and a stockbroker who paraded around dressed as women.

They were prosecuted for Oscar Wildean offences. Heaven knows what would have happened if they hadn’t come from good families, but, in those days, background told. They were let off. Besides, the beadles who maintain discipline in the Arcade had other matters to occupy them, such as the by-law against opening umbrellas: enforced even during the Second World War, when half of the Arcade had been bombed.