The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Photo © Cela Selley
Photo © Cela Selley

100 Buildings 100 Years

1936: Simpson’s, Piccadilly, London

Status: Listed Grade I
Condition: Good condition
Type: Commercial/offices
Architect: Joseph Emberton; engineer Felix Samuely
Owners: Waterstone's Bookshop
Location: 203/206 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HD

Simpson’s was an on-going case for C20 Society when I first joined the Society and the fact that it is now Waterstones flagship store demonstrates the success and longevity of Emberton’s 1930s design.  Primarily a men’s outfitters, Simpson’s pioneered “the smart ready-made two piece suit and Daks self-supporting trousers”, but by the 1970s the shop was old fashioned, and is said to have inspired the TV comedy ‘Are You Being Served?’

John McAslan’s refurbishment demonstrates that Emberton’s building could be put to 21st century use with little modification.  This is partially due to Felix Samuely’s innovative, electrically welded steel structural frame, which allows an open floor plan.

C20 was concerned that Ashley Havinden signage should not be lost, and when Waterstones first took over the store the lettering was in the original Havinden style.  This can still be seen on the Jermyn Street entrance.  Unfortunately the main signage has now been replaced by the Waterstones corporate style.

by Cela Selley

Listing description

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