Having been synonymous with masculine elegance for the past three hundred years, it’s no surprise that London’s Jermyn Street also happens to be the site of the original Penhaligon’s boutique. Our founder, William Penhaligon, first opened our doors back in 1870 and we’ve been proud to call the iconic thoroughfare home ever since. But we’re not the only ones. A whole host of fops, artists, dandies and originators have flocked to this soigné corner of St James’s over the years, inviting both fame and notoriety in equal measure. Take the path less trodden with us as we stroll through the secret eccentricities of the capital’s most rakish street.
Along with his partner in crime James MacLaine, roguish highwayman William Plunkett terrorised Hyde Park in the mid-1700s, relieving victims as esteemed as Horace Walpole of their finery, money and pride. A gentleman crook through and through, Plunkett concealed his face behind intricate Venetian masks, moonlighted as an apothecary, and was never anything less than courteous during his stick ups. Naturally, a spacious Jermyn Street apartment was his bolthole of choice.
You’d be forgiven if it’s shirt collars and cuffs, not inked sleeves, that spring to mind when you think of Jermyn Street. But Sutherland Macdonald, one of Britain’s earliest professional tattoo artist and the first with identifiable premises open to the public, set up shop in the late 1900s at none other than No. 76 Jermyn Street. Rather like the original Penhaligon’s, the tattoo parlour was conveniently located above a Turkish Hamam bathhouse (in which Macdonald himself had a stake). Unexpected as it was, the salon was an important hub for the late Victorian period’s surprising tattoo craze.
Dousing his literature with the same gilded beauty as his meticulously fashioned outfits, Oscar Wilde is perhaps the quintessential literary fop and, of course, a Jermyn Street icon. A frequent visitor to the barber in our original boutique, Wilde also favoured the street for its bachelor chambers, which proved an ideal space for writing and entertaining as well as leading the gay double life that would eventually bring about his sad demise. Indeed, beneath Jermyn Street’s upright reputation lies a rich queer history that includes figures like Wilde’s friend George Ives – an early campaigner for homosexual law reform.