James Smith & Sons

James Smith & Sons. New Oxford Street, London, WC1. According to Jones and Woodward, this establishment has "an intact nineteenth-century shop front, retaining its highly graphic Victorian typography" (239). Compare this to the (restored) painted signage on another London shop. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

In his knowledgeable, witty review of Emelyne Godfrey's book about masculinity and crime in Victorian literature, which mentions sword canes and sticks, Matthew Ingleby remarks, “It is good to hear of the role of James Smith and Sons Umbrella Shop, which is still trading in these quasi-weapons.” He then points to the significance of “the shop's opening in 1857 on New Oxford Street . . . a well-known site of sensational crime” about which The Times and other papers warned readers, in part because “its dangerous side streets . . . led to the rookeries around St Giles. The presence in an infamously dodgy area of an armoury supplying all middle-class self-defence needs, must have been seen as a comfort and convenience to those on their way home from the British Museum Reading Room” (10).

Photograps and text by George P. Landow. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Godfrey, Emmelyne. Masculinity, Crime, and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature. London: Palgrave: 2011.

Ingleby, Matthew. “Life Preservers.” Tinmes Literary Supplement (8 July 2011): 10.

Jones, Edward, & Christopher Woodward. A Guide to the Architecture of London. 2nd ed. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1992

Last modified 23 May 2008