For any of the tourist crowds around Piccadilly looking for a piece of old London, 34 Haymarket is it. It's one of the capital's best known historic shops, featuring in any book on the subject. This is because there just aren't any of these types of shops left in the capital, with a deep-bowed shop front dating from before the Building Act of 1774 - when they were banned from protruding further than 10 inches into the street.
On the ground floor of a mid-18th century four-storey house, the double bow shop front is unchanged since its construction around the same period. The steps were replaced around 1900 due to wear, but everything else is pretty much as was. I read in some descriptions that an old sign still showed the rasp & crown - the mark of a snuff seller - but I couldn't see it when I was there. I may have just missed it though. Two doors - one to the shop and one to the upstairs accommodation - have beautiful fan lights.
There was some work going on in the street outside, meaning a chunk of the Haymarket was fenced off, so I struggled to get a decent front-on shot without it being very closely cropped:
From 1754 until 1982 the shop was occupied by Fribourg & Treyer. The company name is still on the window, and other remnants of its stay are evident in the late 18th-century shop fittings - there is an original oak counter, and an Adam-style wooden screen divides the store's front and back.
Fribourg & Treyer was originally a snuff dealer, with King George IV and Beau Brummel among those with accounts. The King even had some snuff named after him, such as King's Morning Mixture, King's Evening Mixture and King's Plain, so was clearly quite the enthusiast.
At one time snuff was manufactured on-site. The shelves that originally held jars of snuff are still behind the counter:
Around the mid 19th-century sales of cigars and tobacco began outstripping snuff and the company became renowned for these. Later regular customers included Kingsley Amis and US actor Glenn Ford.
Here's an illustration of the store in its heyday:
In 1912 the business expanded into number 33, a building dating from the same period as 34 but which has been much altered over the years.
Fribourg & Treyer kept on trading successfully through most of the 20th century. Here's an ad from the Financial Times (February 17, 1976), which makes a feature of the historic shop:
What finally seems to have done for Fribourg & Treyer was when a long lease ended at the end of 1981 and the shop's then landlord, Northdale Investments, decided to increase the annual rent from £12,000 per annum to £40,000. Fribourg & Treyer's then owner, Imperial Tobacco, balked at the price and shut the shop. It is now a gift shop.