A slightly different approach for a moment. Central London is not a veritable treasure trove of charity shop hauls, but if you know where to look, you can find some thrift here, as well as seeing the sights that make the capital what it is.
We kick off in the WC postcode area, broadly taking in Bloomsbury, Holborn and Covent Garden, but stretching from Kings Cross in the North, to High Holborn and the borders of the City in the East; down to the Thames in the South to Embankment, then up to Leicester Square and up to St Pancras along the West. The North of the area was built up by the Russell family in the 17th and 18th centuries into what’s now Bloomsbury, and the Southern and Western parts developed as the ancient city spread West to meet the growing town of Westminster, encroaching East. The merger of the two is now the heart of the West End, theatre country, office country and, apparently, chugger country.
There’s but two charity shops in WC London, both Oxfams. We’ll take a tour to see the best bits, kicking off at the bottom corner, by the grandiose gothic horror of the Royal Courts of Justice. That’s the original Twinings shop over there, and that’s Somerset House down there – skip behind them both for the Thames. Around Aldwych (fancy a coffee yet? stop at the LSE Garrick; it’s supposed to be students only, but the entrance on Houghton St is free-for-all, the coffee’s good and cheap for these parts) and past Dirty Dancing.
You’re best circumventing the tourist-heavy Covent Garden piazza, although you certainly want to take a detour to Stanfords, my favourite shop in the world, I think. Head over Long Acre to the more interesting side and you’ll find the wonderful Monmouth Coffee House and lots of arty shops. You can safely ignore Leicester Square and instead head back East to Drury Lane to find the first Oxfam. Today I found it closed from lack of volunteers, but I’ve found books, records and clothes in this most central of charity shops. Nothing spectacular here, but worth popping by. Head up and cross over High Holborn now and, after avoiding the touristy shops and expensive cafes, poke around various artisan board game shops, camera shops, and best of all the London Review Bookshop, before ending up on Bloomsbury Street.
To be continued, on Thursday…