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Tudor Minute January 23: Retail Therapy

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for January 23.

January 23, 1571 was when the first shopping mall in England, the Royal Exchange, opened. It is remembered as England’s first shopping mall, and it was a stroke of genius on the part of Thomas Gresham. He was an expert in commerce and trade, and he devised the idea of having a trading floor in England similar to that in Antwerp. At this time, traders had to do their business in taverns and other public spaces, so he had the idea to create one place where they could meet.

The addition he made was to have four stories of shops on the upper floors where London’s most fashionable people could go shopping. The Queen herself went shopping there, though when she went the shops weren’t all yet open, so Gresham was running from shop to shop moving merchandise ahead of the Queen’s procession so that each store looked filled. It was a huge success. Gresham attracted merchants to this new venture by giving them free rent for the first year. After that, he charged rent, but by that point the shopping center was so successful that it the merchants could afford to pay it.

The Royal Exchange has been damaged by fire, and rebuilt several times through the years, and the current one keeps the original idea by being a place to shop for luxury goods.

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com where there is an episode on Thomas Gresham and the Royal Exchange.

Episode on Thomas Gresham and the Royal Exchange