Lady Dorothy Savile & Burlington Arcade

Tyne O’Connell Explores the History of the Burlington Arcade and Savile Row

by the Area’s Creator Lady Dorothy Savile

The first Burlington Arcade was built by William Kent in 1710. It was funded by the extraordinary Mayfair Saloniere heiress and eccentric, Dorothy Savile (b1699-1758) Countess of Cork and Burlington so that her husband and friends – such as Handel – might keep their slippers dry in their dashes to and from her world famous Burlington House Salons. Burlington House is now the Royal Academy and the Arcade has been rebuilt twice – most lately in 1810 but Savile Row and the Arcade owe their esprit de coeur to Lady Dorothy Savile .

Dorothy Savile was the quintessential dandizette of the late early 1700’s and it was she who lured the finest tailors, shirtmakers and bootmakers to the street. Her aim was to ensure her protégée composers, artists, writers and architects could conveniently be suited and booted as they came to and from her salon.

Savile Row was then Savile St and extended from Bond St to Regent St. It was home to two schools as well as tailors, shirtmakers, glovemakers and bookmakers’ workshops . Her daily salons were lively, larky affairs attended by an international mix of royals and artisans. Mayfair salonieres didn’t distinguish by rank but by eccentricity.

Fortnum’s opened across the road from Burlington House in 1707 and provided the cups of fashionable tea which flowed as fast as the saucers of champagne while poets and composers clamoured for Dorothy’s attention.

Dorothy engaged her friend William Kent to design the arcade in 1710 as there was an oyster bar on the Mayfair entrance to Burlington House. The stench of oyster shells Handel et al carried on their slippers and boots was unsavoury, hence her plan for an arcade.

Oh but I long for a statue dedicated to Dorothy Savile, Countess of Cork as a Dandizette counterpoint to the bronze of our beloved Regency Dandy George Beau Brummell (1780-1840)… for though she was already buried decades before the Beau cut a swathe through Regency Mayfair, they were two sides of the same eccentric coin.