Victorian London - Shops and Shopping - plate glass

THE HEIGHT OF IMPROVEMENT

WHERE will improvement stop?
Oh! why will tradesmen soar
Wildly from floor to floor,
Instead of sticking to the shop?
Glass
Never, till now, was brought to such a pass.

Cruikshank's Comic Almanack, 1843


About the stores of London, there was one characteristic that struck me as being entirely John Bull; that was the tremendous windows, and the immense quantity of goods placed therein; the exceedingly small stores and the emptiness of them. Take for instance the jewelry stores. Ninety-nine in every hundred possess windows from twelve to eighteen feet square, or else twenty feet long by ten deep. These windows are arranged with glass shelves upon which nine tenths of the entire stock in trade is exposed. The interior of the store is often not more than it twice the size of the window, and if not entirely to empty contains one or two cases of fancy articles, and seats for customers to rest themselves while be the clerk is engaged in removing from the window one half the stock to get at the required article.

 W. O'Daniel, Ins and Outs of London, 1859