Harrods founder Charles Henry Harrod first established his business in 1824, aged 25. The business was located south of the River Thames in Southwark. The premises were located at 228 Borough High Street.
He ran this business, variously listed as a draper, mercer and a haberdasher, certainly until 1831. During 1825 the business was listed as 'Harrod and Wicking, Linen Drapers, Retail', but this partnership was dissolved at the end of that year. His first grocery business appears to be as ‘Harrod & Co.Grocers’ at 163 Upper Whitecross Street, Clerkenwell, E.C.1., in 1832. In 1834 in London's East End, he established a wholesale grocery in Stepney, at 4, Cable Street, with a special interest in tea.
In 1849, to escape the vice of the inner city and to capitalise on trade to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in nearby Hyde Park, Harrod took over a small shop in the district of Brompton, on the site of the current store. Beginning in a single room employing two assistants and a messenger boy, Harrod's son Charles Digby Harrod built the business into a thriving retail operation selling medicines, perfumes, stationery, fruit and vegetables. Harrods rapidly expanded, acquired the adjoining buildings, and employed one hundred people by 1880.
However, the store's booming fortunes were reversed in early December 1883, when it burnt to the ground. Remarkably, in view of this calamity, Charles Harrod fulfilled all of his commitments to his customers to make Christmas deliveries that year—and made a record profit in the process. In short order, a new building was built on the same site, and soon Harrods extended credit for the first time to its best customers, among them Oscar Wilde,Lillie Langtry, Ellen Terry, Charlie Chaplin, Noël Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Sigmund Freud, A. A. Milne, and many members of the British Royal Family.
On Wednesday, 16 November 1898, Harrods debuted England's first "moving staircase" (escalator) in their Brompton Road stores; the device was actually a woven leather conveyor belt-like unit with a mahogany and "silver plate-glass" balustrade. Nervous customers were offered brandy at the top to revive them after their 'ordeal'. The department store was purchased by the Fayed brothers in 1985.
In 2010 Harrods was sold to Qutar Holdings.
Harrods was the holder of royal warrants from 1910 till 2000 from the following:
* Queen Elizabeth II (Provisions and Household Goods)
* The Duke of Edinburgh (Outfitters)
* The Prince of Wales (Outfitters and Saddlers)
* The late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (China and Glass)
The store occupies a 5-acre (20,000 m2) site and has over one million square feet (90,000 m2) of selling space in over 330 departments making it the biggest department store in Europe.
The UK's second-biggest shop, Selfridges, Oxford Street, is a little over half the size with 540,000 square feet (50,000 m2) of selling space, while the third largest, Allders of Croydon had 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2) of retail space.
By comparison Europe's second-largest department store the KaDeWe in Berlin has a retail space of 650,000 square feet (60,000 m2).
Walnut & Burr Walnut
Walnut is a hard, dense, tight- grained wood that polishes to a very smooth finish. It is a popular and attractive wood whose colour ranges from near white in the sapwood to a dark hew in the heartwood. When dried in a kiln, walnut wood tends to develop a dull brown colour, but when air-dried can become a rich purplish-brown. Because of its colour, hardness and grain, it is a prized furniture and carving wood. Walnut veneer was highly priced and the cost would reflect the ‘fanciness’ of the veneer – the more decorative, then the more expensive and desirable.
Burr walnut refers to the swirling figure present in nearly all walnut when cut and polished, and especially in the wood taken from the base of the tree where it joins the roots. However the true burr is a rare growth on the tree where hundreds of tiny branches have started to grow. Burr walnut produces some of the most complex and beautiful figuring you can find.
Walnut "burrs" were often used to make fabulous furniture. Veneer sliced from walnut burl is one of the most valuable and highly prized by cabinet makers and prestige car manufacturers and is also a favourite material for shotgun stocks.
Inlay was commonly used in the production of decorative burr walnut furniture, where pieces of coloured veneers are inlaid into the surface of the walnut, adding delicate or intricate patterns and designs. Inlays normally use various exotic veneers, but other materials such as mother-of-pearl, brass or bone were also be used.