company, founded in 1707 as a small grocery
, the heart
of the British Empire
, by William Fortnum
and Hugh Mason
(then Mr. Fortnum's landlord). William Fornum began the business when he was appointed a footman
in the service of Queen Anne
; part of his job was to replace the candle
s in the house, and he would take the remainders and resell them to the ladies of the household. He soon convinced his landlord, Hugh Mason, to join him, and used his connections to drum up quite a bit of business.
The store plodded along for awhile, but didn't take off until 1761, when Charles Fortnum (William's grandson) went into the service of Queen Charlotte. He started selling items tailored specifically for his royal clientelle; game in aspic and other ready-to-eat delicacies and exotic foods brought in through a partnership with the East India Company.
This partnership soon took them into the catering business, serving royal functions and making picnic baskets for the Piccadilly Derby Day and other such events. It was continued business like this that earned them their first Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria. The queen sent hundreds of cases of concentrated beef tea to soldiers in the Crimean War as relief packages.
Fortnum & Mason expanded their business in the early 1920's, adding ladies and children's clothing, cruises, and camping equipment.
The business was sold in 1952. In 1964, a large clock was added to the front of the building, which on the hour every hour displays two four-foot high statues, of William Fortnum and Hugh Mason.
Internationally, they are still known as the purveyors of some of the finest tea in the world.