Script: Mr Fortnum meets Mr Mason

Script: Mr Fortnum meets Mr Mason

London is home to some historic shops: Harrods and Selfridges, for example, are famous department stores. Another shop to see and be seen is Fortnum and Mason store.

Fortnum: My name is William Fortnum and in the year 1707 I founded Fortnum and Mason with my friend Hugh Mason. It is an upmarket grocery store in Piccadilly, right in the middle of London. Of course, back then it was only a tiny shop in Saint James' Market in the west end of London. Fortnum has a reputation for selling top-quality food under its own label. In the main food hall, the shelves piled high with different jams and tins and packets of tea show the wide variety of goodies you can buy here. I started my business career when I was a footman in Queen Anne's royal household. The Royal Family insisted on having new candles every night to light the rooms in their palace. This meant that when they all went to bed, there were a lot of half-burned candles everywhere. I suddenly had the idea of collecting all this spare wax and selling it back to candle makers. My little business venture earned me enough funds to open my own shop with Hugh.

Mason: Hello, I'm Hugh Mason. I first met William when he rented a room in my house. I could tell he had a good business mind, and I didn't hesitate going into partnership with him to open a grocery shop. And I was right to do so. Our business flourished from the day we first opened. Fortnum and Mason had arrived! Because of William's connections, members of the Royal Court became our customers. And they wanted top quality and were willing to pay for it! We soon had to move to larger premises.

Fortnum: Did you know that we invented fast food? In 1738, I had the smart idea of wrapping a hardboiled egg in sausage meat and coating it with fried breadcrumbs. Tasty, filling and portable, it was the first ever fast-food item that people could eat on the go. We called it a Scotch egg.

Mason: Fortnum was the first grocery store to see that tinned goods could sell well. One day in 1886, a young man came into the store with samples of a new food item packed in tins. We were very impressed with what Henry John Heinz showed us and we placed a large order. Yes, we were the first store in Britain to stock tins of Heinz baked beans.

Fortnum: During the reign of Queen Victoria, our store was frequently called upon to provide food for important events at Buckingham Palace. When the Crimean War was at its height, Her Majesty herself ordered shipments of Fortnum and Mason beef tea to be sent to army hospitals in the war zone.

Mason: Since 1707, the food shop William and I set up has grown, seen many changes and earned itself a world-wide reputation for high quality foodstuffs. If you stand in front of the main entrance today and look up just above the door you will see a big, highly-decorated clock. And on the hour, every hour, models of William and myself emerge and bow to each other, with eighteenth century music playing in the background. Mr Fortnum meets Mr Mason at our shop every day, and we intend to do just that for many, many more years to come. 


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