I suppose Jermyn Street may now be considered something of an anachronism, considering that it is an enclave for that rarest of shops — gentlemen’s outfitters (and a cheese shop, still looking as if Eric Ravilious had just lithographed it). Here you will find proper shirts, ones that fit properly and leave enough material to tuck into one’s trousers; shoes handmade in Northamptonshire; and every kind of hat, from bowlers to Henley boaters.
Bates was where you went for your Fischer Fedora or Ecuador Coffee Planter, and where, in 1921, a kitten strolled in and promptly took up residence. Binks was much loved by the staff and, after his demise in 1927, was honoured by a taxidermist and placed in a glass case wearing a top hat and smoking a cigar.
And there he remained, surrounded by beautifully-labelled hat boxes and with a notice exhorting a donation if you were only there to stare at him; until quite recently, when Bates suddenly disappeared. Now at Hilditch & Key, 73 Jermyn Street (more shirts), Binks is well and truly stuffed into a corner, sans cigar for the usual reasons involving the Tobacco Police.
This is an extract from London Peculiars, by Peter Ashley, published by ACC Art Books, RRP £15