Category:Gamages of Holborn

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Gamages was opened in 1879 as a small watch repair shop by Arthur Walter Gamage (1858-1930) and Frank Spain, but rapidly enlarged to become a monster-sized department store with a heavy mail-order business similar to that of some of the big New York stores, pitching itself as "The People's Popular Emporium".

Gamages eventually included departments for cycling and motoring, and an especially well-loved toy department. Like Hamleys, Gamages spent a lot of money on promotions and advertising and events, had sufficient buying power to negotiate with toy manufacturers, and had a railway running around their toy department.

The building

Due to the fact that the store had grown organically in situ in Holborn, it wasn't perhaps in an ideal location, as it tended to miss the passing trade (and the heavy Christmas trade) that other large departments stores benefited from in and around Oxford Street. However the store was very successful (and the location didn't affect the company's mail-order trade).

Since the store was basically "cobbled-together" from a number of independent offices and shop sites that inhabited the Gamages block, and which had never been designed to be used for a single business, Gamages' growth through the building involved makeshift knock-throughs and tunnel-like passages, and steps to compensate for the fact that floors in the different units weren't necessarily at the same level. Navigating the store's warren of spaces was like navigating a maze, but the experience added to the sense of exploration and to the store's sense of identity, especially for small children being taken to see the toy department.

Service departments: 1932 promotional text:

We Want you to know ...

That Our Hire Department
Can help you considerably with your Christmas entertainments, by hiring you such essentials as China, Cutlery, Bedding, Camp Beds, Musical Instruments, etc., all at very low prices. This service has grown to be a tremendous boon to thousands. If you would like further details, a card addressed to the Manager of Hire Department, will be attended to at once.
That Our Repairs Department
Can repair anything – from al old cricket bat to a pair of spectacles. Our repairs are carried out by experts, each specialising in their own particular branch. In these days of economy you throw nothing away – you have it repaired – at Gamages.
That Our Restaurant
Can always offer you a very excellent Menu. First-class food cooked and served under conditions that invite comparison anywhere. Cleanliness in the great kitchens is a ritual – cleanliness both of cooking and service. And the prices are very moderate indeed. The children are well provided for – as well as adults.
That Our Barbers Shop
Can give you a smoother shave, a better hair-cut, a fresher shampoo, than you can get anywhere in Town; cleanliness and efficient service is the keynote which governs this section of the Store – and again prices are strictly reasonable.
That Our Ladies Hairdressing Salons
Can provide you with just that intimate, expert service that one would look for from a West End coiffeur, where prices were treble than what we charge. For instance, a permanent wave, whole head, bobbed, shingle or white, for only 25s.
Phone for appointment.
That our Dyeing & Cleaning Department
Can clean and dye men's and women's garments at prices which are strictly competitive. The service is very fast and expert. Why not write for a list of charges the next time you want something attended ot in this way – it will pay you.

Special Attractions

Specials, and "Made for Gamages"

Gamages were able to use their buying power and advertising to get special versions of products made, which they'd then tend to promote as "Gamages" items.


Gamages was acquired in 1970 by property investors Sterling Guarantee Trust, with the plan being to redevelop the Gamages site, include a smaller version of Gamages at the redeveloped location, and open a second branch on Oxford Street. However, Gamages ended up being shut down in 1972.

External links


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