1914 - WW1
All staff serving in France and Flanders were guaranteed to have kept their jobs on their return – which a surprising number managed. In the meantime, the women of London kept things buzzing along brilliantly - while the usual quantity of tuck found its way to the trenches, where we soon learned that only metal tins were any use against the ever-present gourmet rats.
1922 - Expeditions
Everest and other Expeditions
Fortnum's is the only store to have a department dedicated to “Expeditions”, at a time when huge consignments of home comforts accompanied the English into the heart of Africa and up the Himalayas, right down to such essentials as butter knives and sauce boats. The 1922 Everest expedition, for example, simply couldn't start without 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne (the appropriately-named Montebello 1915).
The 1933 team, including a young Tensing Norgay, was dismayed to find several of the delicacies replaced by stones - presumably by inquisitive customs officers. Only the Stiltons remained - their covers pierced but the fragrant contents, clearly not to the Nepalese nose, left untouched.
In warmer climes Howard Carter's Tutankhamun expedition used Fortnum's wine boxes to help catalogue the rare antiquities, including a statue of the boy-king as Aten, the Sun - representing tacit approval from yet another monarch.
1925 - New Departments
Extensive refurbishment, new departures & departments
Ladies' fashions, children's clothes, kitchenware and perfumes joined the traditional fare on offer as the company embraced the Jazz Age with gusto.
1930s - NY, Cowes and Maharajas
Give Me Your Hungry...
In response to massive demand for our goods across the pond, in 1931 Fortnum's took a magnificent seven-storey building on Madison Avenue, grander even than its London alma mater - though in the time between conception and execution the Depression had begun to bite, making it a star that burned brightly but all too briefly.
At a rather shorter aeroplane ride from London, the annual Cowes branch operated its own motorboat to ferry goods free of charge to guests at Cowes Week.
King George V's Jubilee in 1935 drew so many princes and potentates from all corners of the Empire that Fortnum & Mason, having long imported the best from all the continents, created a special department to accommodate their dietary requirements. To whom else might one possibly have turned?
1940s - WW2
A mainstay of the Officers' Mess since before Wellington, Fortnum's opened a special Officers' Department dedicated to providing a respite from bully beef. As well as comestibles it dealt in insect powder, exotic cigarettes and anything else the modern soldier might require, such as an EPNS tip for a bayonet (so much more elegant for spreading Gentlemen's Relish at El Alamein) and the “Spork”, the combination knife-and fork which, naturally, came silver-plated.
Arbiters of decorum even in wartime, the company also patented the ”Fortknee', a short stocking to cover the knees and lower thighs of lady drivers in the services.
1964 - Clock Time
1964 saw a new landmark added to the front of the store – the famous Fortnum's clock, with bells from the same foundry as Big Ben. Every fifteen minutes a selection of airs is played on eighteen bells, and once an hour Messrs F&M themselves appear to check that standards are being upkept.