In a certain area of London you will find shops selling one of only three things; Ugly Shoes, Art and Cigars. Do you know the area I’m talking about? Well, in this magical area of London there is a secret museum, hidden, as it were in the heady fug of cigar smoke. You really wouldn’t realise it was there unless someone had told you about it. So lean in, listen close and pay attention…
Based at 19 St James’ Street you’ll find James J Fox Cigar Merchant, a shop with a history dating all the way back to 1787. As with anything this long-lasting, a certain amount of history tends to build up. To the left of the shop is a flight of stairs. Head down them. You’ll be forgiven if you think you’ve just wandered into a downstairs room, because that is what indeed you have done.
This, though, is a bit more than just a downstairs room, this is the museum – the Freddie Fox Museum to give it its full title.
To a non-smoker like myself, most of the content had an air of mystery that had little to do with the aroma of tobacco permeating the room. However, the tiny museum had links to two very famous and very different historical figures. One a Prime Minister the other a Playwright.
Let’s look at the Prime Minister first; perhaps our most famous Prime Minister, Winston Churchill who was introduced to the Cigar Emporium by his mother, Lady Randolph Spencer-Churchill. Not really responsible parenting by today’s standards, but oh well. Churchill was a loyal customer from 1900-1964 and is clearly the star of the museum.
And the Playwright? None other than Oscar Wilde. He doesn’t get as much attention as the other celebrity customer, maybe because he wasn’t so loyal a customer or maybe it’s because of the infamous trials. You know what though, it’s probably because he owed them money; 7 shillings and 3 pence to be exact from purchases made on 5th of September 1892 and 24th of June 1893. I’m sure that’s the real reason.