Stanfords, the venerable travel bookshop which claims to stock the world’s largest collection of maps, is to leave its premises on Long Acre after 117 years. 

The company was founded in 1853 and 20 years later expanded to set up print works at 12-14 Long Acre, in Covent Garden. It continued to grow, winning a warrant as cartographer to Queen Victoria, then in 1901 the Long Acre site was renovated to become a shop. Early customers included Florence Nightingale, Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Scott and the shop has remained popular with expedition planners ever since. “It is a place of inspiration as well as a source of information,” says the explorer Benedict Allen.

After providing charts for Amy Johnson’s solo flight to Australia, a miniature atlas for Queen Mary’s doll’s house at Windsor — and a map of Dartmoor for Dr Watson in The Hound of the Baskervilles — the store was hit by an incendiary bomb in 1941. It survived only because the tight stacks of thousands of Ordnance Survey maps on the upper floors stopped the spread of the flames (they were later sold with charred edges).

In January, the company is due to move to new premises a few hundred metres away on Mercer Walk, where it will have more warehouse space for its growing online business. The existing, Grade II-listed shop was acquired by Picton Property Income in 2010; Picton is now in discussions with other potential tenants.

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