The Return of a British Icon
Astleys is a piece of British history, an icon of the past, steeped in the heritage of London’s Jermyn Street, where it was a pipe purveyor to royalty, gentry and discerning gentlemen from far and wide.
For over 150 years, Astleys has been a mark of prestige and beauty. Today Astleys delivers the same exquisite quality, bound with classically-influenced yet cutting edge design, to serve those demanding an exclusive experience.
- It is 1862
- The American Civil War rages across the Atlantic. The first ironclad ship, as well as paper currency and income tax, has just been launched. In distant China, the Dowager Empress has taken the Dragon Throne, and on the Continent, Frenchman Victor Hugo prepares to publish his historical novel Les Misérables, while watch maker Adolphe Nicole of Switzerland has patented his invention, the chronograph. In the United Kingdom, the now iconic Westminster Bridge has been unveiled. It’s also the year William Astley opens his first pipe boutique at 108 Jermyn Street, in the heart of London.
- An Astley's Story
- It was on Jermyn St that WM Astley & Company sold bespoke pipes produced by the most esteemed craftsmen of the British Empire, including Charatan, James Upshall, L&JS, Bill Taylor of Ashton pipes, and Dunhill, who created specialist pieces that lived up to Astley clientele’s ever lofty expectations. Coveted both for smoking and for collecting, Astley’s pipes ranged from 19th century pieces by Viennese masters through to bold, contemporary pipes for the era’s modern gentleman. The pipes of WM Astley & Company were coveted by high society and always demanded the highest prices.
- On Jermyn St.
- First constructed in 1664, Jermyn Street has, and continues to be, home to many of the United Kingdom’s most iconic luxury men’s brands, including Edward Bates Hats, Church’s Shoes, Charatan Pipes and fragrance merchants Penhaligon’s. Italian silk merchant Cesare Salvucci once owned a shop on Jermyn Street, and rented the rooms upstairs to Theodore Rothschild. Jermyn Street has always attracted men of power and prestige; politicians and revolutionaries would assemble at The Gun Tavern, exiled French aristocrats at Grenier’s Hotel, and at Brunwick Hotel, Louis Napoleon took up residence under the assumed name of Count D’Arenberg after escaping from the Fortress of Ham. Even Jermyn Street’s own scoundrel, highwayman William Plunkett, was as renowned for his charm and elegance as he was for his daring as an outlaw. Today, Jermyn Street remains home to the world’s leading men’s lifestyle brands, preserving a tradition forged by the nobility of the 19th century and maintained today by London’s finest gentlemen.
- Indelible Luxury
- The Jermyn Street boutique of WM Astley & Company was the quintessential English pipe emporium, specializing in meerschaum and later briar pipes, but it was so much more than just a store selling beautifully smoking instruments. Little did he realize, but Astley’s store would come to represent a fraternity of like-minded customers, both from London and from distant points around the globe. His pipe boutique would become a place of retreat and commentary, a destination for discovery and discourse, and a social benchmark in luxury and workmanship that was cherished by its esteemed and loyal clientele. When WM Astley & Company was finally forced to close its Jermyn Street enclave in the 1990s, its treasured inventory was snapped up by passionate collectors all over the world. The closure marked the end of an era and pipe aficionados thought this once great British luxury brand would be lost to the tides of time. Until now.
“For a postprandial smoke, Astley’s, a specialist in pipes, is next door. The Store was established in 1862, and if there be such a thing as a pipe museum this is it: an extraordinary collection of weird and antique smoking equipment of every conceivable shape and figuration”
A Gentlemanly Stroll Down Jermyn Street, The New York Times