Famed London travel bookstore Stanfords has announced that it will move from its Long Acre Street location, where it has been a mainstay since 1901. Founded by Edward Stanford in 1853, the shop, which houses the world’s largest collection of maps, travel books and globes, is a favorite of those looking for maritime charts and travel-inspired gifts. Featuring a giant National Geographic map on the floor, Stanfords is beloved by travel lovers and adventurers.
The shop will relocate to nearby Mercer Walk in January 2019. The new location offers more outdoor space and a larger warehouse for its growing online business. Vivien Godfrey, Chairman and Chief Executive of Stanfords, who made the announcement, said: “This exciting move is all about ‘right-sizing’. Our in-store business remains very important, but we have had rapid growth of our online business and need a better distribution of space between office and store.”
The bookstore has inspired loyalty in its staff. Godfrey, who began working at Stanfords as a teenager, belongs to the third generation of her family to work at the company, while digital cartographer Martin Greenaway has worked at the shop for over two decades.
Though popular now amongst those looking for a gift or planning an upcoming trip, Stanfords was founded at the height of global exploration and colonialism when maps were essential. Edward Stanford, who got his start as a clerk at a map shop nearly 170 years ago, decided to open his own store in 1853. At 27, he enlisted cartographer John Bolton and became the only mapmaker in London. In 1873, the shop relocated its printing business to Long Acre, before moving the entire operation in 1901.
Before WWII, in 1939, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain commissioned a map that showed the escalating presence of Hitler’s army. Though the Long Acre shop was bombed on April 5, 1941, Edward Stanford’s grandson Fraser kept the business up and running, even selling maps charred by the attack. The shop has also been a starting point for many adventures, including Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days tour in 1988. Stanfords, which opened a branch in Bristol in 1997, also hosts the Travel Writers Festival at the Destinations Travel Show in Olympia.
Though GPS services, like Google Maps, have monopolized much of the travel information industry, Greenaway believes the map printing sector is still relevant. “There will always be a place for maps. Sat nav is unreliable because it doesn’t always know where you are when you are walking around, and you might walk quite a long way in the wrong direction before realizing you have gone wrong,” he says. “Maps don’t do that. You can really study the area you will be traveling in and you get a proper sense of perspective which you can never get with a phone because the screen is too small.”