Boating on a Department Store Roof

Daily Mail: The colour of the lake is as bright as the cocktails but few who've ventured up to Selfridges in London's latest attraction would disagree that the department store's rooftop terrace is a showstopper.

For the first time since World War Two, shoppers can enjoy amazing views of the UK capital, take a ride on the madcap boating lake, peruse thousands of plants and imbibe from the cocktail bar.

And The Truvia Voyage of Discovery art installation, which is open to the public, even has a special Selfridges lifeguard to keep watch for any risky rowing techniques in the 12 boats on hand.

Miles of steel was used to reinforce the roof so it could hold the lake and Westminster Council had to give Selfridges a special boating licence.

After the devastating bombing of the department store in 1940, owner H.Gordon Selfridge vowed never to open the gardens again. In the 1920s and 1930s the roof, with its spectacular views across London, was a place popular for strolling after a shopping trip and was often used for fashion shows.

But this installation, the brainchild of Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, does not allow much walking. Mr Bompas said: ‘'The installation takes Selfridges' roof back to its proper place as a pleasure spot - it once hosted gardens, cafes, golf courses and an all-girl gun club.’

The pair, who own Bompas and Parr curators, said the roof garden was their most ambitious project yet. Mr Parr said inspiration for the installation came from a gondola party thrown at The Savoy in 1905, when the courtyard was flooded, and elephants and opera singers provided the entertainment.

Selfridges department store on Oxford Street was bombed in 1940, 1941 and 1944 causing catastrophic damage.

The single high explosive bomb and several incendiaries smashed glass from the many upper storey windows into the surrounding streets. But it was the September 18 attack in 1940, in the same raid which destroyed John Lewis’s further east along Oxford Street, which ruined the elegant roof gardens.


H. Gordon Selfridge, who coined the phrase ‘the customer is always right', opened up his Oxford Street store in 15 March 1909.

It has been said that Selfridges put the fun back into shopping with allowing customers to touch products and cleverly placing the profitable perfume counter on the ground floor –a technique still copied by department stores today.

The first public demonstration of television was by John Logie Baird from the first floor of Selfridges from April 1 to 27 in 1925.

A seismograph was set up on the Selfridge store’s third floor in 1932, attached to one of the building's main stanchions, unaffected by traffic or shoppers.

It recorded the Belgian earthquake of June 11 1938 which was also felt in London.

At the outbreak of war, the seismograph was moved to another part of the store.

In 1947, the seismograph was given to the British Museum.

Between 1998 and 2003, the store supplemented its 540,000-square-foot London flagship store with a 150,000-square-foot Trafford Centre shop in Greater Manchester.

In 2003, the chain was acquired by Canadian retailing expert Galen Weston for a reported £598 million.


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