Stanford's is one of London’s best known specialist shops and has been an essential first port of call for adventure and armchair travellers alike since it was founded in 1853 by Edward Stanford. We like to think he would be proud that we have become more than a shop, a fountainhead of geographical knowledge valued by so many and still remain an independent company.
Unfortunately we are in grave danger of 2020 being the final year of our 167 year history.
The current crisis has hit us badly with a triple blow. Firstly, we specialise in maps and travel books so with travel halted we are losing sales. Secondly, we are in a central London location so the greatly reduced footfall just isn’t bringing in anything close to our usual flow of customers. Finally, as an independent bookshop with rent, taxes and expert staff (many of whom have worked for Stanfords for over 25 years) we have expenses that web only businesses do not have.
We need to raise £120,000 to survive until spring 2021 when we hope that our customers will be able to start travelling again and more people will get on public transport to visit us. We need about £20,000 each month for the six months to the end of March 2021 to avoid shutting our doors and closing.
The money we will raise will go towards several things:
The costs of screens, masks, sanitiser and other measures to be Covid-19 secure for our staff and customers.
Paying our staff. Our sales are only 30% of normal levels but we still have to have staff to help customers in the shop.
Continuing to make improvements to our website so that customers who cannot come to our shop can find what they need on our website.
If you have ever planned a trip with a guide book from Stanfords, used one of our maps to explore somewhere new or just stood in our store and admired our mapped floors we urge you to help us in our time of need.
[A loyal customer on one of our map floors]
Since 1853 explorers and adventurers such as Amy Johnson, David Livingstone, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Florence Nightingale (we have a note from her thanking Stanfords for a map of India), Ranulph Fiennes, Bill Bryson, and Michael Palin have relied on the expert knowledge of our staff to help them plan expeditions to the farthest flung corners of the world.
[Inside the newly-opened Stanfords Long Acre store in 1901]
[Our founder Edward Stanford 1827-1904]
Our first shop was located on the corner of Whitehall and Trafalgar Square. We have moved five times since 1853 but always staying close to Covent Garden in the very heart of London. After 118 years at our Long Acre address our store relocated in 2019 to our new London home at 7 Mercer Walk, where we pride ourselves on the depth of our stock, sourced by experts, from all over the world. Stanfords is filled not only with the widest range of maps, globes and travel guides available anywhere in the world, but also with literature from around the world so you can read books set in any location you are interested in and travel the world from the comfort of your armchair.
[Vivien Godfrey outside our store. Stanfords is still very much a family business. It has been in her family for three generations and she and her brother Joe are both part owners]
Our staff are travel specialists and cartographic experts who aid our customers in their search for their next big adventure. Past employees include Kenneth Williams who was a mapmakers draftsman at Stanfords before he turned to acting and gained fame in the Carry On films.
[The Stanford’s Route Map of the Earth from 1854, the year after Stanfords opened. From our map archive]
Lots of authors and travel writers begin their research at Stanfords and we are often mentioned in their books or given a shout out in the acknowledgements. Stanfords even crops up now and again in works of literature. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes “send down to Stanfords” for a large-scale map of Dartmoor.
[The first event in our Mercer Walk store. Author Sara Wheeler celebrating the 25th anniversary of her bestselling travel book 'Chile: Travels in a Thin Country']
Our annual Stanfords Travel Writers Festival and in store talks, signings and book launches throughout the year present a platform for authors to reach a wider audience. Our staff have built great relationships with authors and become really knowledgeable and passionate about their work which makes recommending books to customers such a joy. This is a service you just don’t get from an online giant.
[Ainsley Harriott being interviewed by Julia Wheeler about his book 'Ainsley's Caribbean Kitchen' at the 2020 Stanfords Travel Writers Award in Olympia]
In 2015 we created the Edward Stanfords Travel Writing Awards to honour, celebrate and champion travel writing as a genre and to bring the travel writing community together. Our awards have become a calendar highlight in the industry and we have received lots of press coverage.
[Vivien Godfrey (one of the owners of Stanfords with Michael Palin and Levison who were both awarded globe trophies in the 2016 Edward Stanfords Travel Writing Awards]
Stanfords has a rich history that is not only documented by the many maps held in our archive.
We held a Royal Warrant as cartographers to King Edward VII. In 1922 Stanfords produced the world’s smallest ever maps for a series of atlases for Queen Mary’s famous doll’s house in Windsor Castle.
During World War II the ceilings in Stanfords Long Acre’s basement was strengthened with iron girders so the premises could be used as a public air raid shelter, with two members of staff working every night to allow access at the sound of the sirens. Given its central location, and perhaps its tactical importance as a map maker, it was only a matter of time before the building took a hit. On the night of April 15th 1941, in one of the biggest raids on the capital, Stanfords was hit by an incendiary bomb which all but destroyed the top two floors of the building. However, the thousands of Ordnance Survey maps stocked by the shop in tightly constructed stacks actually helped halt the path of the flames and saved the rest of the shop from destruction. Stanfords continued to sell these maps in years to come complete with charred edges.
[The globe wall at Stanfords]
Quotes from friends of Stanfords:
"I want to thank everyone who sells travel books and writes about travel because you are keeping the doors open when a lot of other people want to slam them shut.” -Michael Palin in his acceptance speech for the 2016 Edward Stanford Award for Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing. In 1988 the former Python launched his travel writing career as he departed Stanfords to travel Around The World In 80 Days.
"Stanfords in Covent Garden, the best map and travel bookshop on planet Earth” - Simon Reeve being asked “What shops do you rely on?” in the ES Magazine My London section.
“Stanfords is the spiritual home of travel literature, and it’s the place I have always come to when preparing for any trip. I wholeheartedly hope we can all chip in to help keep this invaluable resource alive” -Levison Wood, author, photographer and explorer.
"Whether planning a trip to a far-flung place few have heard of, looking for inspiration of where to holiday next or wanting to be transported on an adventure without leaving the comfort of your armchair, Stanfords provides the tools to enable all of us to see the world. It is vital we all do what we can to help save it so that it can inspire future generations on all their travels - real and imagined." - Phoebe Smith, writer, presenter and broadcaster.
"Since buying an armful of maps and 'Murray's Guide' at Stanford's in 1973 before setting off on my 'Great Railway Bazaar' journey, I have felt strongly that all serious travel starts at Stanfords...” - Paul Theroux, author and winner of the 2020 Edward Stanford Award for Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing.
"Stanfords has been a treasure house for travellers for as long as I can remember. I have been using it for over fifty years — its magnificent map department as well as its books. Its closure would be an incomparable loss to the travel writer’s profession."-Colin Thubron, author and winner of the 2019 Edward Stanford Award for Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing.
"Stanfords is both a bookstore and a magic carpet. For more than 160 years, it has been transporting readers to every part of the world. It is a place to plan real journeys and to dream of impossible ones. It is a temple to maps, guidebooks and the literature of travel. I was first taken there as a wide-eyed child, and have been back many dozens of times since. I'll never forget the time I first saw my own books in the window of Stanfords. For decades this store and its knowledgeable, generous staff have been inspiring people and supporting writers and cartographers. Stanfords must not close its doors!" -Robert Macfarlane, author and winner of the 2020 Stanford Dolman Award at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards.
"I seem to have known about Stanfords for as long as I knew about maps. My father used to make a pilgrimage to Long Acre to buy his Ordnance Survey maps which he then signed so no one would take them away.
When my husband George and I produced the first Bradt guide in 1974 (publish is too posh a word for that scruffy booklet) the first shop we sold it to was Stanfords. The buyer asked what discount we gave. Discount? We’re supposed to give a discount? George said ‘Oh, the usual!’ and terms were agreed.
Stanfords is still unique in having stocked every single Bradt guide that has ever been published, from imaginary places (Shangri La), war zones (Iraq), and those that no one has heard of (Socotra). Stanfords is as much part of Covent Garden as Eliza Dootlittle, and needs no transformation. It is already the princess. Long may they flourish!” -Hilary Bradt, author and founder of Bradt Guides.
"While my family name is Godfrey I feel as much a part of Stanfords as the founding family. My grandfather and father worked their entire careers in the company. I joined the team at age 14 working during my summer holidays. I was only allowed to pack orders in the post room and not actually speak to customers. Stanfords is an important part of the local community and I hope it remains an iconic part of London's landscape. " -Vivien Godfrey, Chairman and CEO of Stanfords.
“As a child I used to come to Stanfords to buy maps with my dad. I’ve taken Stanfords maps and expert staff tips on many of my cycling adventures including John O’ Groats to Lands End, Brussels to Budapest, London to Amsterdam and so many more. I now take my own son in and I hope Stanfords is around for many years to come so we can plan lots more family adventures.” -Jude, Stanfords employee for five years.
"I've been working at Stanfords for 27 years making maps. I've helped people plan all sorts of journeys and expeditions. I've even made maps for James Bond films. Cartographic technology has changed a lot over the years and we have always made sure we are up to date to ensure we provide the best service for our customers. We've come a long way and I hope Stanfords continues to have a bright future helping people navigate their way around the world." -Martin, Stanfords employee for 27 years.
SUPPORT STANFORDS NOW
We hope that you will make a pledge now to support Stanfords. If you want a different type of map printed for your pledge we hope to accommodate your requests.