One of the many interesting aspects of London is that it is crammed-full of all different styles, types and designs of architecture – whether it be old or new, commercial or residential.
However, there is one specific unusual type of residential housing that has a wealth of history behind it, in terms of how it evolved from what it was originally built for, to what it is today.
So – last week, London Shoes ventured out into the ‘Smoke’ to locate some of the amazingly unique “Mews Houses & Streets” of old London town.
There are loads of ‘Mews’ streets, alley and courtyards scattered and tucked away throughout London – the majority of which are situated in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea – and so London Shoes set-out to track down those situated in the extremely busy Gloucester Road and Cromwell Road areas of the borough.
“Mews” are narrow little cobbled streets that are generally located directly behind roads with large town houses, especially in the more wealthy districts to the west of the City such as Mayfair, Marylebone, Holland Park, Notting Hill and of course Kensington.
There are other similar Mews dotted around other parts of the ‘Smoke’ but the west has by far the most instances of them.
The word ‘Mews’ actually derives from the French word ‘Muer’ which means to ‘Moult’ as originally, these Mews houses were built for the purpose of housing ‘hawks’ when they were moulting, so as to confine all the mess made.
Way back in 1377 the Kings falcons were all housed in the ‘Kings Mews’ down at Charing Cross.
William Shakespeare often used the term to ‘Mew-Up’ in his plays to describe a situation of ‘confinement’.
Historic records as far back as 1548, reveal that Royal ‘Stables’ for containing the monarchs horses, were built on the site that was once the ‘Royal Hawk Mews’.
Throughout the 1700’s & the 1800’s, horses were the main form of transport, and these large houses to the wealthy west of London, needed somewhere to house their horses and carriages – and so small ‘service-roads’ were constructed directly behind the main streets, and within these streets stables and carriage garages were built – with the stables on the ground floor with a small accommodation quarters above, where the ‘stable-servants’ and ‘coachman’ would reside.
These ‘Mews’ streets were very often named after the main streets that they were built behind.
However, as the decades passed, and with the invention and introduction and mass production of the ‘motor car’ throughout the early 1900’s and beyond – the reliance on horses as a means of transport, rapidly decreased – which in turn saw the old ‘Mews’ houses surplus to requirements.
This decline in the use of ‘Mews’ houses declined even more after the 2 World Wars as there were very few people who could afford the large properties that these Mews houses were associated with and had served.
Many of the old Mews houses soon fell into disrepair and became derelict, as did the Mews streets, alleys and courtyards they were located in.
Some were converted into small business enterprises like back-street garages and printing works etc, and some were converted into small residential homes, but loads of them were just left to rot, and were eventually demolished.
It wasn’t until London’s “Swinging Sixties” period that theses Mews houses and streets started to become popular again, particularly with the wealthy ‘arty’ types.
A programme of steady redevelopment of these Mews houses properties has continued throughout the past few decades, and today, these tiny properties are London’s most sought after locations for the more wealthier homebuyer.
Today there are believed to be in excess of 400 original mews houses throughout London, which are now on the market for anything from £5M minimum to anything up to £25M.
The majority of these old Mews house properties still retain their original exterior structural features such as the stable doors, the carriage garages, windows, front doors and roofing – but obviously the old ‘servants’ quarters situated above them, have been extensively redeveloped and extended with modern day fixtures and fittings.
Celeb such as Sir Michael Caine, Noel Gallagher, Agatha Christie, Adele and Madonna – have all owned and resided in these old London mews houses at some stage – and many of these properties and the streets in which they stand, have often been a back-drop scenery in many major film productions.
The weird thing about these Mews streets and their houses is that they are literally situated only a couple of hundred yards from a busy main road, the ambience within them is completely peaceful and tranquil.
So – for ‘Part 1’ of this particular London Shoes ‘theme’ I specifically sought out the Mews streets and houses located in or around Kensington’s Gloucester Road & Cromwell Road area – visiting the following:-
*Queens Gate Mews
*Queens Gate Place Mews
All of the above are literally locations of total peace & tranquility within this manic but magnificent City – and I hope that the photos I’ve taken do justice to these locations.
So – having spent the day tracking down these beautiful Mews streets and their residencies – it would have been rude not to pop into the historic ‘Queens Arms’ pub situated deep in the heart of ‘Queens Gate Mews’ – for the customary couple of ‘cheeky’ beers, before setting off back for home.
The ‘Queens Arms’ pub was first established way back in 1859, and is tucked away within a quiet cul-de-sac in the back streets of Queens Gate Mews. The pub itself still has many of its original Victorian fixtures & fittings features such as the internal wall wood paneling and open fire-place – and is well worth a visit if you are ever in the Gloucester Road area.
So – that concludes ‘part 1’ of London’s ‘Mews Houses & Streets’ – and there will be more to follow as ‘London Shoes’ tracks down these unique Mews streets and houses that are scattered across the ‘Smoke’.
Hope the photos bring the beauty of these locations to life for you.
More photos of the London’s “Mews-Streets & Houses” blog