Mayfair has been an aristocratic playground for 300 years. This central area of London was named after May Fair, the annual spring festival renowned for its pedlars, jugglers and sideshows. The notorious May Fair took place in Market Street (Shepherd Market today) from 1686 to 1734, until it moved to Fair Field because it had become a byword for “riotous and disorderly behaviour”.
Wealthy Londoners first came to Mayfair by moving west following the Fire of London, in 1666. Soon, the area had the highest concentration of peers, politicians, merchants, bankers, playboys and princes. At that time, the Mayfair district was a very aristocratic area where the upper classes would have lunch and dinner in expensive restaurants.
In the 1920s, following a financial crisis, the inhabitants of Mayfair progressively moved to the suburbs or to America. After the Second World War, the few grand properties that survived the bombings were converted into banks, hotels and main companies’ headquarters. The social whirl Mayfair used to be had become a place of opulence, luxury and business.
Mayfair is roughly bordered by Hyde Park to the west, Oxford Street to the north, Piccadilly and Green Park to the south and Regent Street to the east. Most of the area was first developed between the mid 17th century and the mid 18th century as a fashionable residential district, by a number of landlords, the most important of them the Grosvenor family. The Rothschild family bought up large areas of Mayfair in the 19th century. The freehold of a large section of Mayfair also belongs to the Crown Estate.
The Serpentine was formed in 1730 at the instigation of Queen Caroline by damming the Westbourne, then a muddy stream, and transforming it into a spectacular lake.
Mayfair is an area of central London and one of the most prestigious districts of the UK’s capital city. Mayfair was traditionally bordered by Hyde Park to the west, Oxford Street to the north, Piccadilly to the south and Bond Street to the east, although the eastern boundary has recently been stretched to Regent Street.
Mayfair is known as the home to many of the world’s embassies, and has also London’s largest concentration of luxury hotels and restaurants. Some say that the renown and prestige of Mayfair has grown in the popular mind due to its designation as the most expensive property on the British Monopoly set.
Commercially, Mayfair is a very vibrant place with many financial places, hedge funds, and major corporate headquarters. Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Savile Row have now become the centre of London’s fashion industry and the world’s most famous designers have showcase stores there.
Mayfair is truly a microcosm, all life is here from all over the world, yet with its beautiful squares and parks to rest in, it also remains a peaceful haven in the centre of the great city of London and in many ways an amazing place to live, work and visit.
Today the Mayfair district offers array conventional offices and serviced business office spaces suited to entrepreneurs or established corporations. Mayfair has been at the center of commerce for hundreds of years. As home to London’s most exclusive shopping, restaurants, clubs, and hotels, Mayfair is bordered by large public squares and touts many historic sites. Mayfair offers a convenient and prestigious office space location with wide availability of office space and excellent transport links connecting it to the rest of the country.
Below is an selection of Mayfair streets and some interesting history about them.
The second Duke of Albemarle briefly became the major local landowner in the late seventeenth century and the street soon attracted wealthy figures. Albemarle Street is now home to expensive art galleries and prestigious offices. Albermale Street was built by a syndicate of developers headed by Sir Thomas Bond, a wily property speculator, close friend of King Charles II. Sir Thomas Bond would later give his name to Bond Street.
Berkeley Square was named after the 1st Lord Berkeley of Stratton, a royalist commander during the civil war. Not architecturally planed, the square resulted of people coming and settling haphazardly around the Berkeley House in the 1660s
The square retained its reputation for the high life when in 1940, war-time Britain’s darkest hour was cheered by a new song, ‘A nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’, later popularised by Dame Vera Lynn.
Nowadays on summer days, its central garden is filled with sandwich-eaters who surge out of the square’s office blocks, grabbing a bite from the snack shops that proliferate. Eating in the open air was a custom established by Gunter’s Tea Shop at numbers 7 and 8, where the Italian pastry chef Domenico Negri first opened for business in 1757. Later, smart people came there on warm days to eat ices, and enjoy the shade of plane trees planted in 1789.
Developed in the first half of the18th century, this street is home to the Handel House Museum, located in the very house where the German composer used to live, at No 25. Jimi Hendrix lived at No. 23 and despite the brevity of his tenure the property was awarded English Heritage’s first blue plaque in honour of a rock star in 1997.
Bruton Street in London Mayfair is the birth place of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, born at 2.40 am on 21 April 1926 at her maternal grandfather’s London house: 17 Bruton Street.
Burlington Arcade in an indoor arcade which was built in 1819 by Lord George Cavendish, to prevent passers by throwing rubbish into his garden. This pedestrian arcade has always been an upmarket retail location. It is patrolled by Burlington Arcade Beadles in traditional uniforms including top hats and frockcoats. Employed to discourage unruly behaviour, Beadles actually have the authority to eject anyone who runs, carries large packages, opens an umbrella, hums, sings or whistles.
A winding street that is one of the busiest in Mayfair, built in the 1720s and named after Nathaniel Curzon, an early eighteenth century Derbyshire aristocrat, it is now best known for the luxurious Curzon Cinema.
Dover Street was built by a syndicate of developers headed by Sir Thomas Bond, a wily property speculator, close friend of King Charles II, and for some time comptroller for Henrietta Maria, the Queen Mother. The syndicate purchased a Piccadilly mansion called Clarendon House from Christopher Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle in the 1680s for £36,000 and proceeded to demolish the house and develop the area. Sir Thomas Bond would later give his name to Bond Street.
The present day appearance of Duke Street dates almost entirely from the general rebuilding undertaken in this district between 1886 and 1896.
The Grosvenor family acquired Mayfair in 1677 when Sir Thomas Grosvenor married the heiress May Davies. In 1720, Sir Richard Grosvenor designed a grid pattern of new streets, which was very architecturally innovative. The square was completed in 1770, and Mayfair has remained a much sought-after area ever since. It is then hardly surprising that the district’s most imposing square, second largest in London, should bear the family name.
After the Second World War, the west side was demolished to make way for the American Embassy building, designed by Eero Saarrinen. The buildings remain contrastingly high on the three other sides of Grosvenor Square, where there are mainly twentieth-century flats and hotels, imposing redbrick structures with classical pilasters in the centre of each terrace.
Half Moon Street is the place where the fictional Wooster (the perfect upper-class Mayfair resident and his faithful valet Jeeves) of P.G. Wodehouse’s novels lived.
In 1763, James Boswell, newly arrived from Edinburgh, took lodgings and wrote his defamatory diary.
Hanover Square was designed in the 1710s, and named in honour of the accession to the British throne of George, Elector of Hanover. The development was an immediate success attracting prestigious offices, and fashion houses.
To understand how Mayfair’s reputation evolved from sleazy to elegant, you have only to look at drawings of Hanover Square published in the mid-eighteenth century. They show a symmetrical development of finely- proportioned houses grouped around a formal garden in the square’s centre.
Many artists, such as the compositor Handel, have lived in Mayfair and were inspired by the place. Handel indeed composed the Messiah and Music for the Royal Fireworks when he lived in Brook Street. Such gentlemen of taste and means were attracted by Mayfair’s modernity and refinement, which contrasted with the untidy bustle of old London.
Originally called Tiburn road, the street was built as a residential area in the 18th century, but in the late 19th century it began to develop into the shopping street it is today. There are currently 548 shops on Oxford Street, which makes it the most dense shopping street in Europe. Oxford Street runs for approximately a mile and a half from Marble Arch to the north east corner of Hyde Park.
Park Lane is a three lanes road in the West End of London, about three quarters of a mile in length, and which runs north from Hyde Park Corner to Marble Arch.
Park Lane has developed in the mid eighteenth century and because of its outstanding position overlooking the park soon attracted the grandest private residences in London, the properties embellished with baroque flourishes and facades. By the end of the nineteenth century Park Lane was studded with the mansions of the aristocracy and the wealthy but in the twentieth century many of the buildings were demolished and replaced with smart office blocks, banks and luxurious hotels. The oldest surviving properties, both dating back to the 1820s, are Nos. 93-99 and Dudley House at No. 100.
This block of luxury flats, formerly occupied by millionaires and celebrities, was requisitioned by Westminster City Council to provide shelter for 300 bombed-out and homeless people. Empty mansions in Mayfair and Belgravia were also used as hostels.
Regent Street was originally built to enable the Prince Regent to travel between his home in St James’ to Regent’s Park. Originally designed by John Nash, Regent Street is one of the major shopping streets in London’s West End, and famous for its Christmas illuminations. Every building in Regent Street is protected as a Listed Building, at least Grade II status, and together they form the Regent Street Conservation Area.
Home of bespoke British tailoring since the early nineteenth century, Savile Row was built over the kitchen garden of Burlington House (now Home of the Royal Academy) in 1695 and acquired its name in the 1730s from Lady Dorothy Savile, wife of the 3rd Earl of Bulington. Savile Row continues to flourish, supplying suits to the world’s wealthiest customers regardless of shifts in fashion.
The term “bespoke” is actually said to have originated in Savile Row. While applied to many items now to mean an item custom-made to the buyer’s specification, the term historically was applied only to tailored clothing, and is indeed understood to have originated in Savile Row when cloth for a suit was said to “be spoken for” by customers.
It is in the place that is today Shepherd Market that the notorious May Fair, the annual fifteen-day fair which gave its name to the Mayfair district, took place from 1686 to 1734. In 1734, the fair moved to Fair Field because it had grown in popularity and size over the years, attracting both rich and poor, which was not convenient for the wealthy local landowners.
South Audley Street
The Grosvenor Chapel – “Unafraid to reason, unashamed to adore” – is situated in South Audley Street and seeks to offer a spiritual home to those who live and work in the area, those who are drawn to the Chapel for various reasons, as well as those who are visiting London. The foundation stone of the Grosvenor Chapel was laid on 7 April 1730 by Sir Richard Grosvenor.
Bond Street was built by a syndicate of developers headed by Sir Thomas Bond, a wily property speculator, close friend of King Charles II, who would later give his name to Bond Street. Before Bond Street admitted boutiques it was already famous for its art galleries. Home to scores of smart shops, Old and New Bond Street exude an air of luxury and timeless style. The only street running the full length of Mayfair from Oxford Street to Piccadilly, it is known as New Bond Street north of Burlington Gardens, and Old Bond Street to the south.
At the junction of the old and new parts of Bond Street, Winston Churchill and Roosevelt represented in bronze, rest perpetually on a bench, with room for you to settle down between them.