A Mayfair pub walk

Like me, you’re probably hoping we get on the other side of this global pandemic soon!  Once we do, here is a pub-walk through one of London’s most historical and well-heeled residential areas.

Mayfair, named after its raucous annual fair, was purpose-built during the mid to late-1700’s.   Many wealthly residents moved here from Soho – where they had lived after the devasting Great Fire of London of 1666.

Sir Richard Grosvenor engaged Thomas Barlow to lay out Mayfair around three large squares; Berkeley Square, Hanover Square and Grosvenor Square.   Sir Richard had inherited the land from his father, Sir Thomas Grosvenor – who had acquired it upon his marriage to Mary Davies, heiress to five hundred acres of central London.   Today, the Grosvenor Estate still own swathes of Mayfair – making the twenty-nine year old Duke of Westminster a very wealthy man indeed.

The ‘Mayfair’ itself ran from 1686 to 1764, before it was supressed by the areas new residents.   Surprisingly, they didn’t take to the annual visit of showmen, jugglers, prize-fighters, semolina eating contests, prostitutes and copious cheap ale on their doorstep.

Piccadilly, which bounds the south side, was originally the medieval high road to Reading.  By the 1500’s, Piccadilly was a thriving fashion centre, taking its name from the ruff lace collars (‘Piccadills’) that were manufactured in workshops along the street.   Piccadilly’s north side was lined with the London homes of the country’s landed gentry; of which the most important were Burlington House, Cambridge House, Albany House and Devonshire House (all but Devonshire House are still standing).

The pub walk starts in Shepherd Market, just north of Piccadilly.

Shepherd Market. Edward Shepherd's 1735 market
Edward Shepherd’s 1735 market was a focal point of the ‘Mayfair’ until it was abolished in 1764. The market buildings were re-built in 1860.
The first pub is 'The Grapes' in Shepherd Market. It was built in 1882
‘Ye Grapes’ in Shepherd Market was built in 1882, catering to market workers and shoppers.
Beau Brumell. Anthony Eden
Head north to Chesterfield Street.  Number 4 was home to George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell.  A society wit and good friend of the Prince Regent, he was famed as an arbiter of mens fashion.   He was among the first to wear tailored jackets and trousers – as opposed to the loose fitting garmets and stockings of the time.  Sadly, later in life, he ran up gambling debts and fell out with his old friend (by then King George IV) – dying of neurosyphilis in ‘social’ exile in Caen.   Another famous resident was Anthony Eden, remembered for his ill-judged ‘British imperial’ efforts to oust President Nasser of Egypt in the 1956/7 Suez Crisis – pretty much the last dying gasp of the British Empire.
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At the top of Chesterfield Street is Charles Street. Number 30 was home to the Earl of Roseberry, briefly the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 1890’s.
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Number 22 Charles Street was home to the Duke of Clarence, before his ascension to the thone as King William IV.
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Continue up Chesterfield Hill to arrive at the Punchbowl pub.
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Opposite the Punchbowl is Farm House, the site of an old farm dairy.  It was home to the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson and later to Raine Spencer, Countess Spencer (step-mother to Princess Diana).
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Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street.   Completed in 1849 by Joseph Scoles, the high altar, depecting the Annunciation, was designed by Augustus Pugin
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Alfred Dunhill’s London flagship store, former home of the Duke of Westminster in the early 1900’s.
Dukes of and Duchesses of Devonshire
The entrance to Berkeley Square, looking north.  Berkeley Square was the garden of Devonshire House, occupied by the sucessive Dukes of and Duchesses of Devonshire – as portrayed by the famous 5th Duke and Duchess in the film ‘The Duchess’.   Devonshire House was originally named Berkeley House after Lord Berkeley of Stratton.   It was remodelled by the Devonshires in 1733 and finally demolished in 1924.  The London plane trees are the original ones, planted in 1733.
Annabel's on Berkeley Square is one of the world's most exclusive clubs.
Annabel’s, at 46 Berkeley Square, is one of the world’s most exclusive clubs. It was established in 1963 by Mark Birley and named after his wife.  (Annabel went on to marry James Goldsmith, with whom she had Jemima and Zac)
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Number 45 Berkeley Square is the former home of ‘Clive of India’.  Robert Clive was a soldier who rose to Governor of Bengal by the late 1770’s.  He made a fortune running the 250,000 strong private army of the East India Company.   Upon his return to London with his ‘loot’ he commissioned this house. Criticised for his part in the death of around ten million Indian citizens in the Bengal famine of 1770, he committed suicide in 1774.
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The Guinea, in Bruton Place, is one of London’s oldest pubs.
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The Coach and Horses in Bruton Street is the oldest building in the street (and my fathers local when he was MD at the Celebrite in the 1960’s!)

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