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.