All about Mayfair
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. But residential property hunters who approach estate agents in Mayfair in search of a prime central London asset may be interested to learn that the Romans were the first to spot the area’s potential. Archaeological excavations in the area have shown that Mayfair was a junction of Roman roads.
Mayfair is named after the annual fortnight-long May Fair that, from 1686 to 1764, took place on the site that is Shepherd Market. Mayfair is within the City of Westminster. It 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 and, as a result, many buildings here date from the Georgian period.
The area’s most important landowners and developers were the Dukes of Westminster, members of the Grosvenor family. The land on which the Grosvenor Estate now stands came into the hands of the family in 1677 as the dowry of Mary Davies when she married Sir Thomas Grosvenor. Development of this land began in the 1720s and the Grosvenor Estate now occupies North Mayfair, while southern Mayfair, including Berkeley Square, was largely developed by the Berkeley family and is known as the Berkeley Estate. The Rothschild family also bought up large areas of Mayfair in the 19th century and the freehold of a large section of Mayfair belongs to the Crown Estate.
Before World War Two, Mayfair was London’s premier residential address. However, during the War, heavy bombing in the City forced a large number of businesses to relocate to Mayfair. From the mid-1990s these buildings began reverting back to residential use and once again Mayfair became London’s most exclusive address.
Today, Mayfair is a carnival for the rich and powerful. Its shops are temples to luxury goods, and its restaurants are among the finest in the country. When visitors tire of eating well and trying on designer clothes, they can have a drink in an exclusive Mayfair bar or relax in one of Mayfair’s many sumptuous hotels.
Residential property in Mayfair
As you would expect from one of the world’s most glamorous enclaves, Mayfair’s property profile includes grand mansions, beautiful mews and magnificent apartments. In the post-war years many of the historic townhouses were converted into offices, but are now being returned to residential use. In fact, judicious management by the Grosvenor estate has seen Mayfair regain its historic reputation for gracious living. Not only are major buildings returning to residential use, but in 2011 Mayfair contained the world’s most expensive flat – the £136m penthouse apartment in the One Hyde Park development.
Thanks to development work in the 17th and 18th centuries, Mayfair benefits from a variety of architectural styles. For grand lateral apartments, look in Grosvenor Square and Park Lane.
Head to Mount Street and South Audley Street for pied à terres, while large mews-style homes can be found in Hays Mews, Culross Street or Adams Row.
Mayfair also contains an abundance of townhouses, some of which remain intact, while others have been divided into apartments. There is also a selection of purpose-built apartment buildings dating from the end of the 19th century to the present day.
Great transport links
Home to a population of 24,639, Mayfair’s location in the heart of the City of Westminster means transport links are plentiful. Several local stations are useful hubs of the underground network. Bond Street provides Jubilee Line services to Westminster, Waterloo and out to Canary Wharf, and Central Line services straight into the City. From Green Park, the Piccadilly Line runs south to Heathrow Airport and north to the international rail terminus at King’s Cross St Pancras, and the Victoria Line connects to Victoria and its mainline services to the South Coast. Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch also provide Central and Piccadilly Line services.
Heathrow Airport is easily reached via direct Piccadilly Line services from Green Park and via the Heathrow Express from Marylebone Station. The Gatwick Express provides fast shuttle services from Victoria to Gatwick Airport.
One Tube station no longer available is Down Street (Mayfair), which was opened in 1907 and closed in 1932 due to a shortage of people using it. However, during World War Two it was used as a bunker by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet.
Above ground, the A40 is a major road artery that becomes the M40 and connects with the M25. The A4 (Piccadilly) runs through Kensington and Hammersmith to join the M4 at Chiswick.
Mayfair is served by a wide range of different bus routes including buses 21, 28, 30, 31 and 60.
Mayfair’s many attractions
Mayfair is home to some of the finest and most varied shopping streets in London. Bond Street, Piccadilly and the Burlington Arcade are synonymous with luxury and designer brands. Mount Street is a vibrant contrast, with its high-end boutiques and individual retailers providing delightful variety.
Cork Street is famous for the art sold in its world-renowned galleries, while Savile Row is synonymous with bespoke tailoring.
Eating and drinking
Mayfair boasts some of the finest private members clubs in London, including Mahiki. A favourite with young royals – Princes Harry and William, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie have been spotted here – and where the royals go the celebs follow and you’re likely to see a few of them here too. Scarlett Johansson and Paris Hilton are among the A-listers who’ve dropped by Mahiki when they’re in town.
Mayfair also has a long list of fashionable restaurants include Scotts, Le Gavroche and The Wolseley, while fine dining is also available in any of Mayfair’s luxury hotels, the Dorchester, the Connaught, Claridge’s and the Ritz.
Did you know? The Ritz hotel was built on a site previously occupied by The Old White Horse Cellar, one of the most famous coaching inns in London. It was one of the first steel-frame buildings to be erected in Europe. The restaurant has so many chandeliers that its ceiling had to be specially reinforced.
Did you also know? Le Gavroche in Upper Brook Street is named after a street urchin in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The restaurant, which opened in 1967, was the first in the UK to be awarded three Michelin stars.
Cultural interest focuses on the Royal Academy on Piccadilly, with its regular programme of major exhibitions. The area is also home to Handel House Museum, while some of the UK’s oldest and most respected auction houses, such as Phillips and Sotheby’s, are also based in Mayfair.
Did you know? The Egyptian sculpture above the door of Sotheby’s in Mayfair is the oldest man-made object in London dating from 1600 BC?
Mayfair might be close to Hyde Park, Regents Park and Green Park, but there are no major parks set within it. However, Mount Street Gardens in the north-west of Mayfair does offer a quiet oasis. Built in 1880 on an old burial ground, the park is bounded by six-storey Georgian terraces and striated by several long rows of benches.
What are the neighbours like?
Mayfair is home to just over 24,000 residents, many of whom are property investors from outside the UK. Many come from oil-rich states in the Middle East and Russia. In 2011 more than three-quarters of Mayfair properties in the £5m+ bracket and all properties worth over £30 million were bought by non-British buyers with investors from Saudi Arabia having a special interest in Mayfair. This possibly explains why the nation’s embassy is also located in Mayfair.
Ever since the Romans departed, Mayfair has attracted a wide variety of residents, including HRH Queen Elizabeth II, who was born in Bruton Street and lived in Mayfair as an infant.
The area has also been home to numerous British Prime Ministers from the 18th century to the 21st century, including Benjamin Disraeli, who lived in Curzon Street; Sir Robert Peel, who was also responsible for the creation of the Metropolitan Police Force; William Pitt the Younger, Britain’s great war leader and the man who created income tax; and Winston Churchill, who lived in various Mayfair properties and sheltered in the disused underground station in Down Street during the war.
Many French aristocrats in exile from the French Revolution have also resided in the area, which has also enjoyed very close ties with America since John Adams, the first American emissary to Britain and later America’s second president, lived at 9 Grosvenor Square. In fact, four other US Ambassadors who resided in Grosvenor Square went on to become President.
The French composer Frederick Handel also called Mayfair home for the last 30 years of his life and to this day the area is eternally popular with musicians, celebrities and models who appreciate its exclusive central location.
Education in Mayfair
Nursery schools that are favoured by parents in Mayfair include The Belgravia Nursery School, Soho Family Centre Trust, Jumbo Montessori Nursery, Hyde Park Barracks Community Childcare Centre and Ravenstone House School.
The best primary schools in the area include St Vincent’s RC Primary School and St Peter’s Eaton Square C of E Primary School, which are both rated outstanding by Ofsted, while St George’s Hanover Square C of E Primary School, Soho Parish C of E Primary School, Queen’s College London and Connaught House School are also well regarded by parents.
When it comes to secondary education in Mayfair, the choice of schools includes Davies Laing and Dick College, Queen’s College London, Abbey College and Westminster City School.
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