Have I got mews for you

Once handy for horses, coaches and ser­vants, mews houses now of­fer some of the most charm­ing homes in Lon­don, finds Eleanor Doughty

Country Life Every Week - - Property News -

TAKE a turn off one of Lon­donõs smartest streets and you might find your­self star­ing down a cob­bled drive edged with cars, an oc­ca­sional pic­nic table stacked at the side and loops of hy­drangeas wound around a great stone arch. The cen­tre of Lon­don has more than 300 mews, often well hid­den and each with its own char­ac­ter and vil­lage at­mos­phere.

How­ever, the mews was not al­ways such a rare­fied species. First built in the 17th and 18th cen­turies around the back of grand ter­raced houses, they were quiet spots for stor­ing horses, coaches and ser­vants. The name Ômewsõ de­rives from the Royal Mews, the sta­bles on the spot we now call Trafal­gar Square. This in turn dates from the orig­i­nal use of the build­ingñnot for keep­ing horses, but the kingõs fal­cons, dur­ing the moult­ing process; Ômewsõ is from the French muer, Ôto changeõ.

By the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury, the in­ven­tion of the mo­tor­car and a ser­vant short­age caused by the First World War re­duced the need for a mews. The Swinging Six­ties saved Lon­donõs best, when a hand­ful of rac­ing-car driv­ers iden­ti­fied th­ese unas­sum­ing streets as the per­fect spots for keep­ing their cars safe.

One was rally driver An­toine Lurot, founder of spe­cial­ist mews es­tate agent Lurot Brand (020Ð7479 1999; www. lurot­brand.co.uk). Lurotõs mews direc­tory com­prises 344 Lon­don streetsñ not all of which have mews in the name. Adamõs Row in May­fair, be­tween Berke­ley Square and Grosvenor Square, is a street of large gabled coach houses; Cam­p­den House Close, a cul-de-sac with a spa­cious court­yard, off Horn­ton Street in Kens­ing­ton, is tucked be­tween Hol­land Park and Kens­ing­ton Gar­dens. Oth­ers are in qui­eter vil­lage ar­eas, such as Fairfax Place in South Hamp­stead or Eton Garages in Bel­size Park.

In defin­ing a mews, Ôpedants say that the house has got to have had a horse liv­ing in it,õ notes Dun­can Petrie, head of mews sales at Sav­ills (020Ð3430 6605; www.sav­ills.co.uk). In Bel­gravia and Knights­bridge, history is com­ing full

Com­bin­ing the ease of in­nercity liv­ing with the com­mu­nity feel of the coun­try­side, mews houses have be­come ex­tremely pop­u­lar in re­cent years

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