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
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