Dave the Taxi Driver's


Guide to London

Bond Street, Mayfair, London

Hard Rock Cafe, Mayfair, London

Rolls Royce Shop, Mayfair, London

Hartnell, Mayfair, London

Mayfair (W1)

From Marble Arch Park Lane sweeps down to Hyde Park Corner adorned with luxury apartments and hotels such as The Grosvenor House, the Dorchester and the London Hilton. These are often the venues where many Film, TV and Sports awards ceremonies take place. All afford great views of Hyde Park.

The streets which lead over to Regent Street and down to Piccadilly are saturated with expensive restaurants, swish nightclubs, casinos and high quality hotels such as The Connaught (Carlos Place) Claridges (Brook Street), the exquisite, so I am told, Chesterfield (Charles Street ), Brown’s (Dover Street) and Fleming’s (Half Moon Street). The Athenaeum (not the club, which is by Pall Mall SW1) and Park Lane( not in Park Lane) Hotels overlook Green Park on Piccadilly. In addition to the nightclubs you have the private members’ clubs like those in St.James.

Bond Street, Mayfair, LondonThe Victorian Royal Arcade, with its lively orange and white arches and large interior hanging lights, is replete with all manner of retailing befitting Mayfair; watchmakers, antiques and fine footwear. The Royal Arcade runs between Old Bond Street and Albemarle Street, parallel to Piccadilly. Mayfair, along with its neighbour St. James oozes wealth and some of the finest shopping in the world in New Bond Street ,Old Bond Street and Regent Street, plus the exclusive Royal Arcade(1879) and Burlington Arcade(1819). There is the fashionable South Molton Street and Gray’s Antiques Market in Davies Street, near Bond Street Tube Station.

Burlington Arcade, Mayfair, LondonThe Burlington Arcade, which connects Burlington Gardens with Piccadilly, apart from being a beautiful thoroughfare, also possesses its eccentricity. Lord Cavendish, who initially conceived the idea of creating a covered shopping area for the upper classes, laid down certain rules. Originally he recruited soldiers from his family regiment, the 10th Hussars to protect the arcade. These liveried gentlemen came to be known as the Beadles. It is their duty to enforce the rules. No whistling, singing, playing music, riding of bicycles, opening umbrellas, carrying of large parcels or babies’ prams are allowed. Anyone committing these horrific crimes will immediately be ejected by the Beadles, in the most polite way of course. The Beadles are also there to help you with any question you might need to ask them. Doesn’t one letter make a difference? It was only a short distance from here that The Beatles performed on their roof top in Savile Row in 1969 in the film Let It Be. Savile Row, the world renowned street of bespoke tailoring.

A real, most heinous crime committed here occurred in 1964, when a Jaguar Mark Ten smashed its way through the Arcade. Masked men jumped out and raided the jewellers, the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Association. The robbers escaped by reversing the car out the way it came. They were never caught.

Mayfair is the sort of place where you might get the impression that people visiting have just left their helicopters and stopped for lunch at Scott’s, before being chauffeured to their private jet and moving on to Monte Carlo, having left a Van Gogh as a tip for the waiter. I may be exaggerating somewhat, but you get the idea.

Nicky Clarke Hairdressers, Mayfair, LondonWhy not pick up a Rolls or Bentley at Jack Barclay in Berkeley Square/Bruton Street or maybe a Porsche across the square on the corner of Mount Street? Have your hair recreated at fashionable hairdressers such as Nicky Clarke, Mount Street or Michael John, Albemarle Street.

Gentlemen can go to Trumper’s (1875) in Curzon Street, (also in Jermyn Street SW1), barber, barber? hairdresser, expert in gentlemen’s grooming and purveyor of an extensive range of gentlemen’s requisites. Most definitely a necessary connection to bygone days. Just to walk into Trumper’s is a most pleasurable experience.

Mayfair is also part of real life. There are hundreds of businesses and many sandwich shops/coffee shops and traditional pubs and bars. Mayfair is without doubt the place to live in luxury with plenty of opportunity to spend your money, or maybe double your fortune playing the tables at the Palm Beach Casino, Berkeley Street.

Ordinary businesses for example, such as private banking, investment banking, solicitors and world famous auction houses. Sotheby’s in New Bond Street and Bonham’s (formerly Philip’s) in Woodstock Street and London headquarters of famous world perfumiers.

If you happen not to be super wealthy, do not be alarmed. You can of course come here to participate in the opulence. Place yourself outside Asprey’s or Tiffany’s and strut around in your designer copies, talking into your mobile as though you are in the middle of major take over negotiations and stand by someone else’s Rolls. Just don’t forget to take off your bicycle clips.

Several hundred years ago though, Mayfair had more humble beginnings.

Near where the Hard Rock Café stands today at the western end of Piccadilly, by Hyde Park Corner, was where the May Fair was held from 1688. This event gave the area its name.

It was the private landowners who later created what became and remains the classiest part of the West End. There are also many private art galleries throughout the whole area and interesting individual retailers, who actually have in depth knowledge of the products which they are selling.

The area which became Mayfair used to be known as Great Brookfield. The name of Brook still survives as Upper Brook Street and Brook Street just off Park Lane, which used to be Tyburn Lane. Mayfair, like most of old London, (as I keep saying) used to be open fields. Brookfield Lane used to lead to Marylebone.

The Tyburn brook, or river used to flow through here, hence the old name. The Tyburn now trickles underground, passing underneath Berkeley Square and Lansdowne Row following the barely discernable valley which emerges onto Piccadilly opposite Green Park by Brick Street, eventually entering the River Thames near Vauxhall Bridge (SW1).

During the seventeenth century the old hay and straw market occupied the sloping street that still describes the activity, the Haymarket. This runs from Coventry Street, near Piccadilly Circus, down to Pall Mall. The May Fair used to be held there annually for two weeks, beginning on the 1st of May.

It was perhaps a regrettable decision that was made by Charles II, when he gave permission for one of his close friends, the Earl of St.Albans, to extend the market to allow the sale of sheep and cattle. If you put sheep and cattle together, within a confined area, even though they will be in separate pens, you are assured of major olfactory stimulation. The area became so smelly and dirty that James II, Charles’ successor, ordered the fair to be moved away.

The fair was relocated to what are now the streets around Shepherd Market. In my view this is the most interesting part of Mayfair. Full of character with its narrow streets, alleyways, pubs and restaurants and which has just a bit of street life that might be associated with Soho. Mayfair is not Soho by any means. To have streetwalkers here is far too common. Champagne escorts in the luxury apartments is Mayfair’s style. However you might see girls waiting for buses for a while, maybe a little longer than you would expect, at the bus stop at the end of Park Lane.

Mayfair massageThis is an advert in a doorway I passed whilst taking the photos for this section. I am really trying to point out that in one small part of what Mayfair seems to be, that it just might be a little bit different from the ideal of high society location. The spectre of a colourful past hangs quietly in the shadows.

Anyway to get back to the May Fair, it was extremely popular. Apart from the sheep and cattle, as you would expect, there were sideshows, butchers stalls, fencers, jugglers, boxers and puppet shows. These shows included the beheading of these poor representations of humanity, to the delight of the onlookers. Eccentricity, such as the lady of great endurance, who could lift an anvil with her hair. The anvil was then placed on her breast (s) whereupon a blacksmith forged a horseshoe in his normal manner, that is by battering it into shape with a heavy hammer.

Unfortunately, in due course, the behaviour of the masses that attended the fair became so unruly that it was closed. There had been a riot in 1702 resulting in one death and several injuries. The fair was frequented by undesirables, beggars and thieves. This degeneration, coupled with repeated raucous and obscene behaviour, gave rise to many complaints by the residents. The fate of the market was sealed. In the mid1700s it was finally closed and it moved to the east end of London.

The building of Mayfair started near the site of Piccadilly Circus.

By the middle of the eighteenth century six estates extended over the area, the Grosvenor Estate being the largest. Grosvenor Square, Hanover Square and Berkeley Square were developed. These squares shaped Mayfair’s grand identity. Mayfair took over from the previously fashionable Soho and Covent Garden. It became the des res area of the aristocracy. Grand houses such as Burlington House ( now the Royal Academy), Devonshire House and Chesterfield House created the high social status that Mayfair still possesses.

Beau Brummell, the dandy, whose statue stands in Jermyn Street, St.James, lived in Chesterfield Street. It is said that it took him five hours to dress to the standard which he considered was suitable to conduct his affairs.

Tiddy Dol, Idle Prentice, Mayfair, LondonTiddy Dol was a gingerbread seller who frequented St.James and Mayfair in the 1700s.There used to be a restaurant called the Tiddy Dol in Shepherd Market. Tiddy Dol is to be seen selling gingerbread to the crowd, in the Hogarth print of the execution of The Idle (Ap)Prentice at Tyburn, He is on the right holding a gingerbread cake in the air.

Many years ago I was asked by an American couple if I would take them there. It seems that they had booked their table without knowing where the restaurant was located. Because of the possible connotations of the word ‘Doll’, tentatively the lady asked “Which area is the restaurant in?” When I replied Mayfair, pleasurable smiles filled their faces. All their apprehension disappeared.

Queen Elizabeth II was born in MayfairQueen Elizabeth II was born at number 17 Bruton Street on 21st April, 1926, just opposite Hartnell. Norman Hartnell in due course became the Queen’s clothes designer. In case you are wondering why the Queen was born in a house and not in a Royal Palace, the reason is that her father ‘Bertie’, who became George VI, only ascended the throne because his brother, Edward VIII, who was consorting with the American divorcee Wallace Simpson, abdicated in 1936. It was never thought that Elizabeth would become Queen or that Bertie would become King for that matter.

Stella McCartney, Mayfair, LondonAcross the street are the premises of Stella McCartney, Macca’s designer daughter, or rather, his daughter, who is a designer. On the more cultural side there is The Royal Academy, Piccadilly, The Museum of Mankind, Burlington Gardens, The Handel House Museum in Brook Street, where Handel lived. This is next to where Jimi Hendrix lived in the late sixties.

Having spent your day immersing yourself in retail, gastronomic and cultural hedonism with an afternoon tea at Brown’s hotel, a romantic evening of Champagne at Langan’s, or maybe dining at Le Gavroche, Chez Nico or Bentley’s, what a pleasurable experience it will be, to be together in your hotel room. To sensually slip in between your silk sheets and, as you dreamily drift into other’s arms, that moment of knowing arises. As you move closer to each other, lips parting, you know you are both sharing that same intimate thought, that you are in Mayfair, the most expensive property on the Monopoly Board. Palatial, sophisticated and filthy rich, with more than a frisson of snobbery, is Mayfair. The jewel in the West End. More designer shops than anywhere in London and probably, apart from St. James’ more Royal Warrants than anywhere in London.

Tube: Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, Bond Street

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