The street names of Mayfair, such as Davies Street and Grosvenor Square, tell the story of how the marriage of the heiress Mary Davies to Sir Thomas Grosvenor in 1677 laid the foundations of one of London’s great estates.
Thomas was a lucky man. Mary brought to the marriage 500 acres of swamp, pasture and orchards, of which 300 acres are still controlled by the Grosvenor family today.
Gerald Grosvenor, who is also Duke of Westminster, is now the third-richest man in Britain, with an estimated wealth of £8.56 billion. The family-owned international property company bears the Grosvenor name, and those unpromising fields went on to become Mayfair, one of world’s most desirable and expensive places to live.
Estate agent Sebastian de Angelis of the local branch of Chestertons says that in spite of its reputation for attracting only the world’s mega rich, Mayfair still retains its village feel. He credits the Grosvenor Estate’s continuing influence with ensuring all new developments are sensitive, and that the area is kept clean and tidy.
Most Mayfair buyers are from overseas. They come with big budgets from India, the Middle East and China, with a smattering of wealthy Europeans including Greeks, and minor royalty.
However, even with a starting budget of about £1 million for a one-bedroom apartment, many of the homes in Mayfair are occupied only occasionally. Sebastian de Angelis says that buyers essentially want homes they can lock up and leave, with the services of a concierge who will look after everything when they are away.
In the centre of London, Mayfair sits between Oxford Street to the north and Piccadilly to the south. Hyde Park marks its western boundary with Marylebone and Soho to the east.
Many of Mayfair’s grand mansions, once occupied by wealthy English families, were abandoned after the Second World War, and the local council gave temporary permission for their use as offices. Over the past 15 years a large number of these offices have reverted to residential use, increasing the district’s stock of homes.
There are smaller Georgian houses, too, but overall most Mayfair homes are apartments — in converted period buildings or purpose-built from the Thirties to today.
The US Embassy site in Grosvenor Square will eventually offer the largest development Mayfair has seen in recent times. The Grade II-listed modernist block will be reborn as a 137-bedroom five-star hotel with a spa and ballroom for 1,000 guests, according to plans to be submitted to Westminster council in May.
The embassy moves to Nine Elms next year. The US government sold the Grosvenor Square site seven years ago to property companies Qatari Diar and Chelsfield Advisers.
The largest development currently for sale is Twenty Grosvenor Square, the former US naval headquarters. The building, where General Eisenhower planned the Allied D-Day landings in 1944, is being converted into 37 flats by developer Finchatton. Prices will range from £4 million to £35 million and the flats will be move-in ready by early 2018. Visit www.20GS.com or call 020 7349 1120 for details.
Listed buildings 4 and 5 Queen Street are being converted into six three-bedroom flats with prices from £5.2 million to £8.4 million Visit www.4and5queenstreet.com or call Sotheby’s on 020 7495 9580.
There is one penthouse left, priced £5.25 million, at The Maddox Collection in Maddox Street, through CBRE (020 7420 3050) and Knight Frank (020 7499 1012).At Mayfair Chambers in Grosvenor Hill, two furnished flats remain out of the six two-bedroom homes, at £2,995,000, down from £3.5 million. Call Hamptons on 020 7758 8440.
With rental yields of between two and three per cent Mayfair has never been a buy-to-let hotspot. However, rental income covers costs and the reward comes in the form of capital appreciation.
In the centre of London with the West End in walking distance, Mayfair is served by Bond Street, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus Tube stations, all in Zone 1, with access to the Bakerloo, Central, Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines.
An annual travelcard is £1,296.
The new Elizabeth line — Crossrail — will stop at Bond Street from 2018, with new ticket halls in Hanover Square and Davies St. Trains to Heathrow will take 29 minutes.
Up and coming
Estate agent Sebastian de Angelis of Chestertons tips Shepherd Market, a once-sleazy enclave on the southern edge of Mayfair, which is being extensively redeveloped with a range of new shops, restaurants and cafés. The exclusive new club Loulou’s is also there, owned by Robin Birley, son of the late Mark Birley of Annabel’s fame. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, George Clooney and Kate Moss are all rumoured to be members.
De Angelis also recommends the eastern fringes of Mayfair towards Maddox Street where new developments are bringing a fresh feel to a tired-looking area.
Westminster council is Conservative controlled and Band D council tax for the 2016/2017 year is £668.81.
Shops and restaurants
Mayfair is a shoppers paradise with designer brands lining Bond Street and New Bond Street. Mount Street has become semi-pedestrianised, although the closure of Allens of Mayfair, the butcher, has been a blow for local shoppers.
Shepherd Market has a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere, with restaurants and cafés spilling out into the maze of little streets.
Mayfair has one three-Michelin star restaurant — Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. There are eight with two stars, including The Greenhouse, Hélène Darroze at The Connaught and Hibiscus. The 13 Mayfair restaurants with one star apiece include Fera at Claridge’s, where chef Simon Rogan is in charge of the kitchen; Angela Hartnett’s Murano and Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social.
Fish restaurant Scott’s has tables spilling out into Mount Street; Kitty Fisher’s in Shepherd Market cooks almost everything on a fashionable wood grill; and Sexy Fish, restaurateur and club owner Richard Caring’s latest offering, has a celebrity following.
Hyde Park and Green Park are on the doorstep. Mount Street Gardens is a tranquil city-centre oasis behind Mount Street. Grosvenor Square has a memorial to the UK citizens who died in the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
Leisure and the arts
The Royal Academy in Piccadilly is currently showing the blockbuster exhibition, Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse. The Curzon Cinema in Shepherd Market is the local first-release and art house cinema.
St George’s Hanover Square CofE in South Street, the only school in Mayfair, is a state primary with a “good” Ofsted rating. Nearby and rated “outstanding” by the government watchdog are state primaries St Vincent’s RC in Vincent Street, Marylebone, and Hampden Gurney CofE in Nutford Place.
The two nearest state comprehensive schools are St Marylebone CofE (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Marylebone High Street, judged “outstanding”, and Westminster City (boys, ages 11 to 18 with girls in the sixth form) in Palace Street, which is rated “good”.
The Fashion Retail Academy (co-ed, ages 16-plus) in Gresse Street is a specialist state sixth-form and further education college started by leading names in the fashion industry.
Local private primary and preparatory schools are: Connaught House (girls, ages four to 11; boys ages four to eight) in Connaught Square; Wetherby Preparatory (boys, ages seven to 13) in Bryanston Square, and Hill House (co-ed ages three to 13) in Hans Place. Private secondary schools for the area are: Wetherby Senior School (boys 11 to 18) in Marylebone Road; Halcyon London International (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Seymour Place; Sylvia Young Theatre School (co-ed, ages 10 to 16) in Nutford Place; Portland Place (co-ed, ages nine to 18) in Portland Place; and More House (girls, ages 11 to 18) a Catholic school in Pont Street. Private all-through schools are: Queen’s College (girls ages four to 18) in Harley Street; L’Ecole Internationale Franco-Anglaise (co-ed, ages three to 18), an English/French bilingual school in Portland Place, and the International Community School (co-ed, ages three to 18) in York Terrace East.