Day 49 – Piccadilly – St James’s Square – Pall Mall

First excursion of the year and not a long one but this small area between Piccadilly and Pall Mall (yellow to pink on the Monopoly board) is rich in historical and social significance. From Fortnum and Mason to the Royal Automobile Club, St James’s (where nearly 50% of the property is owned by the Crown Estate) still clings to an aura of privilege and old money. It also contains the former residences of two women who, in very different ways, have played an important role in shaping the evolution of this country – Ada Lovelace and Nancy Astor.

Day 49 Route

Starting point today is St James’s Church on Piccadilly. This was consecrated in 1684 having been built to the order of Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans to the serve the new residential development of St James’s Square. And wouldn’t you know it but the architect was the ubiquitous Christopher Wren accepting a rare gig outside of the City of London. The reredos and the marble font were created by master carver of the age, Grinling Gibbons (there’s a forename that’s ripe for revival surely). And that font was where William Blake was baptised in December 1757. St James’s is well known as a classical music venue and I was fortunate enough that my visit coincided with a lunchtime recital by the prizewinning Greek pianist, Konstantinos Destounis. The church is also very actively involved in highlighting social and political issues and is currently host to Suspended, an installation by artist Arabella Dorman which highlights the plight of refugees attempting to flee from persecution and famine to the safety of European shores.

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We exit the church onto Jermyn Street, turn left and then return to Piccadilly via Church Place. Heading east towards Piccadilly Circus we pass Waterstones flagship store which occupies the Grade I listed building that came into being in 1936 as Simpsons of Piccadilly, at the time the largest menswear store in Britain. The building was designed by the modernist architect, Joseph Pemberton (1889 – 1956) and much of the interior was the work of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895 – 1946), one of the most influential professors at the Bauhaus school of art in 1920’s Berlin.

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A right turn down Eagle Place takes us back onto Jermyn Street where we continue east onto Regent Street St James’s (or Regent Street South if you’re pushed for time). The Lumiere London art festival had taken place the previous weekend and the area around Piccadilly had featured several of the installations, including this light projection onto the old Swan & Edgar building.

We drop down to the end of Regent Street St James’s where no. 1 with its ornate carved frontage, home of the Greek restaurant Estiatorio Milos, stands on the corner with Charles II Street.

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Charles II Street runs west into St James’s Square.  As already mentioned the square was laid out in the late 17th century by Henry Jermyn, the 1st Earl of St Albans one of the most influential courtiers of the Restoration period. The houses on the square quickly became some of the most desirable properties in London and by the 1720’s seven dukes and seven earls were among the residents. A century or so later the clubhouses arrived and the square lost a bit (but only a bit) of its cachet. Turning right to proceed anticlockwise around the square we pass the BP head office at no. 1, a turn of the 21st century building they acquired in 2001. The original house at no.3 next door was owned by at least three separate dukes at different times but was replaced in the 1930’s by this office block.

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Then at no.4 we have an original Georgian House built 1726-28 by Edward Shepherd and the only one on the square to retain its garden and mews house at the rear. It is now the Naval and Military Club but was once one of the homes of Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor (1879 – 1964) the first woman to sit as an MP in the House of Commons. Nancy Witcher Langthorne Astor, to give her her full name, was an American citizen who moved to Britain at the age of 26 when she married, for the second time, to Waldorf Astor heir to the massive fortune of the Astor family with its origins in the 18th century US fur trade and New York real estate. Their primary home was the 375 acre Cliveden Estate in Buckinghamshire, a wedding gift from Waldorf’s father. Waldorf had enjoyed a promising political career prior to WW1 but when he succeeded his father’s peerage to become the 2nd Viscount Astor he was automatically shunted off to the House of Lords. This left the way open for Nancy to contest the vacant seat and she duly won the November 1919 by-election. She was in actual fact not the first woman to be elected to parliament, that milestone was achieved by Constance Markievicz in 1918 but as she was an Irish Republican she was barred from taking her seat. I think it’s fair to say that Lady Astor’s success is now viewed as purely a symbolic one. Her political accomplishments were largely negligible although she remained an MP until 1945.  Her personal ideology was also pretty suspect in many ways – she had not been a strong advocate of women’s suffrage and held strong anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic views. However, while she and many of her circle were in favour of appeasement suggestions that the “Cliveden set” were pro-fascist appear to be exaggerated.

Across the road from no.4, just outside the gardens, is a memorial to WPC Yvonne Fletcher who on 17 April 1984, at the age of 25, was killed by a shot from the Libyan People’s Bureau (Embassy) which at the time occupied no.5. WPC Fletcher was on duty monitoring a demonstration against the Gaddafi regime, eleven of the participations in which were also wounded. Although diplomatic relations between the UK and Libya were severed no-one was ever brought to account for the murder. Two years later US fighter planes conducted bombing raids on Libya having taken off from UK air bases with the acquiescence of Margaret Thatcher.

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We leave the square temporarily via Duke of York Street off to the right of which is the now (thanks to the eponymous book and TV series) infamous Apple Tree Yard. You’d be hard pushed to find anywhere quite so unappealing as a venue for a spot of alfresco hanky-panky but then that’s probably the point. Though I’m pretty certain the scenes in the TV series weren’t actually filmed here anyway. The yard’s other claim to fame is that it was home to the office where Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the enclave of New Delhi (within the metropolis of Delhi) to replace Calcutta as the seat of the British Colonial Government in 1912. This was marked in 2015 by the installation of a sculptural work in granite by the artist Stephen Cox.

Back on Duke of York Street it’s a short hop up to Jermyn Street again for a quick eastward foray to tick off Babmaes Street before retracing our steps to Ormond Yard which is opposite Apple Tree Yard and ends in a small passage that cuts through To Mason’s Yard. Bang in the middle of Mason’s Yard is the White Cube Gallery which was constructed here on the site of an old electricity subs-station (and is the first free-standing structure to be built in the historic St James’s area for more than 30 years). In its architectural style the White Cube aims for a spot of nominative determinism though White Orthotope would be nearer the mark (this is also true of its sister gallery, White Cube Bermondsey). It’s a good old space inside and usually showcasing something worth a visit. Current exhibition by Korean artist, Minjung Kim, which just opened today is a case in point.

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To the west Mason’s Yard leads out onto Duke Street St James’s where we head south as far as King Street which takes us east back to St James’s Square. This time we go clockwise round the square (if you see what I mean). First stop is no. 16 which was formerly the East India Club and displays a black plaque commemorating the official dispatch of the news of the victory at Waterloo carried by Major Henry Percy. After initial delivery to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War at Grosvenor Square, Major Percy continued on to this address to lay two captured French Imperial Eagles before the Prince Regent who was attending a soirée here.

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At no. 14 is the London Library the world’s largest independent library created at the instigation of Thomas Carlyle (who objected to some of the policies of the British Museum Library). It opened in 1841 and moved to St James’s Square four years later. Alfred Lord Tennyson served as President, from 1855 to 1892, as did T.S. Eliot who, on his appointment in 1952, declared  “whatever social changes come about, the disappearance of the London Library would be a disaster to civilisation”. Today the library is home to over a million books covering more than 2,000 subjects and stored on 17 miles of shelves. Membership costs £525 a year.

Next door at no.13. is the only Embassy on the square – the High Commission of Cyprus.

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Turning the corner onto the north side we reach, at no.12, the former residence of the other woman I mentioned in the preamble, Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (1815 – 1852) better known, simply, as Ada Lovelace. Part of Ada’s fame rests upon the fact that she was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron – by his wife Annabella Milbanke, Lady Wentworth. But far more important than that is her contribution to the fields of mathematics and science. As a teenager, Ada’s mathematical prowess, led her to form what came to be a long working relationship and friendship with Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871) the man who first came up with the concept of the computer, or Analytical Engine as he called it. However it was Ada who recognized that such a machine could have potential applications beyond pure calculation and published the first program intended to be carried out by the “computing machine”. For this she is regarded by many as effectively the world’s first computer programmer. Her personal life though was not a happy one; her relationships with men were fraught and complicated and she took to gambling with disastrous results – losing more than £3,000 on the horses in her early thirties. And she was always haunted by her father who had to all intents and purposes abandoned her at birth. In any event she never saw him again during his eight remaining years of life. But when Ada died of uterine cancer at the age of 36, the same age Byron had been, she was buried, at her request, next to him at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

Two doors further along at no.10 is Chatham House aka the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the world-famous independent policy institute. In 1919 British and American delegates to the Paris Peace Conference, under the leadership of Lionel Curtis, conceived the idea of an Anglo-American Institute of foreign affairs to study international problems with a view to preventing future wars. In the event, the British went ahead on their own, founding the British Institute of International Affairs in July 1920. Chatham House is immortalised for originating the Chatham House Rule – When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. Or, more succinctly, “what’s said in the room stays in the room”. No.10 (appropriately enough) is also celebrated for being the home at various times of three separate British Prime Ministers – William Pitt the Elder (PM from 1766-68), Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby (PM for just 299 days in 1852 and 1 year and 243 days between 1866 and 1868) and William Ewart Gladstone (PM for most of the 2nd half of the 19th century).

See what I mean, just this one corner of the square has elicited the best part of 1,000 words. Anyway, once past no.10, we turn south through the middle of the gardens. In the centre is an equestrian statue of William III erected in 1808 and at the southern end is a small pavilion with a memorial to architect John Nash (we’ve met him more than once on previous journeys) who supervised the design and layout of the gardens.

Back on the east side of the square is no.31, Norfolk House, which was U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters during World War II, and where Operation Torch and Operation Overlord were planned.

We leave the square again briefly, exiting onto Pall Mall from the south-east corner. Across the road is the Royal Automobile Club, founded in 1897 by Frederick Richard Simms with the primary purpose of promoting the motor car and its place in society. The Royal part of the monicker was granted by King Edward VII in 1907 (Victoria would have had no truck with these new-fangled automobile things). Today it’s a glorified private members’ (including women) club with Edwardian Turkish baths that were renovated in 2003–4, an Italian marble swimming pool, squash courts (including a doubles court), a snooker room, three restaurants, two bars, and a fully equipped business centre. It is now completely divorced from the motoring services group, the RAC, which it once owned.

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We head back into the square for a final time past another bastion of London clubland (of the cigars and brandy rather than ecstasy and glo-stick variety), the Army and Navy Club. This one has been around since 1837 and its first patron was the Duke of Wellington and the current one is the Queen – nuff said. The club is colloquially known as ‘the Rag’ – if you want to know why check out the link. I think I need to move swiftly on before I go all champagne socialist.

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We leave the square for the final time back along King Street heading west. On the north side is the global HQ of fine art auctioneers, Christie’s, where they have been since 1823.

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On the south side we pass Cleveland Place and Rose & Crown Yard before taking the next turning, Angel Court. The following picture is of the middle of those three and I took it and flipped it to b&w purely on account of the striking quality of the mannequin figure in the window.

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On the corner of Angel Court and King Street, the Golden Lion pub occupies the site where the St James’s Theatre, which staged the first performances of Oscar Wilde’s two best known plays, once stood. Further down Angel Court is a set of, now rather forlorn looking, commemorative reliefs by E. Bainbridge Copnall. The reliefs were commissioned for the office block that replaced the theatre, which was demolished itself in 1986.

Back on Pall Mall we head east initially along the north side then double back west on the south side. Pall Mall was constructed in 1661 and takes it’s name from the game of pall-mall which was a bit similar to croquet and was introduced to England by James I. London’s first pall-mall court was built in St James’s Field where St James’s Square now stands. As we return along the south side we pass no.82 which is adorned with a blue plaque marking this as a former residence of the artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) and no.80 which has one noting that Nell Gwynne (1650 – 1687) once lived in a house on the site. And at no.71 is the Oxford and Cambridge Club where. I imagine, the real metropolitan elite meet and greet.

We switch back northwards up Crown Passage which, if you ignore the rubbish bags, has a charming touch of the olde-worlde about it…

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…there’s even a Milliner’s for goodness’ sake (that’s someone who makes hats in case there happens to be anyone under the age of forty reading)

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So now we’re back on King Street from where a quick right then left takes us into Bury Street. The area of St James’s is particularly known for its galleries. Not the sort I tend to frequent that show contemporary art (though as we’ve seen there are a couple of those) but the ones that specialise in just about every niche in the fine arts and antiques firmament – from old masters to maps to Japanese art and armour and weaponry as you can see below.

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We turn east off Bury Street along Ryder Street back to Duke Street St James’s where we continue north and then turn the corner into Jermyn Street past the Cavendish Hotel. In its present form The Cavendish is a particularly unlovable example of 1960’s concrete pragmatism. Its predecessor was built in the early 1800’s, taking on the Cavendish name in 1836. In 1902 the Cavendish was bought by one Rosa Lewis (1867 -1952), who had worked her way up from kitchen maid (aged 12) to be head chef of the Duc d’orleans at Sandhurst. She was also engaged as a dinner-party cook by Lady Randolph Churchill, the Asquiths and many of the hostesses who entertained Edward VII. Rosa originally put her husband, the grandly named ex-butler Excelsior Tyrel Chiney Lewis, and his sister Laura in charge of the hotel. But within two years their spending and his drinking were out of control so Rosa divorced him and threw the pair of them out. Once she was in charge the hotel flourished and expanded. She was known for her generous spirit – allowing impoverished WW1 military officers to stay for free at the hotel for example – and Evelyn Waugh described her as warm hearted, comic and a totally original woman. She continued to dress in Edwardian style and enjoyed a grandiose and majestic decline from 1918 to 1952. Her life was the inspiration for the 1970’s TV series, “The Duchess of Duke Street” (with Gemma Jones in the title role) as is recognized by a Westminster Council commemorative plaque.

After a couple of blocks we make our way back to Piccadilly up Princes Arcade which continues the area’s general theme of old fashioned luxury. Opposite the entrance to the arcade at no.87 Jermyn Street is another of those old London County Council blue plaques marking this as the home of Sir Isaac Newton. Newton actually lived in the building that was knocked down in 1915 but the plaque had been installed seven years prior to that and so was taken down a re-fixed to the new building.

On reaching Piccadilly again we turn left to get to Hatchards the UK’s oldest bookshop. John Hatchard opened the store at 173 Piccadilly in 1797 and moved it to (what is now) 187 in 1801. The store has three Royal Warrants and is now owned by Waterstone’s.

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Since that move in 1801, Hatchards has been neighbour to Fortnum & Mason which preceded it in opening on Piccadilly by nearly a hundred years. It was 1707, to be exact, when Hugh Mason and William Fortnum set up shop at no.181 and it all began with them selling off Queen Anne’s half-used candle wax. In 1738, by which time it was established as one of the most prominent grocery stores on the capital, Fortnum and Mason’s invented the Scotch Egg while brainstorming ideas for food that travellers could eat on the go. In 1851 Fortnum’s won first prize as importers of dried fruits and dessert goods at London’s Great Exhibition and in 1886 became the first grocer’s in Britain to stock Heinz baked beans. In 1911 they sent hampers to the suffragettes who had been imprisoned for breaking their windows and they provided the 1922 Everest expedition with, amongst other things, 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne (amazing that they didn’t reach the summit with that to fortify them). The famous clock on the storefront was installed in 1964 and its bells come from the same foundry that produced Big Ben. The only record that F&M have ever sold is Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas ?” These days Fortnum’s is more of a tourist destination than anything. There are no doubt still a few members of the landed gentry that pop up to town to stock up on comestibles and haberdashery but I didn’t see very many while doing the rounds. Since I mentioned it earlier I should also note that the selling of foie-gras was the subject of a PETA campaign in 2010 that was supported by a number of high-profile celebrities.

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We exit the store (purchase-free) onto Duke Street and at the end of the block turn west for a final visit to Jermyn Street. Outside the Piccadilly Arcade is a statue to the Georgian “dandy” Beau Brummel (1778 – 1840). Poor old Beau’s not looking quite so dandy-ish at the moment having been boxed in by the workmen repairing the street.

Jermyn Street has historically been second only to Savile Row in term of catering to the sartorial needs of the discerning London gentleman-about-town but these days it seems to consist mainly of branches of T.M Lewin. So I was pleased to finally encounter one of the few remaining proper old-style independent outfitters on the corner with the top of Bury Street.

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And that’s just about it. From Bury Street we turn right to make the western section of Ryder Street our last call of the day and I’ll leave you wondering, like me, what story lies behind this intriguing shot.

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Day 23 (part 2 ) – Mayfair – Curzon Street – Park Lane – Shepherd’s Market

So here’s the second instalment of this particular walk. As a reminder we finished last time on South Street; in the top left hand corner of the marked out area below. From here we’re going to crisscross between Park Lane and Piccadilly and spiral in to finish in Shepherd’s Market.

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First up a circuit of Aldford Street, Balfour Mews, Rex Place and Park Street which brings us back onto South Street and past the Egyptian Embassy.

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Also on South Street, at no.25. is this elaborate art deco doorway. The mansion it adorns was built in 1932-33 for Sir Bernard Eckstein to designs by E.B Musman.  The iron and glass porch by W. Turner Lord Company arrived a bit later, in 1936. The somewhat risqué relief bearing the house number is reputedly (and perhaps appositely) the work of Scottish sculptor Sir William Reid Dick (1879 – 1961). At no.10 there is a blue plaque honouring the fact that Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910) lived and died in a house that previously occupied the site and at no.15 (on the corner with Rex Place) is one which commemorates a woman perhaps diametrically opposite Florence on the spectrum of female achievement, Catherine Walters aka “Skittles” (1839 – 1920), proclaimed as the last great courtesan of Victorian London. The nickname is thought to derive from her time working at a bowling alley in nearby Chesterfield Street.

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Turn right down South Audley Street where at no.72 is another blue plaque (this post is awash with them) commemorating the fact that Charles X (1757 – 1836), the last Bourbon king of France, lived in exile there during the reign of Napoleon. Charles was a younger brother of the executed Louis XVI and of Louis XIII who was crowned king following the 1814 restoration (briefly interrupted by Naploeon’s 100 day comeback). Charles himself acceded to the throne in 1824 but was overthrown by the July Revolution of 1830.

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Next, Deanery Street takes us down to the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane. The hotel opened in 1931 and swiftly established itself as one of the most prestigious in London. Over the years it has had myriad associations with the world’s rich and famous. General Eisenhower set up his HQ here in 1944 as the D-Day landing plans were being formulated. Prince Philip held his stag night here on the eve of his wedding to Princess Elizabeth (as she was then). Elizabeth Taylor and Alfred Hitchcock were among the regular guests in the fifties and sixties, the former sometimes with Richard Burton, sometimes not. Roman Abramovich and Ken Bates are reported to have sealed the deal for the sale of Chelsea F.C at a meeting here in 2003. Since the mid-Eighties the hotel has effectively been owned by the Sultanate of Brunei and its celebrity appeal has faded somewhat since the introduction of Sharia law in Brunei in 2014. (Biographical detail – some years ago I attended a corporate awards ceremony here and won a case of champagne for bagging most chips at the pop-up Casino tables).

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Middle Eastern connections abound in this part of town so it’s no surprise on returning to South Audley Street via Tilney Street and Stanhope Gate to come across the Qatari Embassy.

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Continuing south we reach the western end of Curzon Street and head east, stopping off at Chesterfield Gardens before turning left onto the aforementioned Chesterfield Street. Not sign of that bowling alley but at no.4 we have a rare double blue plaque scenario. Once the home of Regency dandy George “Beau” Brummell (1778 – 1840), a man who allegedly took five hours to get dressed every day, this was also a residence of Anthony Eden (1897 – 1977) the Prime Minister from 1955-57 and forever associated with the ignominy of the Suez Crisis.

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And at no.6, not contemporaneously with either of those two, lived William Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965). This was between 1911 and 1919 at the height of his fame and when Of Human Bondage was writtenDuring this period he also married Sylvie Wellcome, former spouse of Henry Wellcome (of Wellcome Trust fame and who we covered in Day 7). Maugham was cited as co-respondent in the divorce suit having fallen into a relationship with Sylvie despite being at least ambivalent in his sexual proclivities. Needless to say the marriage was not a happy one.

Not quite finished with Chesterfield Street as we have the High Commission of the Bahamas at no.10 (breaking up the Middle Eastern hegemony).

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At the top turn right on Charles Street passing no.20 which was the birthplace of Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847 – 1929) who managed 14 months as Prime Minister following Gladstone’s final stint. This and many of the adjacent properties are Grade II listed.

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Another resident of Charles Street, albeit briefly, was the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) (1765 – 1837) the third son of George III and Queen Charlotte. The Sailor King tag is a result of his career in the Royal Navy which he began at age 13 and ended with him becoming Admiral of the fleet in 1811. As he never expected to accede to the throne he merrily went ahead and sired ten children with his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan. But then, also in 1811, he married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen and following the deaths of his two elder brothers, the eldest being George IV the Prince Regent, neither of whom had living heirs he was crowned in 1830. His reign was a mere ten years and on his death he was succeeded by his niece Victoria (daughter of one of his younger brothers).  The ten illegitimate children, surnamed Fitzclarence, all appear to have done fairly well for themselves though their mother ended up dying in poverty in France in 1816.

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Final thing to note on Charles Street is this bust of the Emperor Nero, who is perhaps not the most obvious figure to choose to memorialise above your front door.

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Next we turn briefly south on Queen Street before veering left into Clarges Mews which leads in turn to Clarges Street which takes us all the way back down to Piccadilly. From here the next street heading north is Half Moon Street which you may vaguely recall as the title of a 1986 erotic thriller starring Sigourney Weaver and Michael Caine.

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Opposite the top end, on Curzon Street again, is the Third Church of Christ Scientist which was built between 1910 and 1913 but pretty much all of it apart from the façade you see below was demolished in 1980.

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Just along from this G.F. Trumper’s gentleman’s barber and perfumer which has occupied no.9 Curzon Street since the late 19th century.

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Next door at no. 10 is where Nancy Mitford (1904 – 1973) worked (i.e. wrote) during the war years. Nancy, best known for Love In A Cold Climate, was the eldest and most talented of the six infamous Mitford sisters. She was also less politically controversial than at least three of her siblings though she did briefly flirt with Mosley’s Blackshirt movement before becoming a vociferous opponent of fascism.

Head down the alleyway opposite to arrive at Shepherd’s Market for the first time leaving again swiftly via White Horse Street where Mayfair Cobblers makes a decent fist of trying to look like its been around longer than a couple of decades.

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Then we’re back on Piccadilly and turning west pass by no. 100 which was developed into private apartments in 1984. It’s a grand address to have but the listed façade is looking pretty dingy these days.

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Right next door is the Embassy of Japan, currently hosting a Manga exhibition which I popped in to take a look at. This required the presentation of ID and a security scanner check.

So we’re now on to Brick Street pausing briefly at Yarmouth Place before reaching Down Street which is home to another of London’s phantom tube stations. The station was opened in 1907 but when the Piccadilly Line was extended in the late 1920’s its proximity to both Green Park and Hyde Park Corner made it effectively redundant and it closed in 1932. During WWII it was used as a bunker by Churchill and his war cabinet prior to the creation of the Cabinet War Rooms. Back at the tail end of the eighties I went on a tour of the station and its hidden depths and I’m sure I recall them getting a train to stop at the disused platform to allow our orange-suited party to board. TFL are currently touting for ideas for a new permanent use for the space.

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Back on Piccadilly we pass by both the Cavalry & Guards Club and the Royal Air Force Club. You can see their respective flags in the picture below along with the sign for some restaurant or other.

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So next we’re going north up Old Park Lane then cut through Hamilton Mews to Hamilton Place and continue north on to Pitt’s Head Mews. As we swoop round this one take a quick look at Derby Street before making a dog-leg left into Market Mews. At the end of this we double back along Shepherd Street and emerge into Stanhope Row via an archway in what is now a boutique hotel. The green plaque above the archway reads :  On this site, until destroyed by bombing during the winter of 1940, stood an archway and Mayfair’s oldest house. ‘The Cottage 1618 A.D.’ from where a shepherd tended his flock whilst Tyburn
idled nearby.

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Now we’re heading west on Hertford Street where yet another blue plaque is affixed to no.20 in honour of Sir George Cayley (1773 – 1857). I was going to let this one pass but the combination of “pioneer of aviation” and “died 1857” piqued my interest. As early as 1799 he set forth the concept of the modern aeroplane as a fixed-wing flying machine. He also designed the first glider to carry a human being aloft and he discovered and identified the four aerodynamic forces of flight, which act on any flying vehicle: weight, lift, drag and thrust.

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Moving swiftly on we loop round further sections of Old Park Lane, Brick Street and Down Street (passing the Playboy Club of London en route) before heading back into Shepherd’s Market via the eastern stretches of Hertford Street and Shepherd Street. Incidentally, Shepherd’s Market doesn’t take its name from that shepherd referenced earlier but from Edward Shepherd, an architect and builder, who established a produce market here in 1735 on part of the site of the old May Fair.

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Where Hertford Street joins Shepherd Street is today’s pub of the day, the Shepherd Tavern, chosen not for the excellence of its victuals but because of the penultimate blue plaque on this route which commemorates the fact that the actress Wendy Richard (1943 – 2009) lived above the pub as a child.

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After a couple of drinks circumnavigate Shepherds Market, calling at Carrington Street and Trebeck Street, before returning onto Curzon Street opposite the back of the Saudi Arabian Embassy which occupies Crewe House on Charles Street (designed by the aforementioned Edward Shepherd).

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On the other side of the street and along a bit is the Curzon Cinema which has been operating on this site since 1934.

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And that’s nearly it. Just time for one final blue plaque on the way back to the tube which is at no.94 Piccadilly(aka Cambridge House), the one-time residence of Henry John Temple (1784 – 1865) better known as Lord Palmerston. Palmerston lived here during his two stints as Prime Minister – 1855-58 and 1859 until his death in 1865. He had previously served as Foreign Secretary under three separate PMs and it is in connection with matters of British foreign policy that he is best remembered. Despite often being an advocate (and possibly the originator) of gunboat diplomacy this was generally in the cause of so-called liberal interventionism. The most notable exception to this being the forcing of China to open up to free trade, in particular the importation of opium.

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