And ‘mews houses’ or, in more basic terms, outhouses, were built to provide space for horses, coaches and servants during the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Over this period, London enjoyed intense growth, spreading outwards from the centre, with some of the capital’s finest homes built on farmland in areas that are now Mayfair, Hyde Park, Chelsea, Kensington and Marylebone.
Hence why some of London’s mews houses can be now be found sited behind the best streets, tucked away passages of tranquillity, relatively immune to the clamour of city living.
However, two World Wars, the rise egalitarianism and the onward march of modernity would ring the death knell for the mews house with many falling into disrepair; casualties of changing times which saw the need for horses, the appeal of the servant profession and wealth of aristocracy wane.
A typical London mews house
By the early 20th Century, owning and running a mews house became a financial burden, with many being sold off for small sums to artists ( many mews houses have great double height ceilings originally to accommodate horses), garage owners and barrow boys needing storage space, with some even becoming squats to London’s destitute. This spiral of disrepute had taken its toll on the humble mews house, which became synonymous with shabby and seedy accommodation.
It was not until the swinging 1960’s that the edgy mews houses became fashionable. As the larger houses to which the mews houses belonged were divided in to flats, they emerged as relatively spacious options, their quirk, rare garage space, good room size and desirable locations winning over the early pioneers of modern property development – those with vision to turn a stable into a unique London home.
Living above a garage became a ‘thing’, and where trends went, so did the celebrities with the mews house becoming the status symbol of en vogue London living. So they gratefully live on, now one of London’s most fashionable homes to own.
Mews houses in London for sale and to rent
Quite unlike any other prime property in London, once-seedy cobbled mews streets are still some of the best addresses in the capital for they are (deliberately) off the beaten track, hidden passages of peace and tranquillity in London’s most chic areas.
And with property developers now imitating the mews house’s unique style to offer new build versions, a genuine period property – both culturally and architecturally important - is in high demand.
Traditionally having enough room for an indoor garage, many of these two-storey properties have been brought into the 21st Century, extended sideways to include a second mews house or upwards to create a family home with additional storeys and further bedrooms, a balcony or roof terrace.
Petite, charming facades belie tardis-like interior proportions; many of these updated mews houses are hard to judge from the outside, enjoying modern luxuries such as gyms, super basements, cinema rooms, swimming pools or luxury garages – fulfilling the needs of even the most demanding owners with a penchant for digging down or building upwards.
And thanks to the exclusive, secluded nature of mews streets, many owners enjoy a sense of village-style community, the lack of gardens bringing people together to grow flowers and plants or to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine.
Key features of mews houses
Original mews houses were built as stables, and so shared many common characteristics to include:
- Most mews street are cobbled, originally to allow for the passage of horses and carriages
- Mews houses are typically between one- or two-storeys tall
- Most mews houses are not listed and therefore may be extended or altered subject to planning permission
- Most are grouped in terraces
- Many terraces have been extended sideways to incorporate an adjacent mews house
- Original features include coach doors, brickwork and timber beams
- Street level stables went on to become garages. Many have been converted into sitting rooms but some mews house owners have retained the garage – valuable parking space in central London
At Knight Frank we know a thing or two about London mews houses, having marketed some of London’s best mews properties in areas such as Notting Hill, Mayfair, Chelsea, Hyde Park and Marylebone for over a Century.
We continue to market London's finest mews houses. If you are thinking of buying or selling a mews house in London please contact one of our offices or carry out a property search.