Fashionable yet traditional the Mews house is definitely high on details. These Eighteenth Century quarters are now high-end residences in upmarket London neighbourhoods.
I am writing this sitting in a Mews house in London. Mews is the word for what was earlier a row of stables with living quarters above carriage houses and built around a paved yard. These rows usually ended in cul-de-sacs and were located behind large London homes in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Today, most of these mews have been converted into much-sought-after high-end residences. Groom Place on Belgrave Square is a fabulous example of such fashionable residences in an upmarket London neighbourhood.
Belgrave Square is a commanding 19th Century square that houses many High Commissions and Embassies today. David and Anabel Loyd are a British couple who must really have been Indian in a previous birth, as we gel so well across the oceans. Our friendship was formed in what was then Bombay, where they lived earlier, through a common bond of doing volunteer work for an NGO for street children. Who would have thought that this British woman, eating on the floor along with urchins rescued from VT station, shares a lineage with the top end of London’s society!
As they headed off for a trek to Ladakh this week, we arranged to have their home here in London; we didn’t realise it was going to be such a treat as it is a Mews house. What a unique home, a much-coveted dwelling, springing up from a yesteryear tradition.
I see rows of chimney tops (a la Mary Poppins) from my window, the windowsill across mine is laced with multi-hued flowers hanging down prettily and fashionably (neighbours nod approval only if you maintain yours in full bloom). When we moved in, Anabel told us one unwritten rule was that the quiet and solitude of Mews houses were not to be broken by noisy children. So we watched my nine-year-old niece and encouraged her wise reading habit over other, more boisterous pursuits.
The Mews house is thin and tall, a compact three storeys containing four bedrooms and baths; the fittings are modern but the façade is quaint and dated. The pretty courtyard in the centre and the windows in each room offering much cross breeze for the English weather to come blowing in made this stay one of my most memorable London experiences.
The Beatles manager once lived in these Mews; so the corner pub “Horse and Groom” was made famous by the frequent visits of the group. The cobble-stoned pathway that leads up to this famous pub on our street and the corner coffee shop “General Stores” are a delight to savour.
At the pub
“Horse and Groom” is a typical pub, where local people meet every evening for an hour or two to relax over a pint (the menu even includes the paradoxical “Beef Madras served with rice and poppadams”), watch the news (ranging from cricket at Lords to Swine Flu pandemics), spill over to standing room only outside on the cobbled pathway before heading back home with shouts of camaraderie — “Cheers old chap!”.
The “General Stores” is modern and practical as the manager comes out in his apron each morning to announce his special tarts of the day. My “wise and quiet” niece takes her coin collection of pounds out to buy a toffee chiffon tart and I helplessly break my vow of ‘no sweets’ and share a delicious mouth-watering bite. This w-ifi enabled coffee shop was once the stables belonging to a wealthy home, so difficult to imagine when you see the brisk business it does.
It makes us acutely aware of the phenomenon that the fashion of today was the tradition of yesteryears. Each has its place in time and each feeds the other’s memory.
The author is CEO of Global Adjustments and author of bestseller Doing Business in India for Dummies. The photographer is the visionary founder of www.imagesofasia.com