Fascinating Stories Lurk Behind London’s Period Mews Houses
“If only walls could talk! What fascinating stories London’s iconic mews would tell. Originally stables with staff quarters above them, these tranquil properties were owned by England’s wealthiest families. When the usage of horse-drawn carriages dwindled, they were converted into elegant residences sought-after by people looking for a unique lifestyle in the heart of the city.”
One of the most famous is Wimpole Mews. Located in Marylebone, this attractive mews property was brought into the public eye in the early sixties. Home to Christine Keeler, a showgirl who lived with osteopath Dr. Stephen Ward in No: 17, one of its cosy apartments; the mews was the centre of the Profumo affair, a sensational political scandal.
Rumour has it that Ms. Keeler was in a relationship (and the recipient of top secret government information) with John Profumo, UK Secretary of State for War; a frequent visitor to this Marylebone mews. She was also believed to have been seeing Ivanov, a Soviet attaché who hoped she would gather and pass on information from Profumo.
Her trysts came to light when Edgecombe, an ex-boyfriend, attempted to gain entry by firing a pistol Keeler had given him (to protect him from another of her boyfriends), at her front door because she wouldn’t let him in. The result was a police investigation during which Ms. Keeler’s startling revelations made global headlines. With the Cold War at its peak, the ensuing scandal rocked the House of Commons, resulted in Profumo’s resignation and the suicide of Dr. Ward in this London mews.
Just around the corner from Wimpole Mews stands 1, Bryanston Mews, once the residence of Mandy Rice-Davies and before her, Keeler. A friend of Ms. Keeler and mistress of Dr. Ward, Rice-Davies was one of those who testified in Ward’s high-profile trial. This mews house was bought as a birthday gift by Peter Rachman, the notorious 50’s slum landlord.
Mews with more cheerful pasts include Cresswell Place and Queen’s Gate Mews. A fashionable cobbled mews, 22, Cresswell Place in SW10 was purchased in the roaring 20’s by crime novelist Agatha Christie. This carefully restored double-fronted Chelsea mews (now a Blue Plaque property) was the inspiration for “Murder in the Mews”, one of her best short stories.
Queen’s Gate Mews in South Kensington once housed London’s first petrol pump. It also has the distinction of being Madonna’s former residence and was the filming location for several scenes of Layer Cake, a 2004 thriller directed by Matthew Vaughn. For a glimpse of its rich past or a visit to other historic mews homes (Bathurst Mews in Hyde Park Estate for example), why not drop by one of our central London offices. We would love to hear a good mews story anytime and have many more to share!