Mayfair Property, History & Transport
In Medieval times, London’s May Fair was a combination of market, entertainment and booze-up that ran for a fortnight from May Day at today’s Haymarket. That became too small, and in 1686 the fair moved westwards to a site just north of Green Park where a new suburb was being built. In time, the whole area became known as Mayfair.
The Fair and the new residents did not get on, however. It was a pretty riotous event “for musick, showes, drinking, gaming, raffling, lotteries, stageplays and drolls,” according to an observer in the reign of James II. There were regular calls for it to be banned for “lewd and disorderly practices”, and eventually in 1764 a group of noble neighbours led by the Earl of Coventry forced it to relocate to the East End.
The May Fair gone, the area rapidly became the London base of the aristocracy. The landlords, the Grosvenor family, laid out squares with palaces for the nobility, streets such as Bond Street with exclusive shops and mews for stables and servants. The site of the Fair became Shepherd Market.
After the First World War, the area went into a bit of a decline. The aristocracy could no longer afford the great houses and could not find the hordes of servants needed to run them, and many became clubs or were converted into flats.
During the Second World War, an acute shortage of office space caused by the bombing in the City forced the local authority to issue many 50-year permits allowing the mansions to be used as commercial premises, which changed the character of the area for most of the rest of the century.
Recently, however, many of the great houses have been restored as huge family homes for the super-rich. Modern technology means these lovely houses need much smaller staff, and basements that used to be kitchens and pantries now contain gyms, media rooms and even swimming pools. Once again, Mayfair is the height of fashionable living.