SAVE Britains Heritage February 2019 walking tour of Mayfair

A SAVE walk through Mayfair

by Meredith Childerstone (Selectaglaze Chairman)

Late morning and late February in warm sunshine we start our SAVE walking tour of Mayfair ably lead by Robert Ayton, Head of Design and Conservation at Westminster Council.  Starting in Hanover Square where the traditional 5-6 storey building height is being breached by a Crossrail development. “Trading estate architecture – but thankfully it is not a tower” quips one of the group. It will no doubt be absorbed in the long history of the area in the way that Handel and Hendrix now coexist in the Brook St museum. Threading our way down Lancashire Court, with inviting tables either side, we arrive in Avery Row where the ancient Tyburn River still flows in its underground culvert and a little further north in South Moulton Lane we see Grays Antiques which claims that the river runs through an open conduit in the basement. The open conduit in Grays Antiques basement, which they claim to be the River Tyburn The open culvert in the basement of Grays Antiques We then turned up South Moulton Lane to consider yet more Crossrail development proposals before heading for Grosvenor Square. This is the largest square in London and home to the US Embassy until just over a year ago. It is now Listed and being redeveloped into a Hotel by David Chipperfield Architects. The plans include retail outlets on the ground floor, which will surely make the square more interesting and accessible? The visualisation of the US embassy conversion to a hotel by Sir David Chipperfield Architects  Visualisation of the proposed hotel From Grosvenor Square, we walk down to Mount St where luxury retailers have replaced the Workhouse and Tadeo Ando’s (Japanese architect and philosopher) ‘Silence’ water feature sits outside the Connaught Hotel with the pumped water mists no doubt catching pedestrians unaware, which may be a refreshing surprise on a hot summers day. Silence water feature by Tdeo Ando outside the Connaught Hotel, London Tadeo Ando's 'Silence' water feature outside the Connaught Hotel, London However, 'Silence' was better observed across the road in the tranquil Mount St Gardens, a very peaceful spot that is easy to miss. Through another alley, over South St and into the particularly wide Hill Street, as it runs down to Berkeley Square with many surviving Georgian buildings adding to its grandeur. But straight ahead we find a cavernous site where the old South Audley St car park and surrounds have been demolished awaiting development into smart apartments, no doubt with their own parking. Overlooking this at the rear is an old misshapen building with peeling painted clapboard that looks as if it has been transported from a seaside town and appears thoroughly out of place. This is the original Carpenters House from the Berkley Estate; its survival is probably a miracle but raises a smile nevertheless. The Carpenters House with its painted clapboard on the Berkeley Estate overlooking the South Audley Street car park, London Clapboard Carpenters House overlooking the South Audley Street car park, London Along Charles St with a row of fine Georgian Houses black painted possibly to deal with the London smog and through Berkley Square which has little to attract before moving on to Bond St and Cork St where the very modern Cork Street galleries by Rogers Stirk Harbour sits well in its surroundings. At the rear this abuts 31 Old Burlington St, our final destination, a Grade I Georgian Townhouse designed by Colin Campbell and currently undergoing careful refurbishment. We were welcomed by the architect and contractor for a tour of the rooms and to learn some of its history. The walk lasted about 2 ½ hours and together with Robert’s helpful pamphlet we saw how this area, named after the annual May Fair held at Shepherd Market in the 17th Century, has continuously developed and adapted and how the mixture of old heritage and new ideas can successfully work together for communities. SAVE Britain’s Heritage hold a number of walking tours across London and the UK throughout the year, which are extremely interesting – highlighting the good and the bad in our ever-evolving cityscapes as well as some hidden gems, you would never know were there.