Mayfair area guide

 

But pause at the Quadrant, that broad sweep at the end that take you round to Piccadilly; while one cannot but regret its former Regency colonnades, their replacement has its virtues, especially in it earliest part (by the Circus) which is by Norman Shaw in a mood of bold drama, romantically and splendidly picturesque. Look up, in a gusty winter dusk, at the columns bridged mightily over Air Street, with the cloud racing beyond. Walk up from the rounded prow of Swan and Edgar’s; by its bright window, newspapers placard disaster, but confidently the vast sweep of the B.O.A.C. plate glass window advertises cscapc; then down a narrow alley an illuminated sign says alirns and a hand points. Welcome to our guests from abroad, wc love to have you in London; here is the Aliens’ Olficc, down Man in Moon Alley. And over the road, restored somewhat to its 1890’s brilliance, is the Cate Royal, where George Moore, Beerbohm, Augustus John, Orpen and many other litterateurs and artists used to talk and drink, and occasionally cat.

But it is time to engage with Mayfair proper. So from Regent Street, at the north end of the Quadrant by Austin Reed’s, enter in by the narrow slot of Vigo Street. At once on your left the straight run ofSackville Street, with its plain and modest Georgian frontages (these remained almost unbroached till 1962) all on a domestic scale, though almost all are offices and shops, sets a key of propor lion that still survives in many ports of Mayfair. Then as V? Street bottlenecks into Burlington Gardens, Savile Row itself is on your right, and on your left between two lodges, almost invisible id their small modesty, the entrance to Albany (which wc glimpse aid from Piccadilly, p. 39); a closed and sternly private vista down the somehow rather sca sidcy central gangway of that monastic seeming community. If you wish to visit, you have, I’m afraid, to get yourself invited. It is really no more than a lot of flats, but of unusual and exclusive glamour; built in 1770 by Sir William Chambers and convened in 1812 into residential chambers for bachelor gentlemen, on a rather collegiate lay out. Byron is the most romantic of its inmates, but they have also included Macaulay, Gladstone, and many famous men of lettersa tradition that has continued till the present day in the persons of “Titers like J. B. Priestley, Sir Harold Nicolson and Graham Greene.

Savile Row can need no explanation; as an adjective applied to men’s suits it is world famous. It holds (besides the West Central Police Station, the Forestry Commission and the Civil Service Commissioners, an , alas, a threatened multi story car park) a quantity of gentlemen’s tailors of the highest quality. Savile Row in fact rather unfairly hogs the credit, for the great tailors are scattered elsewhere in the area as well. Moreover at least one establishment in Savile Row now sells clothes off the peg; in fact, it boasts of to doing. And the women arc in there tooone of the top ten London couturiers is into Sheridan’s house. Hardy Amies, striped blinds an all. This corner of Mayfair was once the masculine province of the area but is yielding.

Farther along Burlington Gardens, past the ornate Italian of the former first headquarter of London University (1869 studded with statues of international genius from Plato to Goethe, whitish ghosts stained with London black as if by the trail of dark tears), is another enclave more feminine perhaps than masculine the opening into Burlington Arcade, that runs through into Piccadilly. A prettiness of duck egg paint and glass within, and some admirable shop lettering in gold on black glass surviving to set off gifts to take home, at a price silver, toys (there’s a specialist in toy soldiers), jewels, glass, coloured waistcoats. The Arcade was the brain child of Lord George Cavendish, supposedly to prevent the rabble throwing rubbish into his garden from that side, though avowedly for the gratification of the pubiick and to give employ xncnt to industrious females.” Now two beadles in fancy bowler hats patrol the Arcade for its well being.

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