This is a cobbled mews that sits between two grand linked buildings with a very impressive sculpture of the Madonna and Child hanging above the entrance.

Although the mews is original from when the area was first turned from fields into houses, all of the buildings you can see here, even the old looking buildings, all date from later redevelopment and post-war rebuilding works.

The area was developed piecemeal from the 1710s onwards for Edward Harley, the 2nd Earl of Oxford who owned the farmland to the north of London, as it was back then.

When Cavendish Square was laid out in 1717 with housing on three sides, the whole of the north side was leased to James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos in 1720 who had plans for a large mansion on the north side of the Square. His grand designs were cancelled though, thanks to the bursting of the South Sea Bubble, and the now rather poorer Duke decided to develop the site commercially, with a couple of buildings erected, but not much more done.

A plan in 1740 for a grand building for the Dilettanti Society also failed to materialise.

Eventually, the northern side was filled in with housing when George Foster Tufnell MP bought the site, and that’s when Dean Mews arrived, and as a classic mews providing stabling for horses and servants of the grander houses facing the garden square.

Cavendish Square had also ceased to be square-shaped and was now a circle.

R Horwood Map 1799

The buildings on either side of the mews entrance were later leased to the Convent of the Holy Child of Jesus in 1889/91, and they also followed on by redeveloping some of the smaller back properties behind into a school.

Severe bomb damage during WW2 saw the entrance buildings redeveloped, and that’s when the bridge was added linking both sides, and the statue of the Madonna and Child by Sir Jacob Epstein was added. This proved to be very controversial. It seems that the architect of the footbridge chose Jacob Epstein, and while the convent approved the design, they did so without knowing that an atheist artist was making it, and only found out, apparently, when the Arts Council congratulated them on their choice of their artist. A non-religious artist was awkward for a religious order, but eventually, with a few revisions, the statue was approved to be made, with the lead that came from the roof of the bombed building.

The Convent eventually moved out though, to be replaced by Heythrop College, and finally, in 1995, the current occupants, The King’s Fund took over the site.  The King’s Fund is a charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London.

Although the front of the mews has a grand old building appearance, the mews, being somewhat unusually right in the middle of them are very noticeable, even without the bridge and floating Madonna above.

Heading around the corner, and you go down a curved slope, lined with brick arches on one side, to a large courtyard space which is essentially a deliveries and service yard for the main building, and rear doors for the houses that face outwards to the main roads.

Do look up though, for in this concealed space is also a modern sundial that can be spied high up on the walls for the new buildings, possibly as a slight to the people who objected to the housing development here in 2016 on the grounds that it affected the amount of daylight in the area?

It’s a short mews, and not lined with fancy houses as so many are, but the curved slope down to the rear gives it a rather unusual and hidden air about the space that’s so close to busy Oxford Street.

NEWSLETTER

Be the first to know what's on in London, and the latest news published on ianVisits.

You can unsubscribe at any time from my weekly emails.

Tagged with:
SUPPORT THIS WEBSITE

This website has been running now for over a decade, and while advertising revenue contributes to funding the website, it doesn't cover the costs. That is why I have set up a facility with DonorBox where you can contribute to the costs of the website and time invested in writing and research for the news articles.

It's very similar to the way The Guardian and many smaller websites are now seeking to generate an income in the face of rising costs and declining advertising.

Whether it's a one-off donation or a regular giver, every additional support goes a long way to covering the running costs of this website, and keeping you regularly topped up doses of Londony news and facts.

If you like what you read on here, then please support the website here.

Thank you

2 comments
  1. Jennifer says:

    Great feature. I love walking by this but perhaps only went down to look in detail when I attended a training course at the King’s Fund. I loved escaping down this quiet mews away from the crazy loud traffic of Wigmore Street.

  2. Jonathan says:

    In the 1960s my grandfather bought a couple of garages in the mews & re-developed them into his family house. He later sold it to the convent & on visiting many years later (late 80s), a nun told my mother that the house was named Fisher House after my grandfather!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

Home >> News >> London's Alleys and Passages