Hidden from view by London’s grandest streets, tucked behind gates and down cobbled lanes, London’s historic mews houses have suddenly become the capital’s most desirable properties. When Saunders 1865 Chief Executive Tony Coe started out in the real estate business, one of his first deals was to sell a house in Kynance Mews for £11,000. Now properties in this classic South Kensington Mews would cost between £1.5 and £2.5 million… phew! (And, no, Tony’s not that old!)
Rough Guide to Rental Values for Mews Homes
|Number of Bedroom(s)||2 Bed||3 Bed||4 Bed||4 Bed|
Definition of a Mews
Mews houses are small, low level terraced cottages that were originally built for use as stables. They are generally found in small cobbled lanes, often cul-de-sacs, that run behind the much grander properties to which the stables belonged. One of the defining features is that they have a gardenless front, while many of them also have no windows at the sides or rear. Most have been converted for residential use, either incorporating the stable into the house or using it as a garage. However, some are used as commercial premises and they are ideal for live/work ateliers. From humble beginnings, they have become something of a luxury dwelling.
Recently they’ve become so desirable that a multitude of new developments are appropriating the name, despite having never remotely been used for stabling! Perhaps this represents a change in the term – it now seems to refer to the lifestyle they offer!
Turning back the clock…
London’s mews developed due to a very specific set of circumstances. Originally, the word ‘mews’ was used to describe cages in which moulting, or ‘mewing’, hawks were housed during in Tudor times – Henry VIII kept a large mews in Charing Cross. However, when he moved his birds and built stabling on the site instead, the name ‘mews‘ stuck and gradually spread to be used for other stables as well. While the original mews site is now covered by Trafalgar Square, wealthy Georgians and Victorians built small service streets behind their grand villas and started referring to them as mews. Here, they constructed stabling for their horses and carriages, with rooms above to house grooms and servants.
Although most mews are in London, they can also be found to a lesser extent in other UK cities and in historic parts of Canada, Australia and the United States. However, the term is only ever used for inner city stables and not for the extensive stable blocks that were attached to country houses and mansions.
But by the early 20th century, there were few horses left in the city and even in the grandest houses the number of servants employed had fallen dramatically. Initially the cottages were used as garages and storage spaces but as house values in London soared, many were converted into residential properties. The first conversion took place in Street Mews in Mayfair in 1908 and it became popular to furnish them in the Arts-and-Craft style of that time. The fashion for mews living fell away after the Second World War but since the 1960s, they have once again become desirable and can now command high prices.
Now, there is only one mews left in London where horses are stabled – Bathhurst Mews is home to the Hyde Park Stables, as well as a number of private stables. The horses housed here can be regularly seen on the bridle paths in Hyde Park.
Putting mews on the map
Although not unique to London, mews houses are a central London phenomenon and the majority of the city’s 8,000 converted stables can be found on just 600 streets. Tucked behind grand Victorian and Georgian properties, the best examples are in Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea, Mayfair, Notting Hill, Holland Park, Bayswater, Bloomsbury, Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Marylebone and Pimlico. Clusters of them are to be found near parks such as Hyde Park, Regents Park and Holland Park – and it’s no surprise that most of them are in the smarter London postcodes.
Features of the Modern Mews
Original mews houses were built for a specific purpose, as stables, and so shared many common characteristics. Modern conversions may have remodeled them, but look out for the following features:
- Mews houses are generally limited to two floors and are usually grouped in terraces.
- Many mews lanes and courtyards are still cobbled to this day.
- These are small properties – most measure from 1,300 to 1,400 square feet, though many have been extended if space allows for it. Originally the rooms were pokey but in most cases have been knocked through to create a larger space.
- Stables became garages and now the garages tend to have been converted into rooms and studios; however, there are still plenty of mews houses that have gararges. A parking space is a valuable asset in central London.
- The ground floors can have high ceilings in mews houses that were used to house carriages.
- Many of the properties do not have side or rear windows.
- Original features may include sash windows, winch doors and brackets, coach doors, timber beams and decorative corbelling and brick work.
Some modern mews, however, have been transformed into spectacular dwellings, with basements, roof terraces, extensions, additional floors, skylights, conservatories and spacious open-plan living. Furthermore, such is the cachet of the term ‘mews’ that developers are incorporating it into the names of new luxury developments both inside and out of London.
Why to choose a mews – and why not…
Mews houses have been called home by a whole host of celebrities, including Michael Caine, Agatha Christie, F1 racing driver James Hunt, Jacob Epstein, Noel Gallagher of Oasis and Madonna’s ex, Guy Richie. These bijou little boxes are always in demand, so what is it that people love about them?
- Properties with garages are in short supply in central London but a mews house may offer just that.
- Security and privacy are both generally good in mews properties, particularly if the mews is gated, making them perfect for a lock-and-leave lifestyle.
- They offer quiet havens in a busy, buzzing city – an escape from the constant noise of traffic.
- Many mews are very sociable with a strong community vibe.
- They offer an old-fashioned country feel combined with convenience for amenities and transport.
- They make ideal retirement properties when it’s time to downsize.
- Mews properties are usually bought and sold on a freehold basis and so avoid the leases and service charges that come with an apartment. This makes them particularly popular with overseas buyers.
- They are excellent for use as pied-a-terres for people who live in London part time or travel a lot.
And the downside to living in a mews house?
- They can be dark, with low ceilings and cramped living space, particularly if the stable part is still being used as a garage.
- The majority of them have no garden or outdoor space.
- You may be buying a 100 year old structure that may not have been built to the highest standards in the first place.
- Wealthy overseas buyers sometimes still view them as former servants’ quarters and, as such, not desirable.
Mews living – a costly option?
The vast majority of mews houses are to be found in quiet lanes and courtyards behind some of London’s most spectacular mansions. Of course, they’ll never command the sort of prices that the house they were built to service will achieve – but all the same, they are desirable little properties in London’s hottest post codes.
Depending upon the precise location, the number of bedrooms and the state of the property, prices can obviously vary widely – but it’s the location that weighs in most heavily in dictating value.
Here are some recent examples of mews prices:
- In Notting Hill and Holland Park‘s most sought after mews, prices have gone up to £1,800 per square foot.
- An extended and renovated mews in South Kensington sold for £4.52 million.
- Several mews house have recently achieved prices of more than £10 million.
- A property in Pond Street Mews in Camden was sold for £3,250 per square foot.
- However, at the other end
of the spectrum, there are still bargains to be had – or at least there were during the recession!
- Expect a mews property to be 10 to 15 per cent more expensive than a similar pr
operty not located in a mews.
- You are unlikely these days to find a mews property in central London for less than £1 million.
Relocating to London?
Whether you see yourself in a delightful little mews cottage or not, relocating to London from overseas takes a world of preparation and planning. Not only will you need somewhere to live that’s convenient for your new place of work, as well as fitting with your family dynamic, you’ll also need to get to grips with a whole host other logistical issues – utilities, travel and transportation for yourself and your belongings, car and driving license, schools for your kids, a work permit for your spouse… in fact, the list will seem endless.
If you’re new to London or the UK, you could probably use some professional assistance – before you get here and once you’ve arrived. This is when employing the services of a relocation agent can really help. At Saunders 1865, our teams of experts combine local knowledge with first-hand experience to pinpoint the right area and the right property that will tick all your boxes. We know London property inside out, we know how much you should expect to pay and the advantages and disadvantages of choosing different areas. We can bring expertise to all these factors and help to arrange smooth, efficient and stress-free relocations – here or to other parts of London and the UK. Our services include home finding assistance, school finding, lease negotiations, temporary accommodation, move management and immigration assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help you.