We’re starting this week back with our old friend Ashburn Mews. I thought I’d dealt pretty comprehensively with that comparatively small piece of territory but I realised while looking for some pictures of mews arches that Ashburn Mews had also been looked at by the Edwardian photographer Ernest Milner who worked for the District and Piccadilly Circus Railway in the early years of the 20th century doing his own photo survey of streets under which the deep tunnel Piccadilly line was to run. You can see more of his work in this post on Brompton Road, this one on Earls Court Road and this one on Sloane Street and Lowndes Terrace.
One of the other, humbler streets on his list was Ashburn Mews.
The entrance arch in Ashburn Place is dimly visible at the end. A man is working on a carriage. The mews streets were not used for horses and stable with dwellings on the first floor but also for other workplaces like this:
My transport correspondent tells me that there plenty of electric vehicles which ran on rechargeable batteries in this era and electric vehicles vied with petrol engine cars and buses for market domination. An electric car held the land speed record until 1900. By 1907 the London Electro Bus Company ran 20 buses in London. The company turned out to be some kind of scam rather than a serious bus company and it closed, but for a while there had been a contest which might have been won by the cleaner technology. ( For more on this subject look at this post from the always fascinating blog the Beauty of Transport).
Further down the mews some evidence of human habitation with these clothes hanging on a line.
The arch at either end of the mews, with one main entrance and two smaller ones on either side was a frequent feature.
This one is in Egerton Gardens Mews.
Note the small sign which reads “Commit no nuisance.”
Below Clarke Brothers announce their ability to do “all kind of jobbing work”.
Many mews arches have survived into the present, like this one.
The plain looking entrance to Cornwall Mews.
A much more grand arch below.
Queen’s Gate Place Mews, looking inwards.
And outwards (almost as grand)
These arches are often immediately inspired by arches in the classical world. The one below. This one, Holland Park Mews is said to be influenced by the Arch of Constantine in Rome.
Unusually, the mews slopes down at both ends, both here in Holland Park (the street of that name rather than the actual park), and below at the other end (in the same street).
I’ve been looking out for them as I travel, wondering if I should do by own survey . On the 49 I pass Kynance Mews, two iterations of Stanhope Mews (east and west) and also see mewses which have either lost their arches or never had one like Reece Mews. Sometimes a Mews is just a convenient back way for pedestrians, or a useful location for film and television (from the Avengers to McMafia).
The actual reason for this post is a postcard I recently bought on Ebay of another mews arch which like the one in Ashburn Mews no longer exists. I wanted to feature it here.
This image of Elvaston Mews shows a different style of arch, although the ground floors of these buildings have the same sets of doors, and the upper floors are living spaces with useful openings.
And those metal bins, perhaps for forage deliveries. You can see that Elvaston Mews crossed Elvaston Place and that there were two arches, both visible in the picture. One of them now only exists as a pair of stumps. (Try it on Street View) The arch was removed in the 1930s. It’s hard to say which arch is the survivor from this picture.
Here is that figure on the upper floor enlarged.
A boy, keeping an eye on the photographer. He can’t tell us which arch survived.
Thanks to Councillor Sam Mackover who drew my attention to the postcard.
If your appetite for mewses is whetted, there is a book called Mews Style by Sebastian Decker (Quiller Press 1998) which might satisfy you. I certainly found it fascinating.
Thanks also to Lucy Elliott who just came into Local Studies to ask me about Kensington Court Mews (some more interesting pictures but no arch) and told me there there are 19 mews streets in Kensington and Chelsea. Not all of them have arches of course but they’re all interesting in their own way.