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Racing Life

Mayfair Lady Sarah Rodrigues spends some time in one of London’s most fascinating neighbourhoods

It’s hard to believe that Burlington Arcade was created as a litter-buffer


t’s astonishing to think that the May Fair, from which the most prestigious pocket of London (and the priciest square on the Monopoly board!) takes its name, was once a rowdy event that attracted a number of ‘undesirables’ and eventually became something of a scourge. Celebrated annually from 1686 to 1764, the 15-day event was held in what was, at the time, Brookfield Market (now Shepherds Market) and started life as a cattle trading event which, like any good festival, drew rich and poor alike - with more than a bit of attendant merry-making. In the 17th century, author of The London Spy, publican Ned Ward, observed that prostitutes were doing a roaring trade alongside various entertainment booths, beyond which were “a parcel of scandalous boozing dens, where soldiers and their trulls were skipping and dancing to most lamentable music, performed upon a cracked fiddle by a blind fiddler.” Attempts by the authorities to stem the tide of ‘loose and disorderly’ behaviour weren’t particularly successful, resulting in near riots and one policeman

being run through with a sword, but the event came under some modicum of control during Queen Anne’s reign - a lull that was swiftly reversed by George I, whose attitude towards such revelry was a touch more lenient.

however, many of these former residences have found new life as commercial and office premises - or indeed, as the Royal Academy which, originally named Burlington House, was formerly the home of Lord George Cavendish.

The rise of respectability

The Burlington Arcade

Ultimately, however, it wasn’t royal decree that caused the May Fair to come to an end; it was the new wave of residents, such as the Earl of Coventry, whose grand homes started to replace the inns and taverns in the area. Objecting to the din, one such neighbour took out what would today be called a noise abatement order - and thus abolishment of the fair was inevitable. Under the ownership of the Grosvenor family of Westminster, the area began to be developed according to a plan laid out by master builder and carpenter Thomas Barlow; work which included the formation of three elegant squares Hanover, Berkeley and Grosvenor. Stately homes were built and, if the bright blue plaques one sees on a wander around the neighbourhood are to be believed, were once well lived in. These days,

It was Lord Cavendish who commissioned the design of Burlington Arcade - officially, for the “sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public.” Off paper, however, it seems that he was irritated by the vast amounts of rubbish being thrown onto his property and wanted to create a buffer zone of sorts. Oyster shells, in particular, were a problem - a fact that’s quite amusingly incongruous with the array of these delicacies expensively laid out in the nearby window of the Caviar House & Prunier on St James Street: it’s hard to imagine the wanton litterers of yesteryear having any inkling of what their casual snacks would one day become! Originally containing 72 two-storey units along its 196 yard length - although some of these have now been combined


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Profile for Thoroughbred Owner Breeder

Thoroughbred Owner Breeder  

Incorporating Pacemaker - July 2018 July's issue features a fascinating interview with Chasemore Farm's Andrew Black who is making his mark...

Thoroughbred Owner Breeder  

Incorporating Pacemaker - July 2018 July's issue features a fascinating interview with Chasemore Farm's Andrew Black who is making his mark...