Travel: The Streets That Made The Century14: PARK LANE, LONDON

THAT MAYFAIR and Park Lane are well known points in the geography of London has more to do with 20th-century make-believe than with any historical event. Once little more than wealthy residential areas, they have survived, in real life as in Monopoly, as a metaphor for luxury.

Mayfair is not a street at all, but a district of elegant Georgian houses and three famous squares - Grosvenor, Berkeley and Hanover; it covers an area from Park Lane to Regent Street, and from Oxford Street to Piccadilly. Once the site of an annual cattle fair, held in May, it turned into a food market during the 18th century, and a network of residential streets grew up around the market, known as Shepherd Market (after the architect who developed it). The wider neighbourhood was grander, with accommodation for the wealthier people working in the city.

Park Lane forms the boundary between Mayfair and Hyde Park, the vast open space that has become the back garden of many flat-dwelling Londoners. In Saxon times it belonged to a great manor; in the 16th century, Henry VIII enclosed it and filled it with deer. Now, in the 20th century, it is not so much a lane as a dangerously busy dual carriageway.

At the northern end of Park Lane is Nash's Marble Arch; souvenir stands here cater to the queues of visitors waiting for the open-topped tourist buses. There have always been crowds at this end of Park Lane. Before the arch was moved here from its intended location at the entrance to Buckingham Palace, this was the site of a gallows. People once gathered to enjoy the spectacle in the same way that they gather now to enjoy goings- on at Speakers' Corner.

Pass Cumberland Gate, and it is easier to see why Park Lane was once the smartest address in London. There are elegant cream houses, some tall and thin, others with bow fronts and elaborate balconies. Few of them are now private homes; some have been turned into apartments, and one is an Arab bank.

Local shops can be a useful indicator of the character of a neighbourhood, and the interests of its residents. Throughout Mayfair there are designer boutiques, and there is no shortage of auction rooms and galleries. The newsagent on Park Lane has more publications in Arabic than English; the local car showrooms are Mercedes Benz and Porsche.

The oddest shop is the one displaying in its window a French dictionary and a can of Holsten Pils. On closer examination, these are safes, displayed alongside surveillance gadgets of various kinds. All more suitable for James Bond than the average London citizen, but presumably in an area like this, there are plenty of customers.

Most of us will have to stick to Monopoly if we want to buy property here. The windows of local estate agents reveal that a family house costs well over a million pounds.

Cathy Packe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

    Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?