History Files
 

 

Modern Britain

The Story of Mayfair

by Jayne Weldon, adapted from the book by Peter Wetherell, Erik Brown & Oliver Bradbury, 20 May 2014

The Story of Mayfair
A SEVEN PART FEATURE:
Part 1: 1660s-1720s
Part 2: 1721-1850
Part 3: 1851-1914
Part 4: 1918-1939
Part 5: 1945-1990
Part 6: 1990-2008
Part 7: 2008-2014


As the Victorian era progressed, the aristocrats and foreign European royals who had until now ruled Mayfair were to gain new neighbours who generated their money not from land or statehood, but from business.

Whilst the ancient gentry had been happy to live in relatively plain understated Georgian properties, the British empire's business kings were not. Its probably safe to say that well over £2 billion (in modern currency) of 'new money' wealth poured into Mayfair.

Old houses were pulled down to be replaced by lavish mansions, and townhouses that were not grand enough were combined with neighbours. Interiors were lavish, gold leaf, silver décor and super-flash gilt furniture became all the rage.

The aristocrats were initially horrified by their new neighbours, who were flashy multiple property owners with large yachts, motorcars and private railway carriages. They became even more jealous when they realised that their sheep farming and forestry could simply not generate the vast amounts of cash that banking, mining and railways were generating for the newcomers, enabling the 'social climbers' to outspend them at every level regarding housing, lavish lifestyles, the number of servants, gambling, social events and the races.

By the Edwardian era, the housing surveys showed that there were more plutocrats and newly titled living in Mayfair and Belgravia than the old landed gentry and aristocracy.

Mayfair had firmly become a 'new money' address. Despite this, the super-rich newcomers craved social acceptance from the royals and the old guard, so arose the age and fashion of vast social and cultural philanthropy which continues to this day amongst the super-rich, with the new money investing in the prince consort's ambitious artistic, cultural and social projects in order to gain social acceptance and nobility titles...

 

 

 

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Main Sources

Adapted by Jayne Weldon to promote the publication of the book, The Story of Mayfair, by Peter Wetherell, Erik Brown and Oliver Bradbury, London 2014, which looks at the social, financial and physical development of Mayfair, one of the world's most famous addresses over 350 years. Republished with permission.

 

 

     
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