Bond Street, 2011, painta



Mayfair is the jewel in the crown; the most expensive property on the Monopoly Board. It exists outside the affordability, experience and connaisance of most Londoners. Stroll Mayfair's streets, you'll find they have a modest elegance; a classical sensibility, a dignified noblesse. But don't be fooled by appearances. Stop for a second; listen to the whispers, scratch the veneer and you'll find gluttony, ostentation and exploitation. Mayfair is a point of congregation for the pitiful but powerful, those with an insatiable desire for attention, control and material wealth. It is a hive of psychopathic capitalists, lethargic aristocrats; dictators, sheikhs and film stars; who bring with them an industry of sycophants, servants, infantilised offspring & partners, a pot pourri of wannabees, paparazzi and gossip columnists and an army of personal minders, bouncers, security men and armed police. Mayfair is now one of several global boltholes for a society of people so wealthy the world has literally become their oyster. Since the 1970s Mayfair has no longer been just a bit of London, it has become a psychogeographic portal for the global elite. Its residents have more of an acquaintance with upmarket Dubai, New York and Los Angeles than they do with Marylebone and Clerkenwell.


View Mayfair in a larger map


Located in the western part of Central London, Mayfair is bordered by some of the city's busiest shopping streets: Oxford Street to the North, Regent Street to the East, Piccadilly to the South and Park Lane to the west. Mayfair is awash with high-end consumerism: expensive car showrooms; jewellers, boutiques and antique shops. It also boasts a coterie of private art galleries, showing some of the best contemporary art and photography.

Oxford Street, 2008, brianapa

View Mayfair in a larger map

Off the beaten track certain of Mayfair's streets succeed in getting away from the hustle and bustle, providing mini-oases of calm and feel village-like.

Girl taking a call next to a Mayfair office, 2009, bonnevillekid

Mayfair may be peaceful in places but it can also be intimidating, aggressive and hostile. The ostentation of the wealthy people who live, dine and party here has created a culture of snobbishness, exclusivity and suspicion. Wandering Mayfair you feel you are keeping a company that is inordinately wealthy. People watch you, wondering whether you are as wealthy as they are. Walking around Mayfair attracts suspicious looks from policemen guarding embassies, the doormen of hotels, the bouncers of clubs, the heavies guarding jewellers and the uppity staff glaring at you from the inside of boutiques. People have a lot to lose in Mayfair. In this place, a bolthole for Kings and Tyrants, you feel a tremor in the ground, a real sense of fear and paranoia.

Whilst Mayfair and the services offered here are synonymous with class, sophistication and finery, in places (e.g. Mahiki nightclub) Mayfair exudes a tackiness to suit the tastes of the nouveau riche, i.e. footballers, film stars, musicians and oligarchs from Arab and ex-Soviet lands.

It is often said that Mayfair is 'where it is'. The website promoting the London Metropolitan Hotel described the hotel in 2007/08 as, 'standing right where it matters'. It added that the Metropolitan was ... 'squarely on the map of travellers seeking to be at the centre of the action'.

Granted, Mayfair is where the world's richest people mix and mingle. However, aesthetically, any traveller thinking Mayfair is where it is must have left their double glazed glasses at home. Mayfair is pleasant in places, but architecturally it is generally unimpressive in all parts. Park Lane, the location of the London Metropolitan and many other Mayfair hotels is, 'a charmless avenue' a dirty busy road, admittedly looking over Hyde Park, but bordered by monstrous tower block hotels. The London Hilton from the outside looks positively Council estate.

Hilton Park Lane Hotel, Mayfair, 2008, Ravish London

Here the rule 'beauty is only skin deep ' is reversed. In these hotels the beauty must all be inside, because the outsides stink. Furthermore, there is no atmosphere on the streets in and around Mayfair; most residences in Mayfair are guarded, psychologically and sometimes literally. Residents venture out in chauffeur driven vehicles, not by foot, and to exclusive restaurants and boutiques. There is no soul, no bonhomie or goodwill on the streets of Mayfair. The atmosphere is subdued, dead even. Hatred silently hums in Mayfair.

South-West Mayfair

South-West Mayfair, close to Hyde Park, features many of the dreary tower block hotels just mentioned. It also features Mayfair's most charming area, Shepherd's Market, the quiet but historic heart of Mayfair, which retains its narrow streets, having once been a village of sorts. In the south-west sector we also find the whitewashed façade of the Saudi Arabian Embassy; guarded by the London Metropolitan Police.

North-West Mayfair

Northwest Mayfair is home to the American Embassy, a brute of a building, overlooking Grosvenor Square. Policemen with machine guns guard the embassy. The guns are so big that just the sight of them could kill a man by heart attack. Around the embassy sit a number of quiet residential streets and shops selling antiques, furniture and clothing.

North-East Mayfair

In the north east, Bond Street, which transects Mayfair, is replete with London's most expensive clothes shops and jewellers. Aristocrats with public school boy scarves wrapped around their necks, loiter by boutique doorways. One man has a frightful look on his face; he has realised that his camel hair cardigan is within spitting distance of the general public. His expression of horror is compromised with a modicum of curiosity. He seems as a child who has hitherto been locked up in a darkened room and now, released into the light, ponders the pros and cons of venturing into the world without his minder.

South-East Mayfair

The southeast sector of Mayfair contains Savile Row famous for its serious bespoke tailors. Today the tailors are under threat from rising rents and tough competition from rock and roll fashion houses. Across the road from Savile Row is the Royal Academy of Arts and controversial clothes chain Abercrombie and Fitch.

Damien Hirst's The Virgin Mother at the Royal Academy of Arts, 2006, Suzanne Gerber


Mayfair is a stone's throw from the centre of the old British Empire, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. In the seventeenth century, when the urban development of Mayfair began, it was arguably Mayfair's proximity to power that enticed British aristocrats to take up leases of the new Georgian town houses built by the Grosvenor and Berkeley families. In taking up the leases, the aristocrats stimulated the development of a service industry unparalleled in its opulence, luxuriance and obsequy. Subsequently, Mayfair became 'a synonym for wealth or pride of birth.'.

By the end of the 19th century the aristocratic fabric of Mayfair was being eaten into by a new entrepreneurial class, emerging off the back of the industrial revolution and the London stock market. These new capitalists envied the tastes and traditions of the aristocracy and had superior spending power. The aristocracy, appreciating the up and coming power of the capitalistic classes, were more than happy for their sons and daughters to marry into the nouveaux-riches.

Since this time successive waves of nouveaux-riches have been keen to see their nameplates adorning the front door of Mayfair's Georgian town houses. From the late nineteenth century Americans, financiers and an international collective of embassy staff have all made theirs a Mayfair address. Since the 1970s oil rich Arabs, new Russia oligarchs and Brunei royalty have all bought into Mayfair. They have been joined by rock stars, film stars and footballers, i.e the capitalists of mass media, who if not living in Mayfair have shown a healthy appetite for patronising the bars, restaurants and clubs. Hedge fund managers are the latest group to want a piece of the action. Earning millions and managing billions in recent years they have been keen to secure Mayfair office space to enhance their cache (or cash?).

And in order to keep the Arabs, Russians, remaining aristocrats, pop stars, footballers, film stars and spouses and offspring happy, we should not forget the workforce, who are on call, night and day to furnish their needs. Finally in and amongst this activity, there is a mess of everyday people, tourists and itinerants, who pay fleeting visits, wanting a taste or a glimpse of the high life.


Faced with tough competition from oil rich Arab sheikhs, hedge fund managers, rock stars and Russian oligarchs, buying in Mayfair is not cheap. Penelope Court, a partner at Beauchamp Estates, wrote in 2011, that a standard-sized family house costs around £4.5 million. On average you would pay £1.9 million for a two bedroom flat. As of 2011, Mayfair contained the world's most expensive flat, the £136m penthouse apartment in the One Hyde Park development.

Traditionally the housing in Mayfair comprises brick townhouses, three to four stories high, with large windows. This architecture is called Georgian because it was prominent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, coinciding with the reigns of Kings George I-IV (1714 to 1830).. One of the first examples of this architecture was located on the southern border of Mayfair, that is Burlington House built in 1715 on Piccadilly. The success of Burlington House led to its style being adopted and becoming the norm for much of the century.. Georgian architecture and so Mayfair architecture is stately, sturdy and civilised, lacks pomposity, but falls short of being wondrous or special. British History Online describes the building in Mayfair as representing 'the common run of good building practice in its diverse modes than any higher aspiration.'

Georgian Town House in Grosvenor Square, 2009, Jamie Barras

Estate Agents

Estate agents in Mayfair include Beauchamp Estates; Jackson-Stops & Staff, Knight Frank, Savills, Harrod Estates, Mercer Pasqua, Planet International, Berrington and Partners, Carter Jonas, Blenheim Bishop.

Wetherell Estate Agent, Mayfair, 2008, Ravish London

Since the eighteenth century many of the Georgian buildings have been developed, renovated and in some cases replaced. Ralph Nevill records new houses, which he regarded as incongruous with the traditional Georgian architecture, being erected in some of the quieter streets in Mayfair towards the end of the nineteenth century. He commented, 'The result is especially apparent in Charles Street (built in 1753-1754), where all sorts of incongruous architectural ornamentation clashes with the simple brickwork of Georgian days.' The worst architectural incongruity is of course the assortment of hotel tower blocks, situated at the south-west corner of Mayfair.


Shopping on Bond Street, 2011, Konstantin

Mayfair has many places to go shopping.

Shepherds Market

Shepherds Market is a network of back streets, a little secret, buried in the heart of Mayfair. You will find antique shops, small art galleries, restaurants and pubs.

Bond Street

Bond Street is one of London's most famous high-end shopping streets, featuring jewellers, designers and car show rooms. You will find stunning cars parked against the pavement and the scariest of security men standing outside the jewellers. Information on maps and travel.

Shopping on Bond Street, 2010, Charlie Colmer

Churchill, Roosevelt and a friend, Bond Street, 2008, Chris Beckett

Mount Street

Mount Street is being developed as a new high-end boutique shopping street. Victoria Maw, writing for the Financial Times in 2011, references the Mount Street fashion cluster of Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, Christian Louboutin, Lanvin, Wunderkind and Loewe.

Dover Street Market

Those aching for contemporary bohemian fashion and ragged nonchalance go to Dover Street Market, a shopping concept, the ultimate in up-market hip. The Wee Birdy website provide a good review.

Dover Street Market café, 2009, Bellaphon

Dover Street Market, 2009, negativetension

Abercrombie & Fitch

Finally if you want a glimpse of what consumerism might have developed into under the German Nationalist Socialist Party pay a trip to Abercombie and Fitch; where the worship of youthful sexual attractiveness is teed to a fine art. Some question its legality. Here a clothes shop is presented in the form of a discotheque. Each customer walks at a snail's pace, captivated and entranced by his or her own reflection in the many mirrors embedded into the store's walls.

Yohji Yamomoto, 14-15 Conduit Street, Mayfair, 2008, Ravish London

Night Life

Mayfair's nightclubs are prohibitively expensive for most. They are frequented by the rich and famous, blond-haired long-legged wannabees; and gossip columnists. They are also frequented by Princes William and Harry.

Top clubs in Mayfair include Annabel's, Mark's Club, Harry's Bar, the Connaught Bar and the Bar at Claridges. They also include bars established by Piers Adam and Nick House Whisky Mist, Mahiki and The Punch Bowl.

Whisky Mist

Whisky Mist is a small club, built into the London Hilton hotel, said to play house music. The name Whisky Mist sounds like a fantastic metaphor for a hangover, but actually refers to a stag Queen Victoria was said to be able to see, through the mist, whilst taking a whisky in the evening on her Balmoral Estate. The Queen, enthused by the stag, did what any red-blooded royal would, took out a hunting party out and had the beast shot. So remind me why it was chosen as a name for a bar?

Annual membership at Whisky Mist in 2011 was £350. To gain entrance you needed to fill in a membership form, which asks you about other private clubs you are a member of, a description of yourself in five words and a photo. It has been said you can gain entrance to the bar without membership. The club's online photo gallery shows the bar frequented by Princes William, Harry & David, George Clooney, Rihanna and Robert de Niro. Square Meal says drinks can cost over half a grand. It recommends Tree of Life Grey Goose vodka, lemons, pears, honey & Krug Champagne served in a Victorian silver cup. Says the site, "at £700 a pop, we hope Harry or Wills is paying." Curiously the club has a sister bar in Beirut suggesting there is a market in the Arab world for all things Mayfair.


Mahiki, on Dover Street, is a Tiki bar, an over-the-top, tropical, Polynesian themed bar. It features wicker chairs, "Hawaiian cushions and other tropical flotsam. The drinks menu includes Pina Coladas served in pineapples, Coconut Grenades served in coconuts." and the Treasure Chest, a Polynesian-themed cocktail, a bestseller apparently, since being a favourite with Prince Harry. According to CDC Lifestyle, "Table bookings are subject to a standard £500 minimum spend, whilst admission ranges from free to £15, seemingly dependant upon what time you arrive, your sex and/or how much effort you made." Mahiki is not a members' bar, and is said to be less exclusive and snobbish than other clubs in Mayfair, with a barman who (at least in 2007) was said to mix some pretty impressive cocktailsThe most indepth review of Mahiki is offered by the Tiki Chic website. Mahiki has a sister bar in Dubai, again suggesting that all things Mayfair go down well in the Arab world.

Mahikis, 2007, fleetingphotons

The Punch Bowl

The Punch Bowl, on Farm Street, is a pub, which was at one point part-owned by Guy Ritchie and Madonna. Ritchie gained Madonna's share in their November 2008 divorce settlement.. The pub dates back to the 1750s, and is, as you would expect, Georgian by design. According to Time Out the Punch Bowl exudes its Georgian tavern heritage, with illustrations of hunting and a large portrait of Winston Churchill among the decorative additions. Drinks are pricey. £6.50 for a glass of wine and something shy of a fiver for a pint. Reviews suggest the pub serves good food, is small, can be cramped not least from all the celebrity hunters pining for a vistazo of Madonna or friends of Guy Ritchie, and it can take quite a while to get served, perhaps, depending on who you are. Sophia Money-Coutts wrote an interesting review of a night out at the Punch Bowl in September 2008.


Annabel's, said to be the only nightclub visited by the Queen, is a private members restaurant & night club on Berkeley Square. The dress code is 'a suit or jacket and tailored trousers with a collared shirt for gentlemen; smart evening wear for ladies'. In 2011, if you were under thirty it cost £250 to join the club and an annual fee of £250; these fees went up to £1000 if you were over 30. Annabels was originally owned by Mark Birley, who was said "to have represented the ultimate in British snobbery and good taste, fanatical about every last detail, from the way the butter was rolled to how the napkins were starched". Reviews of Annabels suggest that during the 1990s and 2000s the club was stuck in the past. "In the 1990s the club was distinctly old-fashioned, the sort of place the young avoided, in case they caught their father there with his mistress." and "in the 2000s it was the nightclub beloved of fading celebrities, minor aristocrats and gossip columnists. " However in June 2007, Richard Caring, a clothing industry entrepreneur, bought Annabel's as part of a package of members' only clubs bought from Mark Birley. This move, apparently, was greeted with consternation by some members, perhaps because they didn't like the nouveaux-riches impinging on their territory, or perhaps because Caring is Jewish and they are anti-semitic. Apparently, Caring wishes to develop Annabel's as a brand, whilst the previous owner, Mark Birley, was concerned to maintain the exclusivity of the club. According to Evgenia Peretz of Vanity Fair, "Dress-code standards have fallen through the cracks. "Caring may ask why there's a guy at the bar wearing a T-shirt," says [a] source. "Someone will point out, 'But it's Marc Jacobs.' He'll say, 'Oh, O.K.' Mark Birley never would have stood for that."

Harry's Bar

In 2011 Harry's Bar was described as a private members bar specialising in North Italian food. It too, was bought by entrepreneur Richard Caring from Mark Birley in 2007. It has been said that since Caring took over Harry's Bar, some corners have been cut. According to Evgenia Peretz of Vanity Fair, "The truffle guy at Harry's Bar... used to go to Tuscany to find the white truffles. He'd take a couple of weeks and visit his family there. Now the truffles are purchased from a supplier." According to Peretz, the changes bought about led to Alberico Penati, chef at Harry's Bar for 20 years, leaving. "It's not my cup of tea to work for a big company, because I am an artisan," the chef was reported to have said.


According to William Cash, writing for the Guardian in 2008, "a typical table on a Friday night at Maddox will cost £1,000, including champagne and a hostess". Cash explained the complex door policy, "although it operates a strict members-only door policy, you can also get in by booking a table at the fashionable upstairs restaurant. Although anybody attempting to walk into the club simply wouldn't get through the door, the label 'private members' allows an element of discretion. In short, the club wants to attract the hottest, hippest, most beautiful, sexiest, richest crowd, and if somebody looks the part, well, that may be enough to get you past the velvet rope."

The Embassy

In 2007 The Embassy Bar on Old Burlington Street, was a good example of tacky Mayfair, with its fake red bushes out in the front. However in 2011, it was reported that the bar was to be converted into a Provençal-style restaurant with a club downstairs, with the developers installing pieces of art from Banksy, Tracey Emin and Damion Hirst.

The Mayfair Hotel

Pubs in Shepherd's Market

Piers Adam and Nick House

Piers Adam and Nick House are a partnership, who set up several clubs and pubs in Mayfair. They own Mahiki, Whisky Mist and are involved in running the Punch Bowl, with Guy Ritchie.


Mayfair is full of prestigious expensive hotels. The Mayfair Hotel, the Grosvenor Hotel and the Dorchester Hotel are three such. Click here for a list of Mayfair hotels. With each hotel I provide a map, contact details and the hotel's website.

The fact that several Mayfair hotels host restaurants and clubs, which have a name in their own right, demonstrates the prestige of hotels in Mayfair.

Chesterfield Hotel, Mayfair, 2008, Ravish London


Windows, London Hilton, Mayfair, 2009, funkaoshi

Mayfair is full of prestigious expensive restaurants. They includeNobu, Scotts, The Delaunay, Aurelia, Cut Restaurant, 34, Bread Street Kitchen Novikov; Cecconis, Automat-London, American Brasserie, China Tang at The Dorchester, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, The Grill at the Dorchester, The Connaught, Wild Honey, Corrigans, Bently's Oyster Bar & Grill, Le Gavroche, Claridge's, Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, Hakkasan at Mayfair, Mirabelle and Cipriani.


Nobu is a global restaurant chain combining Japanese and South American cuisine. They have three restaurants in Mayfair at Old Park Lane, Berkeley Street, and Nobu Private Dining at the May Fair Hotel. The name Nobu, comes from the chef and restaurant proprietor Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Matsuhisa has had a topsy turvy career, which took a turn for the better when he met Robert De Niro in 1994. De Niro convinced Matsuhisa to go into business with him, and they opened their first Nobu in New York City (see here for biography). Reviews suggest that the food at Nobu, is on occasion average., not terribly bad but... neither fulfilling nor especially enjoyable." but that it is popular because it has over the past years been a place that celebrities like to dine, and is a place to be seen.

Crisp Pork Belly at Nobu Berkeley, 2010, Jackie Lee


Scotts is a seafood restaurant with an oyster bar, based in Mount Street. Scotts has been described as a large elegant room featuring rich burgundy-leather banquettes and an exquisite chandelier. It was said that Scotts, which opened in Mayfair in 1958, had fallen into a bad way by the turn of the millennium. However, in 2007, the entrepreneur Richard Caring purchased the restaurant, and refurbished it. Initially it seems to have had someteething problems with the quality of food and has since received mixed reviews, some calling the food wonderful, and 'top notch" and commenting that Scotts has "the unmistakable buzz of one of London's most fashionable restaurants.". However the food has also been described as 'unexceptional' and it has been argued that, 'Scott's... remains not a place to eat but a place to be seen.'

Note to self: whilst reading one of the reviews of Scotts I came across this priceless line: "that day I laughed a lot with one half of my favourite gay couple."

Scotts, Mayfair, 2011, Allan Crutchley

Sketch Restaurant and Bar

Sketch Bar, Mayfair, 2008, Ravish London

Richard Caring and Caprice Holdings

Richard Caring is a man on everyone's lips in Mayfair because he has bought a lot of clubs and restaurants in Mayfair in recent years. His business, Caprice Holdings, own Scotts, The Ivy, J Sheekey, Daphnes and Caprice. He also owns Mayfair clubs Annabels and Harry's Bar. Caring is a north Londoner, the son of a Jewish Italian immigrant. Caring's dad was christened Caringi, but once in England his dad dropped the 'i' to make his name sound British. Caring himself made it big after travelling out to Hong Kong and becoming a middle man between British clothes retailers and Chinese clothes factories.

Caring became a wealthy man off his business and trade, but in 2004 was to have one of the most bizarre experiences, when he was deep sea diving off the Maldives. He happened to be diving at the moment the tsunami hit in Asia. Apparently the fact that Caring and his sons were diving north of an atoll meant that they were able to survive the tsunami, which passed by and over them. When Caring surfaced, he found out about the tsunami after receiving a call from a friend who was concerned for his welfare.

It has been said that by 2005 British High street retailers were dealing directly with Chinese factories, reducing the profitability of Caring's middle man role. In response Caring changed tact and invested in the London entertainments and retail industry. One of his first investments, in 2004, was Camden market. Three years later, in 2007, he bought the Caprice Group, a set of restaurants and clubs in Mayfair, including the Ivy and Scotts.

The story of Caring's purchase of the Le Caprice group is interesting. It started with Caring deciding to buy Surrey-based Wentworth Golf Club. Having purchased the golf club Caring concluded the standard of the food served needed to be raised, so he approached Le Caprice, which he frequented, to see if they could sort things out. During negotiations it was reported that Caring had gotten frustrated and joked it would be cheaper for him to buy the Le Caprice group, which included the Le Caprice and The Ivy restaurants. Caring was informed the group was actually for sale and duly bought it.

After buying the Le Caprice group, and having done various other trades, Caring then bought the Birley Group, which included the private members clubs, Annabel's, Harry's Bar and Mark's Club.

It would seem that Richard Caring's purchasing of so many Mayfair institutions has caused a stir. This is for several reasons. First, no one person has had control of so many Mayfair clubs and restaurants as Caring. Second, Caring sees his purchases not as old heirlooms to be buffed up, but as brands to be exported. e.g. there are plans for a Le Caprice in New York. Evgenia Peretz of Vanity Fair claims that, "he's... boiling down successful brands into formulas that he believes can be replicated... He's not making the food any cheaper, but he is making it available." Interestingly, Caring's approach is at odds with the tradition of exclusivity, i.e. he's ignoring the idea that one of the reasons so many people like attending clubs in Mayfair, is the fact that so many people want to but cannot get in and the fact that there's only one of them in the world. Third, it has been argued that Caring's Jewish heritage may displease a number of old private members, who are anti-semitic or have a dislike of anyone who is not British. Vanity Fair reported that, "According to one story making the rounds in the restaurant world, a Brit, asked by an American whether Caring was going to ruin Mark Birley's clubs, responded, "There's no reason why he should ruin them." Then he hesitated: "Just so long as he doesn't let his friends in." In 2005, Caring hosted a charity event in St Peteresburg, where he flew over hundreds of celebrities, and dressed them in aristocratic Russian costume. See this link for a photo of Caring in Russian aristocratic dress with his wife. According to Evgenia Peretz of Vanity Fair invitees included prominent figures of London society. Caring's invitation letter consisted of a giant Russian matryoshka doll, inside of which was a bottle of vodka and an invitation to fly by private jet to St. Petersburg... En route to Russia, the guests sipped champagne while being entertained by comedians wearing Russian peasant outfits. When they arrived in their hotel rooms, tailor-made 18th-century Russian costumes were waiting. Peretz described the next 48 hours as a caviar-and-champagne orgy, complete with performances by the Kirov Ballet, Sir Elton John, and Tina Turner; and a surprise visit from Bill Clinton dressed as a Russian general."

It has also been reported that Caring has bought the American Navy building in Grosvenor Square, which he plans to turn into luxury flats.

Interesting interviews with Richard Caring have been conducted by Country Life, Evening Standard and Management Today. Undoubtedly, the best interview is in Vanity Fair.


Mayfair is a built up place and whilst it is close to Hyde Park, Regents Park and Green Park there are no major parks set within it. Arguably, the best place for a bit of peace and quiet in Mayfair is Mount Street Gardens in the north-west of Mayfair, built in 1880 on an old burial ground. The park is bounded by six-storey Georgian terraces and striated by several long rows of benches, which lend an abstract artistic element to the environment. Each bench is dedicated to a former lover of the park. In 2008 I sat down on one of the benches, and the feint undulating sound of a wind chime, of unknown provenance caressed my ears.

Mount Street Gardens, Mayfair, 2008, Ravish London

There are two other modestly sized areas of green in Mayfair: Berkeley Square and Grosvenor Square, where you can go to stretch your legs or walk your dog.

Disused Tube Station

Down Street in Mayfair was once the site of an old tube station. Dover Street also had its own tube station, which was later relocated and renamed Green Park. According to Christopher Long, 'during the Blitz [in World War II], Winston Churchill and his war cabinet are said to have held secret meetings on the bomb-proof platforms of Down Street station until the vast warren of purpose-built War Cabinet Rooms were completed in Whitehall.' Long argues that these old stations are time capsules beneath the pavements of London which could and perhaps should be opened up to the British public.

History and Development

The May Fair

Mayfair gets its name from an old pagan tradition, of Saxon and Celtic origin, celebrating the beginning of Spring.

Celebrations traditionally involved, 'electing a queen of the May from the eligible young women to rule the crops until harvest' and the 'raising of the phallic Maypole, around which the young single men and women would dance holding on to ribbons until they became entwined'. The Mayfair May Fair began in 1680 having been relocated by Kings James II from its original site in Haymarket. It took place in the back streets of what today is today known as Shepherd's Market. Whilst the principal purpose of the fair was cattle trading, the fair was also known for licentiousness, which according to Davidson (1999) marked the beginning of the area's 'intimate conjunction of money and sex'. G.E. Mitton, writing in 1903, claimed the fair hosted booths for jugglers, prize-fighting contests, boxing matches, and the baiting of bears and bulls.

By all accounts the fair grew in popularity and size during the seventeenth century. At the same time the area went through a process of development and gentrification. Some claim the development and gentrification took place because of the popularity of the fair; some say it was done to subdue the growth of the fair. It may have been that the fair and development were coincidental. What is clear is that by the middle of the eighteenth century Mayfair was full of Georgian town houses, which had been leased out to aristocratic families looking for a base in London. According to the BBC (2002) the new gents 'took out the 18th Century equivalent of a noise abatement order and as of 1764 the May Fair ended.' It has also been said that "The May eve celebrations were eventually outlawed by the Catholic Church, but were still celebrated by peasants until the late 1700s. While good church going folk would shy away from joining in the celebrations, those less afraid of papal authority would don animal masks and various costumes." It is interesting to note the similarities between the evolution of the May Fair and that of Notting Hill Carnival; both festivals started off in poor areas; enjoyed a growing popularity, but were then challenged as the area in which the fair took place became increasingly gentrified.

In recent years there have been paltry attempts to rejuvenate the May Fair (e.g. in 2008; see photos. However, it might be argued the May Fair never really ended, instead the licentiousness and gluttony was privatised. True, the common man was denied his May Fair. But, arguably, today, the May Fair continues, in spirit, in the private penthouse parties of Arabs and rock stars and in the private bars and exclusive clubs of Mayfair.

Eighteenth Century

The urbanisation of Mayfair occurred at the beginning of the eighteenth century, during which time, the Grosvenor Family, who had purchased land in the area, built Grosvenor Square. The Berkeley family, another big land-owning family in the area, soon added their own developments. It was said that during this time, "Sheep and cattle were driven off the land... as small farms made way for London's first major planned development: a web of brick-and-stucco terraces and grid-plan streets feeding into grand, formal squares, with mews and stables round the back." Today, Mayfair maintains many of these features. The Grosvenors and Berkeleys continue to own much of Mayfair, and have several streets, parks and buildings named after them.

It has been said that with the developments 'Mayfair emerged in the eighteenth century as one of London's first real residential suburbs." The Mayfair developments were intended for aristocratic families who wanted a place in London, which could accommodate their horses, which at the time would have been their main mode of transport to and from their country residences. It is said that "Mayfair quickly began to attract aristocratic London away from hitherto fashionable Covent Garden and Soho, and set the westward trend for middle-class migration, which gradually extended to Kensington and Chelsea."

Nineteenth Century

Nineteenth century Mayfair was said to be a place where women wore shawls and poke bonnets, and carried yokes on their shoulders, which they would use to distribute milk. It was said the maids could be seen rubbing shoulders with footmen and coachmen attired in cocked hats and wigs.

It was said that during the Victorian era the aristocratic types who lived in Mayfair were dignified and lacking in ostentation: "Adequately dowered with the world's goods, if not positively wealthy, with abundance of leisure, a fair knowledge of the world, good manners and a certain amount of culture, the dwellers in Mayfair led happy, comfortable and, on the whole, inoffensive lives. Such vices as they had were not flaunted in the face of the general public; indeed, considering the great social advantages they enjoyed, their existence was surprisingly staid and decorous, contrasting very favourably with that of the nobility of other countries."

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, not only did the style of life in Mayfair change, but the dominance of the aristocracy began to wane, as the middle classes, empowered by the industrial revolution and stock market, began to eat into the social fabric of Mayfair. Ralph Nevill pointed out, "From time immemorial, it is true, the aristocracy had always been glad to marry its sons to the daughters of wealthy merchants and tradesmen. The commercial brides in question, however, had been absolutely absorbed into their husband's class, nor did their marriage facilitate the entry of their middle-class relatives into patrician circles. With the coming of the new era, everything changed. The fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and often countless other relatives, insisted upon being received on the same footing as the young lady about to regild some tarnished coronet or rescue from ruin some holder of an ancient name. The nouveaux riches of an earlier epoch, even when admitted into the outskirts of society, had been made to keep such a place as was deemed to be suitable to them. For the first time those of the latter portion of the last century resented such limitations, and in some cases showed a successful independence which refused to be curbed. It was at this period that the forbears of a good many of the so-called "smart set" sailed out of the sea of obscurity into the haven of social success. As the star of the middle-class rose that of the aristocracy declined. While not a few of the old school realized and deplored this, others joined frantically in the worship of wealth; yet another section viewed the situation philosophically as they were ready to admit, their order had had a good innings and now the time had come for others to have one too."

Nevill also noted that in the 1880s, "two new and powerful forces gradually began to make their influence felt in Mayfair. To begin with, Americans... flocked to London in considerable numbers, and Anglo-American marriages naturally followed. About this time, too, the Stock Exchange began to be heard of outside the City, with the result that the advance guard of that vast body which now (1920s) every morning makes its way to various offices, adopted a City career. Up to that time hardly anyone in the West End of London had dabbled in stocks and shares. On the whole, the new departure was undoubtedly costly to "Society." Some young men, it is true, contrived to make a livelihood; but more, in consequence of unsuccessful speculation, were compelled to look about for one. Once the mania for speculation had obtained a firm grip upon what was practically virgin soil, its victims began to make much of everyone whom they thought capable of pointing out an easy path to wealth. A number of shrewd business men, who hitherto had never dreamt of forcing the strongly-guarded portals of Society, were not slow in taking advantage of such a state of affairs. In nine cases out of ten they obtained more than they gave, for the ample hospitality which they dispensed brought in a rich harvest of speculators ready and eager with childlike confidence blindly to rush into any and every venture. With the advice of their newfound advisers, wealth beyond the dreams of avarice seemed certain of attainment to many a sanguine resident of Mayfair. Most of those, however, who rejoiced at being put in "on the ground floor " ended by never getting out of the basement, the only thing they cleared by their speculations being their own pocket. That section of the aristocracy who first threw open their hitherto exclusive portals to wealth, unredeemed by intellectual worth or merit, were digging their order's grave. As Mr Arnold Bennett has so well said, they and their offspring have now become the pawns of millionaires who treat them with a mixture containing 5 per cent, of flattery and 95 per cent, of breezy disdain." So, Nevill describes the demise of the aristocracy of Mayfair as something to do with a blind naivety in the stock market. It's an interesting tale, and its still more interesting to contrast the disapproving tones that Nevill has for the stock market as the formation of a new type of gambling, and the associated hysteria and dreams of alchemy. Such a predisposition towards the stock market has long since disappeared from the British psyche, the stock market now not only accepted, but the gage of the success and spirit of the nation.

The nineteenth century saw the commercial development of certain parts of Mayfair, Mount Street and Oxford Street in particular.

Twentieth Century

Into the twentieth century and Nevill described further commercialisation of Mayfair, which he bemoaned. He said, "It is possible that in course of time Mayfair will cease to be a smart residential district. Shops have already invaded Hanover Square, Dover Street, Grafton Street, and other formerly exclusive thoroughfares. It is also not impossible that Berkeley Square may eventually be awakened from the aristocratic sleep in which it ever seems to be plunged, and that having been thrown open to the public, tramps and loafers will take their rest upon benches within its once semi-sacred precincts.

With the onset of World War II it was said that many of the aristocratic classes, who were living in Mayfair at the time, decided to leave for their country homes, to avoid the bombing. According to White (1996), following the end of the Second World War, with aristocrats fled, and the City of London and its office space bombed to smithereens, Westminster Council granted the two biggest landlords, the Duke of Westminster's Grosvenor Estate, and the Berkeley Estate, thirty and forty year temporary office permissions for their empty buildings. Consequently, in the second half of the 20th century Mayfair became a popular location for offices migrating from the war-damaged City of London.".

The permission granted to let office space expired in the 1990s, at which point the building space was let out for accommodation again. Since the 1970s Mayfair has witnessed an invasion from abroad as foreigners, made wealthy through exploiting mineral wealth and energy reserves around the world, keen to invest their riches in London, and live the Mayfair life, have snapped up Mayfair residences. It is argued that one of the reasons foreigners have been so willing to invest in London properties is that the British law makes it possible for foreigners to use off shore tax companies to purchase properties privately, avoid stamp duty and avoid the kind of paper work and bureaucratic checks in place in other countries. In the 1970s Arabs started to move into Mayfair, having been financially buoyed by two spikes in oil prices, and with their favoured holiday destination, Beirut, having fallen into civil war. In the mid-1980s the Sultan of Brunei and his family, made wealthy beyond belief, after being handed the keys to the nation's oil wealth, after Brunei gained independence from British colonial rule, headed straight to Mayfair, to enjoy the high life, gamble in the casinos, and purchase the Dorchester Hotel. In the 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, oligarchs wealthy from exploiting the old empire's mineral and energy reserves, directed their new wealth into London, and secured Mayfair residences. So, Mayfair properties are now part of the portfolio of global jet setters rather than the landed aristocracy.

Twenty-First Century

This trend shows no sign of stopping. In 2011 more than three-quarters of Mayfair properties in the £5m+ bracket and all properties over £30 million were bought by non-British buyers with investors from Saudi Arabia having a special interest in Mayfair. So then we see that for the best part of four hundred years, Mayfair has functioned like a black hole, or a big bubble, attracting successive waves of nouveaux-riches. As soon as someone makes it big in some part of the world, Mayfair seems to be the first place on his or her mind.

Foreigners are not the only ones to buy into Mayfair in recent years. British entrepreneurs have also been keen to get a piece of the action. For example, Richard Caring, a British businessman, of Jewish Italian immigrant stock, who made millions from the clothing industry during the eighties and nineties has used his wealth to buy a string of clubs, restaurants and property in Mayfair. Over the last decade, hedge fund managers have rented Mayfair office space. According to Morwenna Coniam writing for The Times, Mayfair became, 'the preferred location for hundreds of hedge fund managers as they deserted the City and set up shop nearer to their well-heeled clients. Making the move to Mayfair and St James's, they would think nothing of paying more than one hundred pounds a square foot for a few floors inside a Georgian town-house, driving rents even higher as they bid against each other'. Irrespective of the nationality of the people who live in Mayfair, the service industry continues to attract 'establishment' types. Alan Cooper of Welsh & Jefferies' a Mayfair tailor was quoted as saying "We work for the captains of industry... The major City people come here. Worldwide forces. The old, solid Establishment. The landowners."

The global financial crisis, which started in the last half of the first decade of the 21st Century, has, it seems, proven costly for some in Mayfair. According to Coniam the credit crunch resulted in fund managers experiencing a flood of redemptions from clients rattled by losses, which reduced the demand for floor space. In 2011, Caroline Binham, writing for the Financial Times in 2011, reported that one of Saudi Arabia's leading business families, the Algosaibi family, were being pursued in the courts for money owed to creditors. The banks were looking for a 'charging order' on five of the family's properties in London's Grosvenor Square and Shepherds Place.

However, despite difficulties faced by some it has been argued that services in Mayfair continue to thrive, due to the fact that the consuming power of the clientele, some of the world's richest, has been little impacted by the credit crunch. In 2011 Mayfair's restaurant business experienced significant growth, hoteliers experienced one of their busiest ever peak seasons, and house prices have continued to rise, evidence for some that Mayfair's fortunes have departed from those of the city and country that surrounds it.

So then, since the 1970s Mayfair has been what we might think of one of several psychogeographic neighbourhoods in a virtual upmarket global city. The denizens of this virtual city share mutual business interests and lifestyles, which means the denizens of Mayfair may know more about upmarket Dubai, New York and Los Angeles than they do about Marylebone, Clerkenwell, London and England. The locals of Mayfair, by way of having several homes around the world can only spend so much time in Mayfair itself, rendering it quiet, so quiet that it has been claimed it seems a 'ghost town owned by foreigners'.

Sex Industry

Mayfair's sex industry has been well documented over the last four centuries. The industry first came into being with the coming about of the May Fair in seventeenth century Shepherds Market. By the early twentieth century Shepherds Market was still known for its brothels, some of which, curiously enough, were based in properties owned by Harrow School. According to Jim White (1996) this means the education of the UK's most celebrated Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who attended Harrow School, was indirectly subsidised by the labour of prostitutes.

The sex industry got a boost during the latter part of the second world war with an influx of American GIs. According to Hudson (2005) during this time Mayfair was full of 'elegant women in furs awaiting officer clientele'. A Canadian soldier spoke of a "huge battlefield of sex" in Hyde Park and Green Park the night before he and his fellow soldiers were sent out to battle. White (1996) claims that in the seventies Shepherds Market was full of drinkers and streetwalkers all looking for a piece of the action.

There are less stories about the sex industry in Shepherds Market and Mayfair in the twenty-first century. Maybe this is a reflection of a phenomenon where society finds it easier to talk about the sex industry of yesteryear. The sex industry now, designed for princes and sheikhs, rather than GIs, may be more discrete. In 1998, a story in the Sunday Mirror implied the entourage of Prince Jefri of Brunei paid attractive women and models from all over the world to keep the prince and his associates company at parties. In practice it seemed more was wanted of the women than just their company. They were first taken to the Prince's Mayfair residence, where their dignity and honour was tested, legally, although maybe not ethically, to see if it was worth taking them on to one of the Prince's parties in Brunei. Actress Sofia Shinaz, who had agreed to 'look beautiful and go to parties for £2,000 a day', was reported to have been plied with alcohol and pressurised into wearing a skimpy swimsuit at the Prince's Mayfair residence. It is also alleged that the Prince kept around forty prostitutes booked into the Dorchester for his own pleasure.

More recently, in 2006, Thanh Hue Thi and Mee Yoke Pang were jailed for luring Malysian women to work in a bordello based in rented property in Mayfair. Women would be forced to work 10-hour shifts as prostitutes. They were made to gratify up to fifty customers a week. Thang Hue and Mee Yoke would pocket most of the fee and earned two million pounds over a 17 month period (LSE, 2006). Little is known about the psychological or physical effects of the enslavement and rape on the women or what became of them. One wonders as to whom the clientele might have been in this the most exclusive of areas?

Phone Booth, Clarges Street, 2008, Ravish London

Sex, Drugs, Rock n Roll and Death

Mayfair has had more than a passing acquaintance with sex, drugs, rock n roll and death. It is a favourite place for rock stars and celebrities. Several rock stars have had property in Mayfair. It is said, for example, that Madonna has a residence on Park Lane. She was joint-owner of the Mayfair pub, the Punch Bowl, whilst she was married to Guy Ritchie.

One rock star flat, which has a particularly macabre history is flat 12, 9 Curzon Street, close to the south west border of Mayfair. In the 1970s American singer songwriter Henry Nilsson bought the flat because it was close to the Playboy Club and Tramps DiscoNilsson wasn't often at the flat so he'd lend it out to friends, two of whom, over the course of four years, were to die whilst staying at the flat. The first, Mama Cass, singer in an American band called The Mamas and The Papas died from a heart attack in 1974, aged 32, a few hours after she had performed a solo concert at the London Palladium. Four years later, Keith Moon, drummer with The Who returning to the flat after a night out, died after taking an overdose of tablets. Following these deaths Nilsson sold the flat to Pete Townsend, also of The Who.

More recently in 2011, Mayfair was the resting point for fashion designer Alexander McQueen. McQueen was discovered in his home by his cleaner on the eve of his mother's funeral. McQueen was, apparently, very close to his mother and quite distraught following her death.

Organised Crime

The temptations on show in Mayfair, the jewels, the cars, the valuable antiques drive some to crime, and some of that crime is well organised.

According to Phillip Jenkins and Gary Potter (1986) Mayfair was the scene of a battle between two organised crime groups in the 1960s. This occurred when the Krays took an interest in establishing 'gambling junkets' for Americans in Mayfair, where another group called the Richardsons had a strong presence. The conflict led to six murders, to which police responded by launching a campaign leading to the conviction and imprisonment of the major gang leaders.

In the 1970s a teenager from East Dulwich, was accused of swindling Mayfair stores and hotels, passing himself off as a certain Prince Mohammed bin Sultan of Abu Dhabi, and ringing up bills and credit notes worth thousands of pounds.

In 2008 Rebecca Wang claimed that more than $1 million of jewellery and $20,000 in cash were stolen from her Mayfair home.

In August 2009, Mayfair was subject to the 'biggest gem heist in British history'. The heist involved two robbers, who started their day by dropping in on a make-up artist in Covent Garden and requesting facemasks. They told the artist they were preparing for a pop-video. Post make-over they changed into suits and danced their way into Mayfair jewellers Graff Diamonds where they "held staff at gun point after bluffing their way through the airlock security door". They took various pieces of jewellery after which they "fired two warning shots into the ground before escaping in a series of vehicles across Soho."

A year later, in 2010, another two-man outfit stole from billionaires by distracting their chauffeurs on the streets of Mayfair. One victim was Prince Abdulaziz Bin Fahd of Saudi Arabia, son of the late King Fahd. One hustler distracted the Prince's chauffeur, whose car was parked in Brooke Street, by telling him there was petrol dripping from the rear of the car, whilst the other opened the front door and stole a bag.

The Uncivil Grumblings of Power

Walking around Mayfair, taking in the casinos, international hotels, private members clubs and embassies with police guards, you get the feeling of honing in on real power; power which knows no limits; where the rules of civilisation no longer apply. You get the feeling that if you transgressed some of the people living in Mayfair, their recourse would be extrajudicial. Normal rules don't apply for those who write the rules. It was in Mayfair, in the Millenium Hotel to be exact, where, in 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, 43, was poisoned and killed by someone spraying radioactive polonium-210 on his food. The killing was thought to have been carried out on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mayfair is where it is alleged that a financier, who agreed to launder the money of a gangland leader, lost it on bad investments. The financier was said to have been, "kicked and beaten, sustaining three broken ribs" and "carved up with a Stanley knife to the point where just fragments of skin were keeping his nose and left ear attached to his face. Two tendons on his left wrist were severed, permanently affecting the use of his hand."

Mayfair is where murky governmental fake-fronted businesses use slush funds to keep embassy staff and contractor middle-men happy. Edward Cunningham, a Labour Party politician, used Mayfair as a base for such a front company, to deploy a British Aerospace slush fund to keep junior members of the Saudi part of an arms deal happy. Cunningham settled gambling bills; arranged prostitutes for Saudis; in return for a ready supply of visas for BAe staff visiting Saudi Arabia on BAe business (BBC Press Office, 2004).

It has also been said that Mayfair, and Berkeley Square in particular, is the location from which businessman Asil Nadir is alleged to have stolen close to £150 million from the conglomerate he ran. According to the Guardian, 'The prosecution claimed Nadir had been able to keep secretly channelling funds to his private overseas interests with the help of a small band of helpers.'

Mayfair: get rich or die trying.

Stories about murder, murky dealings, extravagant luxury and the presence of embassies give Mayfair a James Bond edge. In fact Ian Fleming the author of the James Bond novels, was himself born and bought up in Mayfair.


Mayfair is a if not the home to many people from the Arabian Peninsula.


Arabs began to develop a real interest in London, and Mayfair in particular, during the 1970s. In the 1970s two things happened which created the conditions for Arabs to want to come to London. First, Lebanon experienced a civil war. Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, a prosperous Mediterranean city surrounded by hills and the preferred holiday destination of most Arabs, fell into anarchy. With the onset of war, Arab tourists began looking for an alternative holiday destination to escape the desert heat to. Businessmen fleeing Lebanon needed to find somewhere to set up new businesses. Both businessmen and tourists headed to London. Part of the reason for this is that Arabs were already acquainted with London; the Arabian Peninsula having once been part of the British Empire, and many Arabs choosing British banks to save with. The second reason Arabs chose London is because during the 1970s there were two major spikes in oil prices, which provided many Arabs involved in the oil industry with a newfound wealth, which they wasted no time in indulging. The service industry in Mayfair, historically tailored to aristocratic taste, represented the ultimate indulgence; and a chance for the Arab to demonstrate his new purchasing power. Furthermore it was an opportunity for the Arab to put one over the colonial master, so London had to be done.

The scale of Arab visitors to London during the 1970s was impressive. In 1978 it was said 150,000 Arabs visited London during the summer months. It was said to be 'impossible to walk down the street... without running in to whole posses of Arabs, many of the men dressed in their flowing desert robes'.. Swarthy gentlemen fingering worry beads, mysterious ladies in dark flowing robes and black leather face masks, jangling with gold jewelry, and Bedoin sheiks in hooded burnooses tassled in silk and gold were a common sight at Fortnum & Mason's. Arabs were reported to be nonchalantly shopping in Britain's most exclusive institutions as if in a convenience store. In 1976 it was said, 'except that the only camels to be seen, so far anyway, are in the zoo, London this summer could almost be mistaken for Kuwait or Baghdad or Jedda'. People talked of how 'the Arabs have really and truly taken over', the 'Arabisation of London' and Elvis Costello penned the lyric, "London is full or Arabs. This could be Palestine."

The influx of Arabs, unaccustomed to the British way of life, made for some amusing scenes. An Arab guard, dressed in white robes, was photographed sat down on a chair, in the street, outside his master's home in Kensington. Arabs were said to be spitting in the lifts and urinating in the streets. Arab men were said to be sitting in the lingerie sections of department stores, 'leering at women picking and choosing among the fancy underwear.' Arab servants were said to be confusing toilets for waste disposal units and washing their master's clothes in the hotel swimming pools. Bizarrely, Arabs were being charged for shoplifting, whilst in possession of thousands of pounds, the Arab custom being to take something for free if one has already spent a lot of money in a shop.. The London Tourist Board was reported to have helped put together a welcome pack for Arab visitors. The pack beseeched Arab visitors, in the most polite British way, not to hang washing on balconies, never jump queues, and that one should never leave a store without paying for everything one is leaving with. It is difficult to know how many, if any, of these stories were true and how many made up by journalists keen to turn the heat up on simmering British envy.

In any case, what was certain, was that the colonial master-servant relationship had been reversed. In 1977 one prince 'paid a princely sum in staff wages to keep Harrod's open an extra hour just... so he could do his shopping in unhurried privacy.'Another 'began idly tossing 10 pence coins out of his car window and watched British children scramble for them' while waiting for a traffic light in his limousine. But the dominance went further than ostentation. Arab financiers bought British institutions like the The Dorchester Hotel, the Park Tower overlooking Hyde Park and the Chelsea Hotel in Knightsbridge. It was suggested Arabs were gearing up to buy The Times, which was greeted with apprehension by the British press.The presence of Arabs was said to be leading to inflationary pressures in Mayfair, they were beginning to price British people out of the area.

Arab men also developed and indulged a taste for British women; and some of them went further than sitting in the corner of lingerie departments to do so. For Arab men, most of whom were Muslim and married, their need for discretion such, that they went for women from the upper middle classes. In 1978 Olivia Ward wrote a fascinating article in The Montreal Gazette about Catherine, a white woman from Kensington, from a well-to-do family, who had taken up the profession of 'kept woman' a respectful term for prostitute or escort girl. The Arab businessman was said to have propositioned Catherine at a dinner part with the line, 'I think I have something to offer you and you have much to offer me. I will do whatever is necessary'. Catherine agreed, on very good financial terms it would seem. Catherine was able to buy her own place. Her weekdays, conducted at a leisurely pace, consisted of manicures, pedicures, hair-dos and purchases from Mayfair's galleries and boutiques. Evenings and some weekends were dedicated to the whims of their keeper. Important to Catherine's agreement was the fact her keeper was a married Muslim. This way he would be sure to treat Catherine well, for the consequences of being 'outed' were not worth thinking about. And important to the keeper was that Catherine came from a well-to-do family, this way it was in her interest to remain discrete about the arrangement.. Little has changed. In the mid-1990s a friend of mine, who had moved down to London to study, recounted how one evening, whilst sat at a restaurant with friends, she was presented with twelve red roses by a waiter on behalf of a Saudi prince sat nearby. In Olivia Ward's article it was suggested that the sheer number of 'kept women' was largely responsible for the density of boutiques and salons on Bond Street. That's an interesting idea, it may still be applicable today.

With the arrival of the Arabs the internecine politics and warring of the Middle East found its way on to the streets of 1970s Mayfair. Tit-for-tat attacks between Israelis and Arabs and between different Arab fractions, much of which involved Iraqi secret agents, became a common occurrence in Mayfair. Between 1977 and 1978, eight Arabs from an assortment of countries were assassinated, and a coach carrying Israeli aircrew was gunned down. Pub landlord, Jim Murray, witnessed the attack on the coach containing the Israeli aircrew outside Europa Hotel in Grosvenor Square. He told of how an 'ice-cool terrorist' hurled grenades at the coach, picked up his haversack, and proceeded to walk off, nonchalantly. 'He did not even run when he saw the police' said Murray, 'he just kept walking'.

Geoffrey Barker argued that London was susceptible to these events because '[it] is a sprawling city [and] it is relatively easy for determined terrorists to plan murder raids undetected once they have entered the country. The murders also guaranteed maximum publicity.' Barker noted that, 'despite active anti-terrorist and intelligence services, Britain is not a country that takes easily to surrounding visitors and buildings with armed security forces. Targets therefore often seem more exposed than in other parts of the world."

By the beginning of the 1980s Arabs had really left their mark on Mayfair. The British press were ambivalent about the Arabs' presence. On the one hand they were realistic about the fact that the new visitors were pumping money into an ailing economy. On the other hand they were perturbed by the bitter taste of colonisation; a depression was setting in; a depression which fuelled an insipid hatred.

The Arab press viewed the behaviour of their jet-setting brethren with envy and disdain. A Kuwaiti newspaper was said to have reported that, 'These Arab "big bellies", once free of the moral, teetotal strictures of their Arab homelands, are "exhausting their sexual and financial prowess" in London.. The Egyptian Gazette was said to have cautioned, 'even if wealthy Arabs purchasers are helping to put money into a sorely tired British economy they may well end up being thoroughly disliked as nouveaux riches vulgarians pushing their way into places where they are not wanted'.

Certainly there was and continues to be a degree of hypocrisy and perversion in the way sheikhs and princes spend money on escort girls, flash cars and consumer items in London, whilst buttressing the clerics, who force the strict tenets and laws of Islam back home. For a poor Arab living in Saudi Arabia Islamic civilisation and laws in the light of their leaders Mayfairian profligacy and libertarian tendencies, may be seen not so much as moral standards consistent with the beliefs of the elite, but instead a social and ideological imposition which stops the common man from wanting to enjoy the excesses enjoyed by the elite. Mayfair, then, might be considered a temple for the winners of the rat race, a more seductive place of worship for wealthy Arabs, than the mosques back in their homeland.

Certainly it is interesting to note that with the strictures of Sharia Islamic law discretion and seclusion play a large part in Arabic life. Most of the houses built in Saudi Arabia turn their backs on the streets; and have high walls and shuttered windows. In some sense the Arab migration to Mayfair is an extension to this secluded lifestyle, another way of getting away from the moralizing gaze of the fastidious clerics back home, and living a little. Interestingly, White, writing in 1996, commented that the Arab lifestyle in Mayfair was based around security, discretion and privacy. He cited the presence of two specialist spy equipment shops and the close-circuited Saudi embassy as examples.

Spy Shop, South Audley Street, 2007, grahamc99


In 2011, the Arab interest in Mayfair showed little sign of waning. Investors from Saudi Arabia continue to target Mayfair. 300,000 Arabs were said to live in London in 2011, with 1.5 million visiting the capital during the summer months. The National commented that, "Saudi Arabians remain the biggest customers for London properties, and spend fortunes on homes they may occupy only during the summer." It added, "Estate agents Hamptons says the Arab Spring has led to an upsurge of Arab investment in the capital." It would seem that turbulence in the Middle East has once again led to capital racing across to London, a safe haven for Arab money.

Stories of Arab extravagance continue. In 2011, a spokesman for InterContinental Hotels was reported to have described how some Arab families take '30 or 40 rooms to house their extended entourage. It is quite common for a whole floor, or even two, to be booked out by just one group.'

Click here for a whole website devoted to Arabs in London.

Saudi Embassy

The Saudi Embassy, located in Mayfair, is guarded back and front by Metropolitan police officers. The host country of an embassy is expected to provide adequate security to protect the embassy from potential attackers. It seems the Saudi embassy needs more protection than most. There are very few embassies, which are afforded such visible protection. The Saudi embassy houses the representatives of the Saudi family, a family which has successfully written the rules of the game for the inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula for years, they even named the country after themselves.

Saudi Arabian Embassy, Mayfair, 2008, Ravish London

US Embassy

The most powerful tenants in Mayfair are the diplomatic representatives of the United States, who built the US embassy in front of Grosvenor Square in 1960.

Grosvenor Square is intimately related to American politics, twentieth century politics in particular. US President John Adams lived at 9 Grosvenor Square in the late eighteenth century. During World War II Grosvenor Square hosted General Eisenhower who co-ordinated the Allies military campaign against Germany. In 1947 a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt was erected, which half a century later was accompanied by a 9/11 memorial garden and more recently, in 2011, by a statue of President Regan. (see video here)

The US embassy is a gigantic concrete shed, brutal and powerful. The embassy is reported to have three underground floors. These floors symbolize the subhuman dealings of the United States, e.g. its illegal renditions, water boarding, the humiliation, torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi civilians, its use of agent orange against the Vietnamese and the arming of militias to dispose and murder the democratically elected leaders of South America. The United States powerful position in the world, its institutionalised use of murder and intimidation, means Grosvenor Square has been subject to attack and is a site of political protest. On August 20th 1967 three Spanish anarchists drove a White Ford Cortina up to the embassy and shot several bullets into the building. In 1968 there was a student protest against the US invasion of Vietnam in Grosvenor Square.

Of course, in recent years the United States has not had things their own way, and on September 11th 2001, the country was subject to a co-ordinated and well-organised attack using passenger jets as missiles. Whilst the United States has its detractors, it also has a great many supporters, and it was reported that on the day of the attacks people entered Grosvenor Square to show their respects to the dead. US ambassador William Farish was reported as saying, "They came to offer help, to leave messages and to present tokens of sympathy and solidarity."

Nevertheless, despite the offerings of help, the US Embassy, mirroring the attitude of its military and politicians on the global playing field, sees itself above London laws. In recent years the US Embassy has refused to pay any kind of congestion charge or parking fine incurred in London. This led to Ken Livingstone labelling the Head of the US Embassy a 'chiselling little crook'.

US Embassy, 2008, Ravish London

Hedge Fund Managers

Hedge fund managers may not necessarily live in Mayfair, but many of them have offices there. Hedge funds are large funds, usually in the billions, belonging to wealthy individuals or institutions (e.g. pension funds). Hedge funds can be invested in a wider range of activities than most investment funds. According to Donald Mackenzie hedge funds are exempt from normal investment banking rules, owing to American legislation following the Great Crash in the 1930s. The legislation prohibited investment banks from engaging in a number of types of investment, including leverage and short selling. However it did not outlaw these practices. Fund managers, who dealt only with 'accredited investors', people with net assets of at least $1 million and an annual income of $200,000 or more, and who did not advertise their services, were allowed to continue to use these forms of investment, and these fund managers have come to be known as hedge fund managers. Hedge fund managers are able to engage in short selling, which involves borrowing shares for a fee, selling the shares on and then buying them back later at a lower price, before returning them to the share owner. The idea is that if one can predict a drop in the price of a company's share, short-selling will allow the trader to make a profit which more than covers the fee paid to borrow the shares. This practice has been criticised because it creates an incentive to spread rumours, which are intended to drive down the share price. Furthermore if word gets out that an established hedge fund has borrowed and sold shares in a certain company, faith in the hedge fund's ability to predict a drop in the market value, may become a self-fulfilling prophesy regardless of whether the real value of the company deserves to be downgraded.

'An address in Mayfair counts in the world of hedge funds'. According to Donald Mackenzie, in the London Review of Books, "It shows you're serious, and have the money and confidence to pay the world's most expensive commercial rents. A nondescript office no larger than a small flat can cost £150,000 a year. Something bigger and in the style that hedge funds like (glass walls, contemporary furniture) can set you back a lot more... Two rooms may be enough: one for meetings, for example with potential investors; one for trading and doing the associated bookkeeping. Some funds consist of only four or five people. Even a fairly large fund can operate with twenty or fewer." Interestingly, Mackenzie points out that hedge funds' physical and legal locations are often separated. The funds are registered offshore for tax reasons. In the offices in Mayfair are the funds' managers, the legally distinct firms or partnerships that control them.

Hedge fund firms in London include GLG, EIM and Cheyne Capital.

The Daily Mail reckons hedge fund managers are a 500-strong club who control £1 trillion. Irrespective of the intricacies of hedge fund management, the startling thing is just how much hedge fund managers charge and earn. They tend to charge both a management fee and a performance fee. Management fees vary from 1 to 4% per annum, with 2% being standard. If a hedge fund manager is getting a management fee of 2% of the fund, which might say be 1 billion then they will be pocketing 20 million quid, just for managing the fund..

It is no surprise then that hedge fund managers are able and willing to enjoy the benefits of their labour in the restaurants, bars and shops of Mayfair.

The Daily Mail, in 2006, reported on how one manager had paid £1.5 million in cash for a Chelsea townhouse, another had bought a Bentley for £200,000 and another had spent £300,000 on a diamond ring for their wife's birthday. A new publication from Conde Nast, Trader, is aimed at hedge fund manager. Apparently, it is 'filled with reviews of private jets, yachts, flash cars, advice on which Cognac to buy, and tales of excess among financiers during nights out'.

Footballers and Film Stars

Footballers, rock stars and film stars regularly frequent the clubs, restaurants and bars of Mayfair. Because Mayfair attracts the rich and famous, it also attracts paparazzi and gossip columnists. In 2008 Dominick Dunne, of Vanity Fair waited in the lobby of Mayfair hotel Claridges for forty minutes to get a view of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who were also staying at the hotel.

Tony Blair Associates

Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, is the home of Tony Blair Associates; a complex of organisations established by Tony Blair, which, in practice, uses the political capital built up by Blair during his days as an advocate for the invasions of Iraq to generate profit. Blair's customer base includes the government of Kuwait; and oil rich Kazakhstan ruled by a corrupt populist schmoozing group of mafia salesmen, a vestigial grouping from the old communist days. Blair has been asked by Kazakhstan to advise on economic reform and 'how to present a better face to the west'. Tony Blair, the political equivalent of a Mayfair casino card shark, who spent most of his misspent youth applying mascara to George W Bush and the Royal Families of America, has been keen to receive the business, with some commentators estimating he made £15 million from commercial activities in the two years since he stepped down from prime minister in 2007.

Blair has been said to have channelled the profits from his business, most of which relies on the international political capital and experience he built up acting as an advocate for the invasion of Iraq into real estate for his family. In effect he has profited financially from a decision to commit British soldiers ' lives and the lives of Iraqis to death. Britain, Britain's army and Britain's soldiers were duped for what turned out to be Blair's personal gain. Who's sitting pretty from his experience of war? Not the soldiers with no legs; or the children with no dad, or the British or Iraqi publics, but Blair, ensconced in his Mayfair headquarters in Mayfair, Cherie and the Blair sons. It's a tough world, one in which our sons and daughters are sacrificed for the engorgement and padding of one man's nest, and Mayfair is often the place of residence of such high priests.


Mayfair being the seat of the elite plays host to a variety of different networks and clubs.

The Chemistry Club

The Sartoria restaurant in Mayfair is supposed to have played host to The Chemistry Club where it is claimed, 'Companies have been paying up to £1,800 a head to meet ministers, senior government advisers and MPs at a series of networking events', demonstrating how 'that those with the financial means could secure privileged access to government decision makers.'

Old Girls Network

Interestingly, Helen McCarthy, writing in 2004, explained how Mayfair hosts the Women's University Club, which she describes as an unusual mix of capsule wardrobes, mobile phones, wood-panelled walls and floral-patterned carpets. The club was established in 1886 for women entering higher education and the professions. McCarthy notes that the Women's University Club hosts a group called Hightech-Women, a network of women in technology related occupations established in 2000. McCarthy said that the purpose of such networks, as stated by an early advocate of the women's networking movement is 'getting together to get ahead'.

Mayfair Psychologies

The Insecure Rich

Mayfair is the place where the insecure rich go to show their worth. Its aristocratic history, the stories of untrammelled consumption and its proximity to political power and empire have long attracted a certain breed of nouveau riche, a breed that feels an incessant and insatiable need to prove itself. We might call this breed the 'Mayfair Supermen'. The Mayfair superman is wracked by the fear that others loathe him; that he is, just as he is, repugnant. For this reason, the Mayfair superman also fears loneliness, in fact it is his childhood loneliness that leads him to experience those feelings of repugnance and self-loathing. To avoid loneliness, and understanding that he has no inherent likeable qualities, the Mayfair superman resigns himself to the idea that the only way he can guarantee the company of others is through buying and controlling their time; affections and focus. For this reason, he dedicates his life to amassing all the worlds' wealth; and with the wealth he increases the number of tentacles with which he holds people close to him.

Golden Mini, Mayfair, 2010, maistora

Dominance through Consumption: the Mayfair superman

Superman goes to Mayfair because this is where he can best put into effect his desire to dominate others through consumption. In the boutiques, restaurants, bars, brothels and casinos the Mayfair superman transfers his sense of self-loathing on to those who serve him. He consumes them; dominates them and hates them. He feels relieved. His servants are as repugnant as he is, if not more. Mayfair has an army of serfs, ready to serf-ice the needs of the Mayfair superman. Giorgio Armani, clothes designer, described his attempts to introduce mens couture to London, as a response to the need of the super-wealthy for 'something made exclusively for them to define their social position.' He added, 'There is a certain client that refuses to lower himself to going into a store and picking something off a rack.' The Mayfair superman, that certain client, needs to feel unique, needs to feel like a king, because without that buzz of seeing others beneath him, those suicidal feelings come plaguing back.

However consuming is only a palliative, never a cure, and those ghouls are never far from the door; which can drive the superman into a state of desperation, or delirium. On these occasions the superman consumes more than he can take physically, mentally or emotionally. In 2006, a customer of Mo*vida nightclub, buys 63 bottles of Dom Perignon and Cristal, then sprays the contents, all £26,000 worth, around the room. A... palatial property near Hyde Park is sold to a Saudi princess. The property is fully staffed and filled with fresh flowers every week, just in case the owner visits. The property has gone years without a visit. Underlying this need to consume to excess and beyond, we pick up on a sadistic intent to squander resources that others might use to alleviate their suffering. Many of those who have made it to Mayfair, have done so through violence, bloodshed and deceit. Mayfair is a place to worship the God of greed, dominance and indulge in a hatred of humanity; to drown in excess. Mayfair, many of its denizens and activities are the quintessential celebratory shout of joy of the winners of the rat race. To consume in Mayfair is to gorge oneself on the fat of the land, spluttering and drowning in it, rejoicing most when one is squandering what would be manna from heaven to others. It is a Saudi Prince vomiting copious amounts of champagne, holding on to his prostitutes for balance, in the backroom of a Mayfair casino, knowing that thousands of miles away one of his great uncles, a Saudi chief, is proclaiming the tenets of Sharia Law to a gathering of mandarins, clerics and imams; and his wife is in the Portland Hospital expecting his baby whilst officials under the family's command order the arrest of two journalists for documenting the life of the poor in Riyadh.

The Mayfair superman gets a rash of excitement; one which leads him to scratch himself until he bleeds, at the thought of perverse consumption, of consuming the forbidden. On 27th May 2009 the Evening Standard reported that despite a long campaign by environmentalists, Nobu, was 'defiantly keeping bluefin tuna on its menus'. The restaurant did decide to provide a footnote on its menus saying "Bluefin tuna is an environmentally threatened species please ask your server for an alternative." At first Nobu's note seems like a pathetic concession to the environmentalists and press. But knowing what we do of the superman, his taste for the forbidden, and his overwhelming need to feel served by the world, maybe the note is sophisticated marketing. What can be more provocative to the superman, who constantly needs objects he can transfer his loathing on to, than the opportunity to kill a whole species? Bluefin tuna, exclusive becoming extinct?

The superman goes to Mayfair to buy a wife; hoping his power to consume, as displayed in restaurants and bars, will hypnotise a lady whose dream it is to be pampered in return for sex but not affection. Supermen thus engage in duels of consumption; a form of rutting. In Maddox, where jeroboams of vodka are sold for £800, "Clients... compete for the biggest drinks bill with the table next to them, like kids in a sandpit competing to build the biggest castle."

In the end the superman will find his partner and then a mistress. Mayfair is where Russian mistresses, who as a rule don't work, spend their days shopping, getting massages, hair extensions, and manicures after which "tired by the treatments they go home to sleep". Afterwards, "They have dinner at Cipriani and then in the evening they go to a place like Maddox to show themselves off and tell how much money they have spent on themselves." These women too, are loveless, unloved, not part of the family, but paid well, bought off very well; Mayfair superwomen.

The Theatre of Exclusion

The government of the day talks about creating a society where everyone is included. You visit Mayfair and you realise the government's aspiration is not taken seriously here. For in one of the wealthiest areas of London the social policy is clearly one of exclusion. The Curzon Cinema advertises its royal boxes which they say 'add that touch of sophistication and exclusivity that will help your event sparkle.' The Chesterfield, a hotel in Mayfair, writes of the area, "No other London address is as smart; no other area offers so much exclusive shopping." There's even a dry cleaners that claims it is 'exclusive'.

In Mayfair the mechanics of exclusion are in operation everywhere, like a never-ending play, with a cast of doorkeepers, bouncers, shop assistants and police with machine guns. In Bond Street shopkeepers survey you, suss you out, try to guess the size of your bank balance. Each shop usually has two or three staff of immaculate physical design, posing like models, dressed to impress, elegant, serious and business like. Invariably they are stood in formation, as if to embark on an entry for the Eurovision song contest. Their combined analytical gaze is focused on anyone who should dare look through the shop window, let alone walk through the front door. You know that as soon as you enter the shop you will be approached and interrogated to test your purchasing power and intentions. Filtration you might call it, but filtration is a way of excluding impurities.

Mayfair salesman awaiting custom from rich folk, 2011, Linda Wisdom (Noirchick)

On Savile Row, you get the impression from peering into the tiny confines of the tailors, they do not welcome browsers.

The huge specimens who stand outside the Bond Street jewellers, dressed in big black coats, big and tall, right hand on left wrist have cold emotionless stares, directed straight at you or into space. When it's the latter you imagine they're mentally replaying some grizzly task they were given the night before. Or maybe it's just a way of hiding the fear of having to act as the first line of defence against a violent attack. I imagine these burly chaps, of such size, pose quite an effective deterrent to any would-be burglar, but also to anyone who doesn't feel a million dollars.

The mechanics of exclusion are not just a method for keeping the riff-raff out. The show is designed to humiliate, ridicule, disappoint and abandon those who wannabe part of the in-crowd. The internet is full of people complaining about the obnoxious treatment they receive at the hands of bar staff and doormen in Mayfair. In March 2007, someone who claims to have attended Sketch complains that as he left the club the doorman said, "thank you will you be needing the night bus home". In 2011 someone who claims to have queued for Mahiki comments, "Door people are rude and on a power trip. They are very "selective", one of our party members (we had a table) was not let in... The door-lady... treats everyone like scum." A person visiting The Punch Bowl claims to have been made to wait for 45 minutes for the barman to serve him a round of drinks, during which time the barman serves other customers and decides to pick up empty glasses. The door policy at Mayfair night club Maddox is described as being one where, whilst the club is members only, one might, if they have booked a table at the restaurant upstairs, be allowed 'past the velvet rope'. Then again, the might not.

Arguably these instances of humiliation are part of the theatre of exclusion where wannabees are attracted to the party but then rejected, disgraced and shamed at the threshold, for the benefit and amusement of the included. The theatre of exclusion, allows the Mayfair supermen, those who did get in, those whose names were on the list and those who did have a table reserved the opportunity to see others experience the feelings they can never shed, the feeling of being loathed and abandoned. So, we might imagine the superman, sat in an exclusive restaurant, wiping away the last of the caviar from the side of his mouth with a dab of a napkin, whilst noting form the corner of his eyes an incident at the entrance, where a couple intending to celebrate twenty-five years of marriage have their entrance refused, their existence effaced. He feels piqued with excitement reflecting on how the innocent bonhomie of the couple, evident only seconds before, has been pulverised. It piques because the couple's distress resonates with his own chronic sense of never really being loved by anyone, and that gnawing feeling that even his own friends and family only like him for the resources he secures.

The superman unable to shake his feeling of self-loathing hates those who seem to be content, safe and loved; those who are not driven to control and possess others. When he sees someone dressed in clothes from an affordable brand he feels repulsed; that repulsion alternately attaching itself to the wearer of the clothes, but then in light of the wearer's sense of self-acceptance to himself. One patron of Mayfair's clubs experiences revulsion at Primark wearing students, who 'haven't 2 pence between them' getting in.

The offspring of the nouveaux-riches have fathers who load them with obligation, guilt and rejection. These fathers make sure that their offspring find their own sense of independence disgusting; they make their children workshy; they will shove silver spoons down their children's throats, so they are unable to fly the nest, so they are petrified of leaving the nest, allowing father to remain the daddy. Such offspring; like their fathers, stricken with self-hatred, use daddy's silver spoon to buy others, transferring their repulsion on to those they buy. Sometimes this goes way too far. In 2010 a Saudi Prince, grandson of the king of Saudi Arabia was convicted of beating and strangling to death a servant in Mayfair. The killing was reported to be the culmination of a campaign of sadistic abuse directed at the servant.

However when others cannot be bought, and sometimes a person cannot be bought, then the feelings of self-loathing come back, stronger than ever, and the silver spoon flies from the pram. In 2008 Farouk Abdulhak, son of a Yemeni billionaire, Shaher Abdulhak, fled his flat in Great Portland Street, took a plane out of the country and never returned. A Swedish girl, Martine Vik Magnusen, was found dead in bins beneath his flat that same day, the night after she and Farouk had left Maddox a Mayfair night club together.

The Excluded let Themselves into the Mayfair Party

A strange phenomenon occurred between 2008 and 2010 in London. It came about with the emergence of several London free papers, which were distributed to commuters outside tube stations all over London. The papers filled their pages with London celebrity news. For one hour every weekday evening, commuters allowed themselves to be dumped headfirst into a celebrity toilet bowl of the kitschy whims & night time antics of the rich and famous. Commuters followed celebrities as they tip-toed, giddily around Mayfair's night spots. Evening after evening, on the front page as in the middle, London Lite, London Paper and Metro bought us the latest movements of Posh & Becks, Paris Hilton, Madonna & Guy Ritchie, Lilly Allen and others. At one level it was just a harmless bit of fun; a mere peek into the frivolity and peccadilloes of London's happy-go-lucky jet set.

On the other hand, at a subconscious level, it was a maddening provocation, a slight, a humiliation of what the common man doesn't have, and will never get to have, no matter how hard he or she works. The privileged know, when they stop for a photo shoot, their image will be printed and sent out to the millions of people, who do not have the privilege. Every day working women got to see the latest designer handbag Lilly Allen had been handed for free, so long as she continued to keep herself (and the handbag) in the limelight.

The reporting of Mayfair life therefore provokes people to want to have a life that they don't have, and in so doing make them feel depressed. It makes those who live the life feel better about themselves, makes them feel important and relevant, or rather allows them to transfer their own sense of self-loathing on to the wannabes. However, interestingly, from time to time, the wannabes do something that no-one thought they could, they gate crash the party.

People will try all kinds of ways of getting in on the Mayfair scene. Young women use their bodies, dress and looks; some use credit they haven't any hope of paying back. In the 1970s a teenager from East Dulwich passed himself off as Prince Mohammed bin Sultan of Abu Dhabi and rung up bills and credit notes worth thousands of pounds in Mayfair's hotels and boutiques. In 2010 two men operated a successful Mayfair hustle to allow them to live the Mayfair live. Their hustle involved distracting the attention of chauffeurs to steal from their dashboards. On one occasion they distracted the chauffeur of a Saudi prince. The hustlers spent their proceeds, 'on a spectacular shopping spree', which included a £4,000 pair of sunglasses. Their mimicry of the Mayfair life was an acceptance and valorisation of perverse vainglorious consumption. The Saudi Royal Family cheats the people of the Arabian peninsula out of oil revenues and two hustlers cheat the Saudi Prince but the money always returns to Mayfair! Mayfair always wins; it is a sink for plunder and loot. There is poetry in this.

Mayfair Squatting: Living on Billionaire's Detritus

Whilst squatters live in Mayfair, they don't exactly live the Mayfair life there, it seems they just want to rub shoulders.

Mayfair, historically, has usually had several large properties left empty at any one time, the product, it has been argued, of the fact that Mayfair properties are purchased and sold by companies as part of intricate schemes to avoid paying tax. The companies have no interest or intention to use the property. This form of consumption, buying something, not because one wants to use it, but because it effectively cleans one's money, and because others are likely to want to buy it in the future, creates a potential use or billionaire's detritus. London is full of, hippies, mods, ravers, art students, unfortunates and the like, those dedicated to reflection, hedonism and the arts; all with an eye for a freebie.

Since the 1960s, Mayfair has been frequently squatted. In the 1960s people squatted a 100 room mansion (1963) and a four story Georgian mansion.

The Dilly Dossers

In 1969 the Dilly Dossers, a group of young hippies, who took acid, smoked weed and dossed around in squats, squatted 144 Piccadilly, an empty five storey disused mansion at Hyde Park Corner. This seemed to cause quite a stir in the press, which Mayfair squatting often does and attracted more tourists, than the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Nickel in the Machine describes how the hippies, who were eventually forced out of the building by the police, used water filled garden boules, which they had found stored in one of the rooms in their squat, to fend off a pack of skinheads, who buoyed by the anti-hippy sentiment constructed by the media, attacked the squat to gain entry; medieval! See this news reel account on you tube of the squatters being evicted.

in 1977 a Kensington house belonging to an Arab, was squatted by a group led by Trinidad born Michael Stewart. The squatters were said to have celebrated with West Indian reggae music.

MADA! Mayfair Da! Collective

More recently an art squat was established in 2008 at 18 Upper Grosvenor Street, a stone's throw from the American embassy. The squat, given the name MADA! was the brainchild of artist Simon McAndrew (click here for photo). McAndrew had previously lived in Paris working as a hairdresser.. There he came acrossChez Robert an art squat located in the centre of the city. At Chez Robert he met and fell in love with his future long-term partner Bogna. Together they decided, after a short stint in Japan, and having moved to London in 2002 to create a London equivalent of Chez Robert. In 2005 they found their first place, a 6 storey building on Kensington High Street. Here they formed what they called the the DA! collective Although the name has favourable associations with Dadaism, a surrealist artistic movement from the 1920s, it was derived from two letters left on the shop window of the building they squatted. McAndrew explained, "On the front windows were the words 'closing down sale last day', but by the time we got to it the letters were peeling off and all that was left were the letters DA". McAndrew and his partner lived in the building for a year, converting it into an exhibition space and making a cinema in the basement. They attracted more people into the collective including long-standing member Stephanie Smith and went on to find sites in Knightsbridge and Tottenham Court Road before finding their Mayfair spot.

On gaining entry to the Mayfair mansion at 18 Upper Grosvenor Street the collective were to find thirty rooms, a large lobby area and a beautiful wooden spiral staircase, which led to the top of the property. The property had no carpets or furnishings, but did have chandeliers and luxuriantly thick curtains hanging from ten foot windows. 18 Upper Grosvenor Street was one of many Georgian town houses built for the aristocracy at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was built and owned by the Grosvenor Estate and Duke of Westminster. Apparently at the time the collective moved in the Grosvenor Estate had leased it to a company based in the British Virgin Islands.

The DA! collective, in founding MADA! worked to ensure the building could be used for artists. The collective maintained twenty-four hour occupancy of the property. Lacking money, they adopted what McAndrew called freeganism scavenging on fresh vegetables discarded at New Covent Garden market and supermarket bins. Ensconced in their new premises DA! raised a black anarchist flag from the balcony. As described by Paul Harris of the Daily Mail, 'A 21-year-old woman in a mask and a raggedy mini-skirt stood on a balcony overlooking puzzled passers-by, and read aloud a statement about liberty and legality. DA! announced, pragmatically, that the building would be 'relatively free from the constraints of institutions'. McAndrew invited artists into the squat through word of mouth and the internet, but was also aided by the national press, who were particularly fascinated by the project. McAndrew said his vision for MADA! was to invite artists in, giving them the freedom to roam free.

There were two art shows put on at MADA! In November 2008.

MADA! Temporary School of Thought

The squatters were soon evicted, but quickly found a new place around the corner in Clarges Mews. Here they hosted the Temporary School of Thought which provided a library and offered classes on several topics including labyrinth building, bookbinding, and role-play Jo Brodie provides an interesting account of how a friend and her spent a day in Mayfair, inserting a trip to the squat into an itinerary which also involved a pizza at Shepherd's Market and the purchase of haggis and wine from Fortnum and Masons, to give to the squatters. They finished the night enjoying a film night hosted by the squat.

Temporary School of Thought, Clarges Mews, 2009, normko

94 and 95 Park Lane

A year later another group squatted 94 and 95 Park Lane, neighbouring residences owned by Madonna and Mohammed Al Fayed. They held a party which attracted a bizarre mix of hippies, tough wideboys and City types who were all asked to "donate" a fiver.

93-99 Park Lane, 2009, Jamie Barras

Youth Against Banks Party

In 2010, a group squatted a vacant five story building on Park Lane, which some believed was owned by HSBC, and which in the context of the credit crunch, led to the squatters organising a "youth against the banks" party, which was advertised on Facebook. The Facebook note attracted a large crowd, many of whom were turfed out by the police later in the night.

Youth Against Banks Party, 2010, Mudi!?!

Middle Class Envy: Press Interest in Mayfair Squats

The British press takes an exceptional interest in squatted Mayfair properties. This, on the face of it, may be because squatting in Mayfair is not just squatting, it is the excluded gate-crashing the party of the establishment. Rachaelov comments, "Is it the squatting people find outrageous; or squatting in an 'exclusive' area?" Probably the latter, because whilst the press do feature stories of squats in other parts of London, it is usually when the squatters are immigrants, and such stories rarely feature on the front page, as Mayfair squats do. On first inspection it might be thought that the presence of Mayfair squats on the front page comes about at the order of the establishment. However it would seem that the so-called establishment is little bothered by squatters. Some residents seem amused, others go so far as to chat with their new neighbours, some share their wi-fi access.. After all the position of the establishment in the social hierarchy is hardly threatened by such temporary neighbours

Maybe the ire in the press reflects the class sensibilities of journalists and editors, exorcised by squatters taking in one day, and by the flick of a window, what they, the middle classes, work most of their lives in vain for. When the Dilly Squatters squatted their Park Lane residence in the 60s, Eric Williamson, a restaurant owner, and nine of his employees set up a table outside the property at 3 in the morning and had a feast of fried chicken, salad and champagne. Williamson was reported to have said that the message of the 'silent protest' (not so silent that the press didn't get to hear about it) was that, "anyone can eat, and eat well if they are prepared to work". What Williamson failed to mention was that "most people cannot live in a Mayfair mansion, even if they work hard all their lives".

Despite their indignation with Mayfair squats, the media is always keen to poke its head inside the door. The squats make great reading.

Squatters justify their activity, possibly tongue in cheek, by arguing that they are guided by the same aspirations as the wealthy of Mayfair. The squatters, who took over 94 Park Lane, were quoted as saying, "It feels pretty good. It's the dream of everyone in London to live for a little bit in Park Lane". The 2010 squatters, advertising their party, urged people to "come and live the high life in a mansion on Park Lane". Sometimes squatters' desire is to mirror the hedonism of Saudi Princes and the excesses of hedge fund managers in Mayfair's private clubs. The people who squatted 94-95 Park Lane threw an all-night rave. One report stated, "'Revellers "off their faces" on drugs and booze charged around the seven-storey mansions as ear-splitting music boomed out until 11am, pretty standard for a Mayfair party.

Experiencing Exclusion: Photographing the Embassies

They can watch you but you cannot watch them in this so-called 'freedom loving' society.

The Saudi Embassy has two policemen guarding it. One is stationed at the front of the embassy on busy Curzon Street. He walks back and forth outside the embassy gates on an elevated gravel surface. The other stands solemnly outside the backdoor.

One cold January morning in 2007, I found myself on Curzon Street home of the Saudi embassy. I thought the Saudi Embassy would be a welcome addition to Ravish London. I noticed the policeman strolling up and down and thought it would be good to get a photo of him from a distance. So from the other side of the street I crouched down and zoomed in on him.

As I tried to hone in on him with my viewfinder I realised that he had seen me and had avoided my focus by scuttling behind a tree. I took the photograph but put off by his quick movements, my hand juddered, and all I ended up with was a picture of the tree, which he was hiding behind.

I then approached the embassy, near to the tree, and took a second photograph of one of the emblems emblazoned on the gates. The policeman appeared from behind the tree and asked me if I could make that my last photograph.

I was affronted by this request as I was under the impression I could take a photograph of whatever I wanted, and further that policemen had no powers or business interfering in the particular interests of photographers. I asked the policeman if he was ordering me not to take anymore photographs or requesting it of me. This challenge irritated him, he told me it would be better for me if I just took my camera and walked away.

I asked him what authority he had to stop me from taking a photograph. He repeated, using the tone of a patronising school teacher, that he was simply telling me that I should take no more photographs and that I should do as he says. I asked if I was not within my rights to just stand and look at the building. He told me that I needed to be careful, that in the present climate, it would be preferable if I did not stand looking at the Saudi embassy taking photographs of it.

I exercised my right of standing and looking at the building, only he decided to stand in my way. I told him I was taking photographs for a guide to London. He said 'don't you think there are already too many guides to London?' It was a good question, but then I had a good answer, none of the guides would have encounters like this in them. The policeman, having taken on the role of unpaid media consultant, reminded me there were other buildings I could take photographs of.

He warned me that if I took another photograph he would apprehend me and I could be detained under suspicion of terrorism. I put it to him that if I were a jihadi terrorist I would not approach the Saudi embassy with a huge camera, debating civil liberties.

He told me that there was no reason why a terrorist might not exhibit the type of 'idiotic behaviour' I was showing (his opinion). I told him my behaviour was not idiotic, but that I was just exercising my rights, and that he was not being honest with me.

I asked him how many days he and his police friends could detain me for. 'Don't you read the papers?' he says. No I said. Well try 72 days. He told me I was wasting his time and that I was annoying him. He looked into my eyes. I reflected on the fact that if I was in Brazil he'd have probably given me a sharp blow to the head with the back of a pistol, and beaten me to a pulp by now. Then, stories of the Metropolitan Police doing the same were quickly downloaded into my consciousness, and I developed a cold sweat. Where was my stubbornness going to take me?

The policeman told me I was boring him again. And yet you seem to enjoy talking to me I told him. He gave me a bitter glance, looked away and then shook his head in disgust.

'You're creating a scene' he told me, referring to the one embassy staff, who was stood behind the gates, in the same spot she had been in when I arrived. She was looking at me, chatting into her walky-talky. 'Have you got your cameras on him?' asked the policeman. She nodded.

The policeman and I stopped talking, like two lovers out on a first date who have run out of things to say. A kiss was out of the question. The policeman was stood in front of me and was much taller, not least because he was stood on the elevated platform. He stared at me. I stared at him albeit a little nervously, all the time wondering if a gang of his colleagues were going to come round and book me into a local police station for the night. I asked him if I could stand on the elevated ground he was standing on. He pointed out it was private property and at the same time expressed glee at the prospect of being able to arrest me for trespassing on private property.

I moved towards the elevated area, he took in a sharp intake of air. He was just about to grab hold of me when I pointed out that whilst very close, millimetres of air separated my shoe from the private property, on which I had no intention of trespassing.

I told the policeman I wanted to look at the embassy unimpeded. Earlier on he had told me he would not impede my view if I wanted to look at the embassy. But now he was staring me in the eyes. I took a step to the right to avoid his view. He took a step to his left to impede it. We moved like this, in what a passer-by might have misconstrued an elaborate mating ritual, until we reached the famous tree.

I stepped to my right, he followed suit, I stepped to the right, but he couldn't go any further because the tree was in the way, so he had to go behind. Now I could look at the embassy impeded by the tree, but unimpeded by the policeman.

What was going to happen next was anyone's guess. The tree was probably thinking 'leave me out of this'. I waited, took a further step to the right, and was reunited with my partner. I then took him out to the far right of the platform, which meant he left me a good view of the embassy. I took an unusual interest in the fine detail of the building, using its white surface as an object of meditation. Then I wandered off to take photographs of the next building.

Later on I unwittingly found myself walking past the back entrance to the same embassy, where another officer was stationed. I am pretty sure my physical appearance had been communicated to him, and that he had been psyching himself up for my possible appearance, because when he saw me the faintest of smiles straightened out his lips. A few twinges of anxiety rippled through his physiognomy. He looked at me with an air of all knowing all powerful smugness. I didn't care to look at him much, but I felt eyes following me down the street.

Later on in the day I came across the American Embassy. The American embassy looks like a fortress with various surrounding streets closed off and barriers being mounted all the way around it. As I walked up Grosvenor Street on its south side, I saw the meanest looking police officer with an enormous machine gun (I am no gun expert so I could be wrong, but whichever department this officer was lacking in the gun certainly compensated for it).

As I walked around the embassy I noted the officer only had eyes for me, heart fluttering, I thought about penning a love song, as he followed me around the barrier from the inside of the compound. That afternoon I was feeling quite intimidated after my tête-à-tête with the officer guarding the Saudi embassy, paranoid thoughts of being 'dealt with' by the Metropolitan police were occupying my mind. I resolved not to take any photographs of the American embassy. However, later, I changed my mind, and from some distance on a street corner I took one photograph.

I then walked around Grosvenor Square, which sits in front of the Embassy, took a few photographs of the park, and then sat on a park bench with my back to the Embassy. I then stood up and walked across the path to a bench, which was facing the embassy. I was sat some hundred metres from the embassy but could nevertheless discern an officer staring at me. I took another photograph.

Ten minutes later I decided that I had had enough of the American embassy. I got up and left and was heading northwards when a police car approaching slowly in the opposite direction let out one officer about five metres in front of me and then drove up to my side. The officer on the street approached me and asked me to take my hands out of my pockets. I did. Two more officers pulled up on motorbikes in haste, and I heard the officer who was driving the car, but who had now gotten out, talking to his colleagues on a walky talky. They were asking him if he needed further assistance. Armed only with a semi-automatic camera, the officer judged that four was a sufficient number to handle me.

The two officers on the bike then left and the officer who had originally approached me informed me that the American Embassy had spotted me taking photographs and that this was enough for the police to apprehend me under some act or section of an act to do with terrorism. Basically they needed to check my camera. They took all my details, which the officer who had approached me in the car told me was for my own benefit, so that I could have a record of what happened to me (although one of the details I was asked for was identifying scars). The officer checking my photos began to get tired flicking through a day's worth of images of Mayfair and its surrounds, most of which were unremarkable, sighed and commented wistfully on the incredible storage capacity of digital cameras. He engaged me in light conversation about the architectural wonders of London. All this time I felt nervous, I felt nauseous. I also felt mad, that I could be intimidated all day in this way just for taking photographs. And I felt stubborn as hell that I had every right to do it. He flicked through my photos, all 400 odd, one after the other, and then he handed me back the camera, I shook his hand, which he seemed reticent to do, and feeling sick with nerves, I decided I'd had enough for one day and returned home. He hadn't found any photos of the Saudi Embassy because the pictures were on my mobile phone.


Mayfair is an interesting place for the fact that if you walk around many of its streets, it can feel demure, owing to the modesty of the Georgian housing stock. However the genteel superficiality of Mayfair has always betrayed the extravagance and richness, to be found on the inside, and present ever since the aristocratic classes moved into the first suburbs built in the seventeenth century. Over the centuries the aristocrats have been replaced and elevated by several waves of nouveaux-riches, some of entrepreneurs, some criminals, many both. So Mayfair has become the castle that everyone who wants to be a king, wants to be king of. Mayfair real estate is, like gold, something that rich people from all around the world invest in. Mayfair is where the capitalists of mass media, i.e. footballers, rock stars and hedge fund managers come to be seen, to be obscene, a place to dominate through consumption.

Mayfair then feels like a big bubble, getting bigger and bigger.


Bentley, Bond Street, 2012, Robert Coxwell

Georgian Mansions reflecting off the bonet of an Aston Martin, Mount Street, Mayfair, 2012, Robert Coxwell