History of Shafto Mews, Belgravia 

Tucked off Sloane Street in Belgravia is an enticing-looking mews with an interesting backstory. This is the story of Shafto Mews.

Shafto Mews, Belgravia | Look Up London

Marking the entrance today is a fabulous archway, dating from c.1880. This grandiose opening connects mews with the surrounding terracotta mansions typified as Pont Street Dutch

The unique architectural term was coined by Sir Osbert Lancaster in the mid 20th century. It’s a nod to then striking red colour, gabled roofs and decorative embellishment found around Belgravia’s Pont Street.

You can get a sense of this style in Cadogan Square, where you have the grand mansions that were once served by the inhabitants of Shafto Mews.

Pont Street Dutch in Cadogan Square | Look Up London

However the development of Belgravia goes farther back than the 19th century. It had begun around 1777 when Charles Sloane Cadogan hired the Fulham-based architect Henry Holland to develop his land.

The Creation of Hans Town

The Cadogan family gained this London estate the generation before in 1717 when Charles’ father (confusingly also called Charles) married Elizabeth Sloane, the daughter of Hans Sloane whose huge collection kick-started the British Museum.

What would become known as Hans Town was a new town amidst fields, outside the edge of what was then perceived as London.

You can see on the John Rocque map of 1745 that the site below Knightsbridge is just fields.

Image Credit: www.layersoflondon.org (John Rocque Map 1746)

Skip forward 50 years and on the 1799 R. Horwood Map you can see the development taking shape with the building of Sloane Street (which I’ve highlighted with blue) and to its left, the oval garden of Hans Place surrounded by houses.

Image Credit: www.layersoflondon.org (R. Horwood 1799)

Sloane Place and The Pavilion 

Clearly enamoured with the new area he was working on, Henry Holland leased a chunk of land from the Cadogan Estate to build himself a lovely little mansion surrounded by fields.

It was known as Sloane Place and there’s a fabulous drawing of him looking the quintessential English aristocrat with Sloane Place in the background.

Image Credit: Public Domain

Sloane Place can also be see on the Horwood map, I’ve circled it in red below.

Image Credit: www.layersoflondon.org (R. Horwood 1799)

Built c.1780, Holland had moved in by 1789 and there were hothouses, a vinery, fruit trees, a Gothic ice-house and a ruined castle.

You can get an idea of the lavish surroundings in this engraving from 1911, showing how The Pavilion looked around 1811.

Holland died there in 1806, after which it was sold on to Peter Denys, who renamed it The Pavilion.

Peter, born 1760, was a talented draughtsman. He exhibited some pastels at 12 Charterhouse Square in 1779 then got a plum position as drawing master at Easton Neston house. Denys ended up marrying his pupil, Lady Charlotte Fermor and with her inheritance of £4,000 a year he bought Sloane Place.

Denys died here in 1816 and the property was later subdivided then demolished in 1874.

Today there are no physical reminders of the property but the house itself was roughly where Shafto Mews is today and the name ‘pavilion’ lives on with Pavilion Street and Pavilion Road.

Pavilion Road is a charming little pedestrianised street with lovely restaurants, shops and cafes. Also owned by the Cadogan Estate, they promote it as their ‘artisan hub’ and it’s well worth a wander down.

Interestingly you can also spy an original Hans Town bollard on Pavilion Road, a reminder of the area’s origins 200 years ago.

History of Shafto Mews

As mentioned above, the brick archway into the mews was built in c.1880.

Shafto Mews itself was built to house the people (and stable the horses) who were employed by famillies living in the surrounding grand mansions.

Because of the ‘ordinariness’ of the residents, it’s often hard to wheedle out stories from the mews, but I’ve tried to paint a picture below.

On the Charles Booth maps which indicate levels of wealth, the mews is marked as ‘fairly comfortable, good ordinary earnings’. The surrounding yellow, if you’re wondering, is ‘wealthy’. 

Image Credit: www.layersoflondon.org (Charles Booth Poverty Maps c.1890s)

We can find a personal example in the 1911 Census with the House family.

Originally from Dorset, the head of the household was Henry House (55) who worked as a domestic coachman. He lived there with his 29-year old son James and 26-year old daughter Alice. James was a publisher’s clerk and Alice was a dressmaker.

Reading through the census a clear theme in employment emerges. There were a further two coachmen, three chauffeurs, three grooms, a footman and a butler.

Judging by the house prices today there has been quite a change in just over 100 years. No.6 (a 4-bedroom) was sold in 2012 for £5.8m and No.10 (a 3-bedroom) was sold in 2022 for £3.6m

I was curious about the name and while I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer, the name might be related to the aristocratic Shafto family, in particular Robert Duncombe Shafto who was an MP for North Durham between 1847-1868 but had a house in Kensington at 18 Princes Gardens (now demolished).

I’d love to hear any other theories you have!

Today although Shafto mews is within a conservation area, none of the actual properties are listed, only the redbrick archway has a Grade II listing (granted in 1973).

You can find more about the secrets of Belgravia on my new walking tour. Live availability is shown below and you can read more about it here.

Belgravia: Behind the Facades

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Related Blog: Kensington’s Hole in the Wall

Within Kensington and Chelsea you can find another curious mews street with an intriguing story. Read more here.

Hole in the Wall, Kensington | Look Up London

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