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Inigo Jones and the Origins of the London Mews

  • Giles Worsley


One of the defining characteristics of Georgian and Victorian London is the mews, a small building for horses and coaches at the rear of a terraced house, connected to it by a garden or yard, but approached from the street by a separate alley. As a building type the mews is a particularly British and overwhelmingly London phenomenon. It is so familiar, especially in Mayfair, Belgravia and South Kensington, that its existence is largely taken for granted. This article sets out to trace its hitherto unidentified origins, to show that like so much that we consider Georgian its roots lie in the middle years of the seventeenth century, and, in particular, to highlight the role played in its development by Inigo Jones.



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The initial research for this article was set out in a PhD thesis at the Courtauld Institute supervised by John Newman, The Design and Development of the Stahle and Riding House in Great Britain from the 13th Century to 1914 (doctoral thesis, London University, 1989, hereafter Stables).

1 Mews can be found in other large Georgian developments such as Edinburgh New Town and the principal colonial towns of America, but these all derive from the London model. Nowhere else is there such a large concentration of mews.

2 Perhaps surprisingly, SirSummerson’s, John, Georgian London (London, 1945, revised 1988), still the most comprehensive account of the development of London in this period, does not address the issue of the mews. Nor does the most recent relevant study of London town planning, McKellar’s, Elizabeth The Birth of Modern London: The Development and Design of the City 1660-1720 (Manchester and New York, 1999). Such books as have been published on London’s mews, particularly Rosen, Barbara and Zuckermann’s, Wolfgang The Mews of London (London, 1982) and Deckker’s, Sebastian Mews Style (London, 1998) do not examine its origins.

3 Moryson, Fynes, An Itinerary, III (London, 1617), p. 62 .

4 There is no detailed study that examines the arrival and impact of the coach in Britain. For a preliminary account see Worsley, Stables, pp. 51-54. See also Stone, Lawrence, ‘The Residential Development of the West End of London in the 17th century’, in Malament, Barbara C., After the Reformation (Manchester, 1980), pp. 177-80.

5 Worsley, Stables, pp. 20-49.

6 Sykes, Christopher Simon, Private Palaces (London, 1985), p. 45 .

7 Summerson, , Georgian London (1988), pp. 10, 1521 .

8 A close study of Ogilby and Morgan’s City of London map of 1676 ( Hyde, Ralph (ed.), The A to Z of Restoration London, London Topographical Society, 145 (1992)) proves the novelty of this building type. In particular, Moorfields, which is cited by Jules Lubbock as the model for the London square ( Lubbock, Jules, The Tyranny of Taste (New Haven and London, 1995), pp. 30–33 ), was not laid out with mews.

9 Harris, John, Orgel, Stephen and Strong, Roy, The King’s Arcadia: Inigo Jones and the Stuart Court (London, 1973), p. 185 .

10 Duggan, Dianne, ‘“London the Ring, Covent Garden the Jewell ofthat Ring”: New Light on Covent Garden’, Architectural History, 43 (2000), pp. 122 .

11 Sheppard, F. H. W. (ed.), The Survey of London, XXXVI (London, 1970), pp. 169, 180 .

12 Strype, John, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, 11 (London, 1720), bk VI, p. 93 .

13 Sheppard (ed.), torn, cit., p. 240.

14 Duggan, art. cit., figs 5 and 6.

15 Sheppard (ed.), tom. cit., pp. 72-73, pl. 1; Bruce, John, ‘Observations on a lease of Two Houses in the Piazza, Covent Garden, granted to Sir Edmund Verney, AD 1634’, Archaeologia, XXXV (1835), pp. 194201 .

16 Sheppard, (ed.), Survey, XXXVI, pp. 7273 , pl. 4.

17 SirGomme, Laurence, and Norman, Philip (eds), Survey of London, V (London, 1914) pp. 3839 . Hollar’s engraving, in the British Library, is reproduced in Barker, Felix and Jackson, Peter, London: 2000 years of a city and its people (London, 1974), pp. 136-37.

18 Latham, R. and Matthew, W. (eds), The Diary ofSamuel Pepys, IV (London, 1971),pp. 1718 .

19 SirGomme, Laurence, and Norman, Philip (eds), Survey of London,III (London, 1912), p. 26 .

20 Worsley, Stables, p. 122.


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