It is unsurprising then that mews-style houses are some of London's most sought-after properties, but they come from unexpectedly humble beginnings. If you dream of owning a mews property, read our article to find out more.
What is a mews property?
The buildings we now call mews properties were built as stables and coach houses in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their original purpose was as a stable for horses and carriages, incorporated into the ground floor layout, with living space provided on the floor above. These stables and carriage houses were converted into mews homes in the early 20th century.
Usually found in cobbled lanes, these low-level stable blocks sat behind the more palatial residential townhouses to which they belonged. Despite their relatively humble origins, mews properties have become highly desirable dwellings. Though mews buildings can be found in other cities in the UK, they are generally associated with London.
The first London mews were built in the 13th century for royal falcons to shed their feathers. The word mew comes from the French word mue, meaning moult. Over the centuries, the Royal Mews began to be used to stable horses and house royal coaches with living accommodation above for the staff.
As London expanded in the Georgian era, grand terraces of townhouses were built, but space was needed to accommodate horses, coaches and servants away from the main home. Mews were constructed in a row at the back of the property with access via a separate lane.
Most mews houses had stables and space to place a coach at the bottom with servants' quarters above. Mews houses have no windows at the back to prevent servants from seeing into the garden of the main property.
Why are they so appealing?
The main appeal of mews properties is their central location. Because they were built close to squares of townhouses in some of London's most wealthy neighbourhoods, mews houses can be found in London's most prized locations, including Knightsbridge. A central location means that mews properties are situated near a wide range of amenities and attractions.
Aside from location, mews properties tend to be tucked away down quieter streets, away from the faster pace of the world nearby. Their comparative seclusion adds to their charm, while the mews streets also boast attractive exteriors and period features, almost in the same tradition and style as a country 'chocolate-box' cottage.
Parking outside a mews property is not uncommon, and some of these properties have garages intact. In addition, a mews street often feels safe, private and secure, which will always appeal to buyers. For those who like to have close neighbours and enjoy a sense of community in central London, mews properties are ideal.
Where are mews homes found in London?
There are many sought-after mews properties around London, many of which are hidden gems nestled away from the busy roads.
Many mews homes can be found in the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea. Cranley Mews in South Kensington is one of the longest rows of mews properties, while mews houses featured on TV include Holland Park Mews and St Luke's Mews in Notting Hill.
Kynance Mews, situated between Gloucester Road and Launceston Place, is another well-known row of mews, even more notable due to their pastel facades.
In Westminster, the cobbled road where Weymouth Mews nestles nestled between Weymouth Street and New Cavendish Street is easy to miss. As well as having early beginnings as stables and carriage accommodation before conversion work took place in the 19th century, Weymouth Mews was the location of an ambulance station during World War II.
What should buyers and investors look out for?
Developers have, by and large, improved the interiors of many mews properties, remodelling them to enlarge and reconfigure the space. The main downside of mews properties is that they can be small inside. However, they tend not to be listed, allowing developers and owners greater freedom to remodel the interiors. This could mean excavating into the basement, adding a third level, extending into the roof space, or installing a roof terrace.
Rooms inside a mews house can be small unless the property has been remodelled into an open-plan space. Many mews properties don't have windows at the back or side, making the interiors dark. Modern lighting design will solve this problem, but lighting might still be a key consideration for anyone looking to buy a mews property.
Original features of a mews property to look out for include timber beams, sash windows and coach house doors.
Mews property: Pros
We adore mews streets, and the list of advantages if you are lucky enough to live in one is long. We have limited ourselves to three highlights:
Tenure - Most mews houses are owned freehold, meaning you will own the building and the land it stands on with no time limit. So, unlike other small central London properties sold as leasehold
, there are no service charges and no lease agreement to adhere to.
Privacy and security - Mews houses are built on quiet cobbled streets set back from the main roads. There is virtually no street-level noise because mews lanes don't have through traffic. There is a sense of community on mews streets where your neighbours will watch your home when you are away.
Garage space – Because they evolved from stables and coach houses, many mews houses have space to accommodate a car.
Mews Property: Cons
Mews living isn't for everyone. In the interest of balance, here are three downsides to living in a London mews house.
Windows and lighting - Owing to their original purpose, mews houses usually only have small windows at the front and none at the back. The rooms tend to be small rooms with low ceilings. Many mews properties have skylights added to enhance the natural light.
Gardens - Most mews houses do not have a garden, although a small number have a roof terrace.
Alterations - Most Mews are in conservation areas, and some are listed. Therefore, you must comply with various regulations to extend or alter your property. This could include small things like the colour you paint your front door.
If you want to buy a mews property in central London, either to live in or as an investment, Plaza Estates can help. Contact us today.