So this is it! We’ve circled the Monopoly board and we’ve come full circle, from the cheapest browns of Old Kent Road and Whitechapel Road to the most expensive purples of Park Lane and Mayfair. Interestingly, as far as we can tell, Mayfair is the only square on the Monopoly board that isn’t a specific street but that has never stopped us all from enjoying one of the world’s most famous board games and we’ve loved telling the stories of these iconic London streets so for the last time, sit back, relax and read the tales of the purples…
Park Lane (£350) Rent £35; 1 House £175; 2 Houses £500; 3 Houses £1,100; 4 Houses £1,300; Hotel £1,500
Park Lane is one of London’s most iconic thoroughfares. Running from Hyde Park Corner to Marble Arch, on one side is Hyde Park and on the other are some of the world’s best hotels including The Dorchester, the Four Seasons and the Grosvenor House as well as showrooms for Lamborghini, McLaren and Aston Martin.
You can smell the money as you walk up and down but it wasn’t always like that.
When Hyde Park opened in 1536 by King Henry VIII, Park Lane (then known as Tyburn Lane) was nothing more than a track separating farm boundaries. The village of Tyburn had existed since the 11th century (although it declined in the 14th) and became synonymous with hanging. For hundreds of years, it was the principal location for the execution of close to 50,000 of London’s criminals until 1783 when public executions ceased and for the next half-century or so, ownership of the land changed hands a number of times until around 1820 when Decimus Burton built Hyde Park Corner.
Hyde Park Corner, September 1969 © Leonard Bentley
The Grosvenor Estate constructed grand family mansions to attract the wealthy to the area and the road became lined with some of the largest private homes in London as well as fast becoming the city’s most fashionable address. Famous residents included the Dukes of Westminster, philanthropist Moses Montefiore, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Fred Astaire and black market fraudster Sidney Stanley.
In the early years of the 20th century, residential Park Lane started to make way for commercial Park Lane as residents began to complain about the growing noise and smell from cars and buses.
The Marriott opened in 1919, the Park Lane Hotel in 1927, the Grosvenor House in 1929 and The Dorchester in 1931 which became the haunt of choice for the legendary literary figures of the age such as Cecil Day-Lewis and Somerset Maugham.
© Spanish Coches
Park Lane is the second most expensive property on the Monopoly board and it’s paired with Mayfair that were designed to be the equivalents of Park Place and Boardwalk from the American version and as a final Park Lane fact, the World Monopoly Championships were held there in 1988!
Mayfair (£400) Rent £50; 1 House £200; 2 Houses £600; 3 Houses £1,400; 4 Houses £1,700; Hotel £2,000
As with the vast majority of London before the 17th century, Mayfair as it became known was predominantly open, muddy fields swamped by the River Tyburn but in 1686, King James II granted permission for a fair to be held there in May. The May Fair allowed those who had survived the plague to let their hair down and indulge in dancing, music and general merriment (which the authorities branded ‘lewd and disorderly practices’).
The May Fair was banned in 1764 because the moneyed classes who had moved in felt that it lowered the tone of the area. Suffice it to say, the area now had a name.
Claridges Hotel © Dave Hunt
The unusual story of how the seeds of modern-day Mayfair were sown is down to a 12-year old girl called Mary Davies.
She was the daughter of a wealthy financier and she inherited 100 acres of swampland to the east of Park Lane and to the south of Oxford Street. As she grew up, she married Sir Thomas Grosvenor and their son, Sir Richard Grosvenor developed Grosvenor Square and then branched out to Hanover Square, Clarges Street and Brook Street and they became the residences of choice for England’s minor royals and of the first 277 homes in the area, 117 had titled owners.
Other families were developing to the south and Mayfair quickly became the most desirable residential location in London. So much so that it prompted the canon of St. Paul’s, Reverend Sydney Smith to proclaim ‘the area contains more intelligence and human ability – to say nothing of wealth and beauty – than the world has ever collected in one space before.’
During World War II, the City came under heavy fire and a large number of businesses relocated to Mayfair. In 1939, close to 75% of the homes in the area were used as offices and it took 50 years for those commercial premises to revert back to private homes.
Berkeley Square © Herry Lawford
Famous residents have included Lord Nelson, composer Handel, statesmen Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden and Benjamin Disraeli, guitarist Jimi Hendrix and eponymous shopkeeper Harry Gordon Selfridge.
To end, here’s a fun Mayfair fact – HM The Queen was born at 17 Bruton Street, the home of her maternal grandfather and Prince Philip had his stag night at The Dorchester!