If you're not British, chances are that the title of this post is making you think cats. As much as I would personally love to dwell upon all things feline, I'd like you to think of horses instead. Good. Let us proceed.
As Wikipedia will tell you, and as I learnt as a student of City Design in London a few years back, Mews is one of those British English oddities that actually describes a row of stables built around a (mostly) cobbled street or square and dating from the 17th and 18th Centuries. Hence horses. However, if you think the fauna references end here, you're wrong. The term actually originates from the 'mews' or partitioned row of quarters that were used to keep falcons! And why 'mews' then? Oh, you see, the term actually originates from the French term 'muer', which means 'to change', and which was used because the falcons were kept in these quarters when they were changing..er..moulting. Go figure. Is the mind sufficiently boggled? Glad to be of service.
In those wonderful times, when people engaged in dreaming up confusing names for simple things, these mews were usually attached to the properties of wealthy families in London, and the stable hands or servants would live in small quarters above the stables themselves. So the mews were actually stables-sum-servant-quarters with a mini community space in the street or square around which they were built. Over time, they went on to become infamous for their seediness and filth - places where the rich and cultured would never set foot.
Today, however, in keeping with the great tradition of boggling the mind, these are some of the most coveted properties in London and have a slew of famous names attached to them. From the outside they look nearly the same as they did three centuries back, but the insides have gone from smelly shabby stables to the poshest modern conversions one can think of. You would be hard pressed to find a mews property under a couple of million these days (yes, that's in pound sterling) and at a supply of only about ten thousand of such charming dwellings with an actual community of their own in London, it isn't hard to see why.
Welcome to the mews of Kensington in London.
Of peaceful cobbled streets, arched entrances and winding alleyways...
Of picture-book prettiness and quaint quirkiness...
Of famous names - past and present.
I spent an afternoon roaming around in the mews of Kensington, under the threat of looming skies about to burst any moment - the winter greyness that I so hate. Amazingly though, this grey light lent a very contextual atmosphere to my flaneuring this day, making my experience all the more surreal and wonderful. I sighed and sighed, wishing I were living here and wondering how many banks I'd have to rob in order to buy one of these. Perhaps some of you should start paying me for writing this blog and taking so many pictures! About time, I say. Hmmph.