Both South Molton Lane and Avery Row follow the course of the Tyburn Brook, a stream which was arched over and made into a covered sewer in the 1720s in order to build the surrounding Mayfair. Much of this work was accomplished by a bricklayer, Henry Avery, from whom Avery Row takes its name.On the west side of Avery Row there are small shops built at various dates in the angles created by the side elevations of buildings in Brook Street or Grosvenor Street.
Brook Street was developed in the first half of the 18th century. It runs from Hanover Square to Grosvenor Square and takes its name from the Tyburn Brook which runs under South Molton Lane and Avery Row. The continuation of the street from Grosvenor Square to Park Lane is called Upper Brook Street. In the 18th century the street was sometimes referred to as Lower Brook Street to distinguish it from Upper Brook Street. Originally both sections of the street were made up of typical London terraced houses. Some of the original houses still remain today while others have been replaced by different buildings over the years. Robert Seymour described the street as ‘for the most part nobly built and inhabited by people of quality’. Later in the 19th century the street became a favoured place of residence for successful, often knighted, surgeons and physicians, including several who had attended to the Royal family. In 1860, more royalty came to Brook Street when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived at the famous Claridge’s Hotel. They were visiting the Empress Eugènie of France, who had made Claridge’s her winter quarters. Claridge’s impressive relations with royalty have even led to the hotel being referred to as an ‘extension of Buckingham Palace’. It is one of the smartest and oldest hotels in London and was set up during the first half of the 19th century by William and Marianne Claridge, neighbouring the once famous Mivart Hotel. In 1854 the Claridge’s bought the Mivart buildings and the hotel was known as ‘Claridge’s, late Mivarts’, up until the death of Mivart in 1856.
Between the early 18th century and 1910, the Haunch of Venison Tavern stood at the Brook Street entrance to this Yard, and from this it is possible the name derived from the specialty dish of the chef. The Haunch of Venison Yard is directly opposite number 25 Brook Street where the Baroque composer George Frederic Handel lived for over 30 years. It was here that he composed masterpieces such as ‘The Messiah’, ‘Zadok the Priest’ and ‘Fireworks’. He later died there in 1759. The townhouse has now been restored and converted into a museum where live music performances take place. The museum runs over into the upper floors of its neighbour, 23 Brook Street, which in contrast to the Baroque composer Handel, ironically was the home of rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix from 1968–9. The famous Haunch of Venison gallery was founded by Harry Blain and Graham Southern. In 2002, the gallery opened in Haunch of Venison Yard with an exhibition of Rachel Whiteread works best known for her sculptures. She was the first woman to win the Turner Prize in 1993. The gallery is due to return to its original site Haunch of Venison Yard this summer, after it temporarily relocated to Burlington Gardens in 2009.
Lancashire Court is a historic cobbled courtyard found in the heart of Mayfair. Filled with beautifully converted restaurants serving the best of British products which have been twisted by history to fit with a new modern culture, it is visited by London’s most perceptive residents. The Court was built between the 19th century and early 20th century.
South Molton Lane was built in the mid 18th century, formerly known as Avery’s Passage, but according to Rocque’s Map of 1746 it was called Poverty Lane. South Molton Lane continues into Avery Row across Brook Street.The world famous Grays Antique Market, which is at the epicentre of the art and antique dealing world, is situated on this lane in a charming grade II listed building. It was established by Bennie Gray in 1977. Originally the basement was under six feet of water due to the famous hidden Tyburn Brook. This small river was once a well known spot for reviving criminals who had been unsuccessfully hanged at the gallows on the ‘Tyburn Tree’ supposedly at Marble Arch. Above the world famous Grays Antique Market, lies London’s most secretive exhibition space, the Music Room.
South Molton Street runs between Oxford Street and Brook Street. Built in the mid 18th Century, South Molton Street formed part of the Corporation of London’s Conduit Mead Estate. In 1803 the English poet and painter William Blake and his wife moved into a 2nd floor flat at number 17 where he lived for the next 17 years. Despite a considerable amount of rebuilding in the 1900’s many of the original small Georgian houses survived and are still standing today. No 63 bares a plaque of the Corporations of London’s arms and is almost the only one still having its original ground floor windows. In 1970 Joan Burstein with her husband Sidney created the first shop, Browns. Once a small boutique housed at No 27, Browns rapidly became one of London’s main fashion destinations and is still a central attraction today. South Molton Street hides a secret, The River Tyburn, which is several meters underground. The river was diverted beneath the street in the 18th Century so that surrounding Mayfair could be built. The South Molton Street Association was formed in 1968, when Westminster City Council put forward the idea of pedestrianising the street after Carnaby Street had set the trend. The street then consisted of eight retailers and suffered from traffic being able to drive in both directions. The street remains pedestrianised to this day, much to the joy of the retailers and London shoppers. South Molton Street is home to fifty retailers and four coffee bars offering al fresco dining.