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  1. Blog
  2. What is a mews house?
Advice about properties
05 July 2023

What is a mews house?

Sam Edwards
Senior Writer & Researcher
What is a mews house? GetAgent

Table of contents

  1. 1. What is a mews street?
  2. 2. What is a mews house?
  3. 3. What do mews houses look like?
  4. 4. Why did mews houses become popular?
  5. 5. Mews properties and tenures
  6. 6. Where in the UK are the most iconic mews houses?
  7. 7. Summary: Have you heard the mews?

Searching for a dream home can reveal a lot of interesting archaisms and jargon. Some readers may have heard the term 'mews' to describe a road or property. But what does mews actually mean, and where did the term originate? Let's take a deep dive into 'mews' and identify their most common features.

What is a mews street?

Mews are cobbled, traffic-free streets usually found to the rear of Georgian, Edwardian or Victorian manor houses. Though their largest concentration is in London, mews streets can be found in most countries with considerable British influence. For example, there are mews streets in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, as well as many cities in the United States.

Why do we call them 'mews'?

The term 'mews' has been traced back to the Royal Mews, a grand stable built for the young King Richard II at Charing Cross in 1377 AD to house his pet falcons. The stables took on the name 'mews' because the birds of prey would moult their feathers all over the stable floor. In those days, moulting was called mewing, a word which stems from the french term 'muer' - to moult.

Mews eventually became synonymous with the cobbled streets situated in the backyards of 18th century townhouses in Central London. These streets were predominantly filled with stables and coach houses.

What is a mews house?

A mews property is a style of residential dwelling that has been converted from a stables or coach house. Over the last hundred years, the remnants of these buildings have been converted into residential properties. Most mews houses are typically small, two or three-story homes, located on private, cobbled streets.

Why were mews houses built?

As London expanded westwards in the 18th and 19th centuries, stately homes sprung up in areas such as Kensington and Mayfair. These wealthy news homeowners needed living space for their equestrian interests and servants. Mews streets were a fashionable choice.

On a quiet street to the rear of the manor, coach drivers and stableboys could sleep in the mews house quarters above the carriage houses and stables. Traditionally, there were passages running beneath the mews houses to the manor's back gardens. This feature allowed servants to pass to and from manor without disturbing the wealthy owners.

What do mews houses look like?

So what are the key characteristics to look out for with a mews property? Let's take a look:

1. Cosy, quiet and compact

Because of their humble origins as stables and coach houses, many mews houses are known for their cosy, compact living spaces. Their ground floor is usually large (having once sheltered horses and carriages), with smaller rooms along the top floor. In London, mews houses are usually accompanied by quiet cobbled streets, though this isn't always the case.

2. Charming architectural designs

Mews houses often have charming architectural styles and details such as decorative brickwork, arched doorways, and sash windows which reflect the period in which they were built, with many evoking Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian influences.

3. No gardens or on-street parking

Due to their previous role as servants quarters, most mew properties don't have gardens - this can be a no-go for some homeowners, but many are willing to take the plunge for a quaint home in the city centre.

Mews streets are often private, with on-street parking generally not permitted. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your tastes. To compensate, some mews properties have been renovated with garages, allowing for off-street parking.

Traditionally, mews properties often lacked windows at the rear as a deliberate design choice to maintain the privacy of the grand houses and gardens from the view of stableboys and others associated with the stables. However, over time, many mews homes have undergone significant renovations and transformations. As a result, rear windows have become a common feature in modern mews properties, allowing for improved natural light and views of the surroundings.

Are they expensive?

Yes, mews houses are usually on the more expensive side! Their close proximity to city centres, cosy aesthetic, and narrow cobbled lanes have proven highly attractive attributes to homebuyers across the UK. In recent years, house prices have exploded, with most East London mews properties often valued in the millions. We analysed some of the latest London mews listings and found an average value of at least £1.3 million.

In the early to mid-20th century, the demand for mews houses diminished as motor vehicles became more prevalent, and stables and carriage houses became less necessary. But then at the tail-end of the 20th century, there was a resurgence of interest. Why?

1. Change in demand

The latter half of the 20th century saw a shift in taste as a new middle class emerged. Smaller, more compact homes grew in popularity and the demand for central locations increased. Mews houses, with their character-filled interiors, and quiet streets became a sought-after option.

2. Gentrification

As urban areas underwent rapid change, mews houses presented attractive opportunities for redevelopment. Their proximity to the hustle and bustle, along with their potential for conversion into something more stylish and modern, made them appealing to homebuyers and developers.

3. Appreciation of heritage

There's a certain old world charm to be enjoyed. Despite their initial purpose to stable horses and house servants, these quaint little properties are reminiscent of a time gone by - and this can be all the more compelling in a modern, urban setting.

Mews properties and tenures

Mews houses are predominantly sold as leasehold properties rather than freehold. This means that homeowners have ownership rights for a specified period, as outlined in the lease agreement with the freeholder (the landowner).

Leasehold ownership is a prevalent practice, particularly in urban areas where mews properties are common. The duration of the lease can vary, often ranging from 99 years to 999 years, providing long-term security. The lease agreement specifies the rights and responsibilities of both the leaseholder and the freeholder, covering aspects such as ground rent, maintenance obligations, and property management.

Leasehold ownership allows the freeholder to retain control over the overall management and upkeep of the mews houses within the development or estate. This entails responsibilities such as repairs, insurance arrangements, and the maintenance of communal areas.

While leasehold is the norm for mews houses, there are instances where a mews property may be sold as freehold. This can happen when a property has been converted or if specific arrangements have been made by the developer or previous owner. It is crucial to carefully review the terms of ownership when considering the purchase of a mews house to understand the specific rights and obligations involved.

For information on selling a leasehold property, check out our helpful guide.

Where in the UK are the most iconic mews houses?

As mentioned earlier, London has the highest concentration of mews houses, with Central and Western areas being the most common. Here are some of the most popular locations:

  • Knightsbridge: An affluent suburb in Westminster, Knightsbridge is home to high-end residences, with mews houses tucked away in private enclaves.
  • Kensington: The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea features several mews house-lined streets, particularly in neighbourhoods like South Kensington, Kensington Gardens, and Holland Park.
  • Notting Hill: This vibrant and trendy area in the Kensington and Chelsea borough is known for its colourful houses and mews streets.
  • Mayfair: A prestigious area in Westminster, Mayfair boasts luxury properties, including mews houses, often tucked away in quiet lanes and squares.
  • Marylebone: Situated in the City of Westminster, Marylebone is a sought-after residential neighbourhood with mews houses that have been converted into stylish homes.
  • Primrose Hill: Located in the London Borough of Camden, Primrose Hill is a picturesque area with mews houses nestled around Primrose Hill Park.
  • Hampstead: This affluent area in the London Borough of Camden features a stunning mix of period properties, including mews houses, particularly around Hampstead Village.

Summary: Have you heard the mews?

With so much change and development happening in some of our major cities, it's reassuring to know that some of our most iconic properties have retained their visual, historical significance.

We hope you found our article on mews houses enlightening. If you do spot such a property on your travels, why not have a nosy around the area? Many mews developments were originally established in close proximity to grand townhouses, and these townhouses are often situated near significant historical landmarks or prestigious neighbourhoods.

Pickering Place, located in the St. James's area of the City of Westminster, is one of the smallest public squares in London and one of the oldest mews buildings in the UK... It’s also just a nine minute walk from Buckingham palace!

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