If you’ve spent time walking around London, chances are you’ve looked up and noticed Blue Plaques on several buildings. The scheme, now run by English Heritage actually dates back to 1866, and the capital now has over 980 honouring notable people who lived or worked in the buildings they adorn. They make for interesting, trivia-packed walks around the city, and this time around, we’re heading on a Blue Plaques walking tour of Mayfair.
How to find Blue Plaques in London
If you haven’t been on Blue Plaque walk before, the easiest way to get started is by downloading the free app via Android or iPhone. Then you can see which ones are in your immediate vicinity or search by London Borough or by category.
Where to start your Mayfair Blue Plaque Walk
Mayfair is a very posh area of London. It’s located in the borough of the City of Westminster, close to Green Park and Piccadilly and is home to The Royal Academy of Arts, The Ritz and Bond Street. You can make your way round Mayfair easily from Piccadilly Circus, Green Park or Bond Street (Underground or Elizabeth Line) stations.
Musicians and Composer Blue Plaques in Mayfair
Bert Ambrose, Dance Band Leader (1896-1971)
Dance Band leader Bert Ambrose worked at The Mayfair Hotel, and lived in a flat there for six years on a contract that also included broadcasting, which was work around £10,000 a year – a decent amount for the 1920s. Although he was eventually asked to take a pay cut, he hot footed it back to his old haunt, The Embassy Club instead. That’s showbiz.
George Friedric Handel, Composer (1625-1759)
Eighteenth century German Composer Handel lived at 25 Brook Street (oddly, formerly No.57) for much of his life. He was living in this home when he composed his most famous work, Messiah in 1741, as well as other celebrated works including Zadok The Priest, written for the coronation of King George II in 1727. His home was also conveniently close to the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, where could stroll over to hear his operas being performed. And if you want to have a nosey at where he lived and worked, visit Handel & Hendrix in London at 23 Brook Street from May 2023.
Jimi Hendrix, Guitarist and Songwriter (1942-1970)
Famous American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Jimi Hendrix lived two doors down from Handel, separated by a mere couple of centuries! Still, the spirit of virtuoso musicianship was obviously strong on Brook Street, as Hendrix lived over two floors at No.23 as he was becoming a rock & roll star during 1968 and 1969, before returning to the US for tour. And you can find out more about the Handel/Hendrix connection at Brook Street, if you swing by No.23 once Handel & Hendrix in London reopens in Spring 2023.
Literary and Theatrical Blue Plaques in Mayfair
Nancy Mitford, Writer (1904-1973)
One of the six infamous Mitford sisters (who included jailed Nazi sympathiser Diana Mitford, and communist writer Jessica Mitford – complicated family, to say the least) Nancy was an author best known for the novels The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. Despite the media’s fascination with the Mitford family, novelist Nancy’s work is celebrated in its own right, and the Blue Plaque at 10 Curzon Street, former site of Heywood Hill bookshop where Nancy worked for three years from 1942-1945.
Fanny Burney A.K.A Madame D’arblay, Author (1752-1840)
18th Century Writer Fanny Burney was an author and diarist, whose work influenced Jane Austen and was described as “the mother of English Fiction” by Virginia Woolf. Burney changed her name after her marriage to Alexandre D’Arblay, and her novels included Cecilia and Camilla. She lived at the house on Bolton street after becoming widowed in her 60s, before moving to two other addresses in the area before her death in 1840.
Ann Oldfield, Actress (1683-1730)
London-born Ann Oldfied was one of the highest paid actresses of her time. That explains the Mayfair pad, which she lived in as the first occupant in 1725 until her death in 1730. She was one of the most celebrated performers in Theatreland. But, like today’s tabloid press – her personal life was the subject of gossip, partly due to a relationship with politician Arthur Maywaring. After her death at just 47, the house on Grosvenor Street was left to her sons, and the Blue Plaque was added in 1992.
Science & Medicine Blue Plaques in Mayfair
Florence Nightingale, Nurse and Reformer (1820-1910)
Famous for her pioneering work in nursing and hygiene standards, Italian born Florence Nightingale lived in a house at this Mayfair address for over 40 years, until her death in 1910. Although the original building has long since been demolished, this Blue Plaque serves as an honour to the ‘lady with the lamp’, best remembered for her work during the Crimean War, where she set up field hospitals and nursing teams to care for injured soldiers.
Sir George Cayley, Scientist and Aviation Pioneer (1773-1857)
Sir George Cayley made major contributions to early aviation and aeronautical design. Dubbed by many as “The Father of Aeronautics”, Cayley formulated the concept of a fixed wing aeroplane, and published a paper on the basic principles of aeroplane flight in 1809. The Blue Plaque can be found at his former home on Hertford Street.
Other notable sights and stop offs in Mayfair
There are plenty of other places to stop off on a walk around Mayfair. Watch a film at the beautiful Curzon Mayfair, explore art at The Wallace Collection, and escape the Bond Street crowds at Brown Street Gardens. The area is also home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, and if you feel like fine dining without the matching price guide, check out our guide to Michelin-starred lunch deals.