south molton street: from its fascinating history to cosy cafes

Tucked away in the heart of Mayfair, South Molton Street is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. For a unique experience in the heart of London, wander down the charming pedestrianised street to discover designer boutiques, gourmet eateries, and a slice of the capital’s rich history.

South Molton Street’s history: a stroll through time

With a history that dates back centuries, Mayfair is a warren of intersecting streets, each with its own story. As E. Beresford Chancellor puts it in Wanderings in London, Piccadilly, Mayfair, and Pall Mall: “it is an extensive and intricate area, and a summer’s day might well be exhausted before we had investigated all the twists and turns of its maze-like complexity.”

South Molton Street’s history can be traced back to 1721 when it was first developed as part of Sir Thomas Grosvenor’s creation of Mayfair, marking the edge of the Mayfair estate along the course of the Tyburn River, which now runs underneath the street. Its current form appears on maps during the development of The Conduit Mead Estate, a slice of land with a spring that offered fresh drinking water for residents. Keep a look out for South Molton Lane, once known as Shug Lane. Alluding to the archaic word ‘shug’ meaning ‘to crawl’ or ‘to sneak’, the street’s original name hints at its storied past. 

Today South Molton Street is a fashionable shopping destination, but during the 1800s the area was occupied by printers, saddle makers and wax chandlers. It underwent extensive rebuilding around 1900, resulting in a blend of Georgian and Victorian architecture, giving a delightful backdrop for amblers, ramblers, shoppers and sightseers.

Famous residents of South Molton street: politicians and poets

Many illustrious and literary names have made South Molton Street their London home. The Labour politician Ernest Bevin – who played a key role in the formation of NATO – lived on Molton Street for 34 years from 1931. The visionary poet and artist William Blake lived at number 17 for two decades (look out for the plaque). He moved from the countryside in Sussex to South Molton Street in the early 1800s. Sadly, despite his optimism on returning to the city, his time on the street was marked by mental ill health and poverty – though Blake did create some of his most celebrated works in this period.

South Molton Street is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Photo: Shane Global/Creative Commons (cc-by-2.0)
South Molton Street is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Photo: Shane Global/Creative Commons (cc-by-2.0)

Shopping extravaganza: luxury awaits

South Molton Street offers many delights for the eager shopper. Among the designer boutiques found on the street today, Les 100 Ciels stands out with its contemporary cashmere collections and high-quality woollen apparel. Renowned British jewellers Annoushka has its flagship boutique on South Molton Street, where Annoushka Ducas showcases her own collections alongside a selection of guest designers. For fans of beautiful ancient objects, Grays – an indoor art and antiques market – is a cornucopia of delights. And if you’re looking to update your wardrobe, then since the 1970s Browns Brook Street has been driving fashion trends in one of London’s best-dressed districts. A must-visit for the fashion-forward. 

If you feel like you’ve soaked up the best of South Molton Street, then Oxford Street, Savile Row, Mount Street and Bond Street are all just around the corner.

Eating and drinking: South Molton Street’s culinary delights

After indulging in South Molton Street’s shopping scene, the thoroughfare offers plenty of choices to sit and satisfy your inevitable hunger. Quaint cafes, stylish bistros, and gourmet restaurants line the street. 

For quick, healthy fare The Salad Kitchen is on hand to build delectable lunches for the conscious consumer. If you’re looking for somewhere cosy for a bite and a hot drink, The Everbean Cafe feels like a true local’s haunt. For an evening meal or a sip of something stronger, Jak’s Mayfair offers an unforgettable experience. Housed in a 4-storey townhouse, Jak’s brings together a collection of restaurants, lounges and bars – so whatever your mood or whim you’ll be sure to find succour there.

Indoor art and antiques market Grays is a cornucopia of delights. Courtesy: Grays
Indoor art and antiques market Grays is a cornucopia of delights. Courtesy: Grays
Getting to South Molton Street

Though the street itself is accessible only on foot, South Molton Street is easily reached by taxi or public transport. Most conveniently for those visiting from outside of Mayfair, Bond Street tube station is just a short walk away. 

A charming streetscape with boutiques, diverse dining, and a unique history, South Molton Street promises a wonderful experience in one of London’s most refined districts. We hope you enjoy discovering this hidden Mayfair gem.

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