Sunday, 19 April 2009

Bond Street Tube to Masons Yard

This is not the most obvious of walks through London. Starting at Bond Street Tube Station, which is actually in Oxford Street, the route takes you through Mayfair and past some of the biggest names in retailing, aimed at London’s more affluent clientele, before finally arriving at the White Cube Gallery in Mason’s Yard. This walk will justify Mayfair’s premier position on the Monopoly board.

Upmarket South Molton Street is situated close to Bond Street Tube and is on the edge of Mayfair. This fashionable, pedestrian only street leads on to Brook Street and the former homes of both Jimi Hendrix and Handl. At the peak of his fame Hendrix lived here from 1968 to 1970 with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. Handl lived at 25 Brook Street 250 years before Hendrix moved in at 23. No 25 is now the Handl House Museum. So why no Hendrix Museum?

Turn right into Bond Street and experience the glamour of London’s most expensive shops ranging from art dealers and auctioneers to Asprey and Tiffany’s. For some reason Bond Street becomes New Bond Street at a junction that contains one of London’s strangest statues. It’s of Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt sitting on a park bench with enough room for a tourist to sit between them and have a photograph taken. It’s London’s equivalent of the ‘head through the hole’ seaside photo booth. Called ‘Allies’ and designed by Lawrence Holofcenter it was a gift from the Bond Street Association to the City Of Westminster. This unusual landmark was unveiled by Princess Margaret on 2 May 1995.

Half way down New Bond Street is Burlington Arcade. Opened in 1819 it was Britain’s first ever shopping arcade and is now home to shops selling luxury items such as vintage watches, antiques and connoisseur writing materials. Since it first opened the Arcade has been protected by Beadles, liveried guards wearing traditional Edwardian frock coats and gold braided top hats. Originally recruited only from the 10th Hussars they are there to prevent anyone from whistling, singing, playing musical instruments, running, carrying large parcels, opening umbrellas or pushing babies in prams. These regulations bring on an overwhelming desire to whistle while carrying a large parcel in a childs buggy while walking through the arcade.

Cross Piccadilly, past the Royal Academy of Arts and Fortnum & Masons and into Duke Street in a part of London known as St James. Masons Yard can only be found via a narrow alley next to the Chequers Tavern. This pub dates back to 1666 and gained its name from Coachmen who drank and played chequers while waiting for their masters to finish their evening.

The White Cube Gallery is in Masons Yard and always worth a visit.
Map of Bond Street Tube Station to Mason's Yard

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