Make your stay that little bit more special with The Ritz Blue Plaque tour; a famous history walk in London around St James’s & Mayfair. Explore here.
Our local neighbourhood surrounding The Ritz is an area rich with history. A stay at The Ritz wouldn’t be complete without a London history tour of the Blue Plaques in St James’s and Mayfair, commemorating the many philosophers, artists, scientists, writers, politicians and even royalty who lived and worked just a hop and a skip from 150 Piccadilly. Let’s go!
Sir Henry Pelham
You don’t have to travel far to reach the first stop on our tour. Former Prime Minister Sir Henry Pelham hired architect, William Kent, in 1743 to build his residence at 22 Arlington Street, St James’s, which is now, William Kent House, which adjoins The Ritz.
Polish composer and pianist, Frédéric Chopin lived just around the corner at 4 St James’s Place. During his time living here he gave his very last public performance at a gala benefit at Guildhall in the City for the Friends of Poland.
Field Marshal Horatio Herbert, Earl Kitchener of Khartoum
Best known for the appearing on the emblematic ‘Your country needs you’ poster of the First World War, Army Officer and Secretary of State, Lord Kitchener, lived at 2 Carlton Gardens, St James’s.
General Charles de Gaulle
Just a couple of doors down, French Army Officer and Former President of France, General Charles de Gaulle, set up the Headquarters of the Free French Forces government‑in‑exile in June 1940 at 4 Carlton Gardens, St James’s after the Fall of France in World War II.
English portrait painter and landscape artist, Thomas Gainsborough, lived at 82 Pall Mall, St James’s. Gainsborough was also a founding member of the Royal Academy, located a moment from The Ritz on Piccadilly.
Sir Isaac Newton
Mathematician, physicist, astronomer and philosopher, Sir Isaac Newton lived at 87 Jermyn Street. Newton came to Jermyn Street in 1696, having been appointed as Master of the Mint, a position he held until his death. He originally lived at number 88 until 1700, before moving next door to 87, where he remained until autumn 1709.
Lady Nancy Astor
Politician and the first female MP to sit in parliament, Lady Nancy Astor lived at 4 St James’s Square when she wasn’t at her country residence, Cliveden House, in Buckinghamshire.
Sir Joshua Reynolds
Portrait Painter, Former President of the Royal Academy and rival of Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, lived at 47 Leicester Square. Moving to Leicester Square at just 17 years old, Reynolds built an extension on the house of studios and a gallery. A descendant noted that ‘Everybody in the house painted . . . the coachman and the man servant Ralph and his daughter, all painted, copied and talked about pictures’.
Sir Henry Irving
Strolling over to Mayfair, English stage actor and the first actor to receive a knighthood, Sir Henry Irving lived at 15a Grafton Street. Irving spent the most prosperous years of his career in Grafton Street, where his dining room overlooked the boutiques of Bond Street.
Fashion Designer and Dressmaker, Jean Muir had a grand showroom and office on the first floor of 22 Bruton Street, Mayfair from the inception of her company Jean Muir Ltd in 1966. Here she hosted house model and muse, Joanna Lumley, and esteemed clients including Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench.
Charles X, the last Bourbon King of France, resided at 72 South Audley Street, Mayfair whilst in exile between 1805 and 1814 during the French revolutionary wars.
Champion of legal rights for women who were separated from their husbands, Caroline Norton was instrumental in the passing of the 1839 Custody of Infants Act, also known as the first piece of feminist legislation. Norton was also a highly regarded writer during her lifetime. Her blue plaque at 3 Chesterfield Street, Mayfair marks the house she lived in for over 30 years and the final stop on our tour.
Back to The Ritz
There you have it! Luckily, it’s just a short walk back to The Ritz as our historical Blue Plaque tour is sure to have worked up an appetite for a well‑deserved spot of afternoon tea or lunch in The Ritz Restaurant.