Mews is a chiefly British term formerly describing a row of stables, usually with carriage houses below and living quarters above, built around a paved yard or court, or along a street, behind large city houses, such as those of London, during the 17th and 18th centuries. The word may also refer to the lane, alley or back street onto which such stables open. It is sometimes applied to rows or groups of garages or, more broadly, to a narrow passage or a confined place. Today most mews stables have been converted into dwellings, some greatly modernised and considered highly desirable residences.
The term mews is plural in form but singular in construction, and arose from "mews" in the sense of a building where birds used for falconry are kept. Originating in London, its use has spread to parts of Canada and the United States (see, for example, Washington Mews in Greenwich Village, New York City).
From 1377 onwards the king's falconry birds were kept in the King's Mews at Charing Cross. The name remained when it became the royal stables starting in 1537. It was demolished in the early 19th century and Trafalgar Square was built on the site. The present Royal Mews was then built in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The stables of St James's Palace, which occupied the site where Lancaster House was later built, were also referred to as the "Royal Mews" on occasion, including on John Rocque's 1740s map of London.
Mews lost their equestrian function in the early 20th century when motor cars were introduced. At the same time, after World War I and especially after World War II, the number of people who could afford to live in the type of houses which had a mews attached fell sharply. Some mews were demolished or put to commercial use, but the majority were converted into homes. These "mews houses", nearly always located in the wealthiest districts, are themselves now fashionable residences.
- Washington Mews
- Part of Belgravia in London - There are numerous mews on this map of Belgravia. Belgrave Square has mews on each of its four sides, although one of them is called Montrose Place.