With its heart of Mayfair location and its historic and popularized position as the essence of London grandeur, Berkeley Square is a fascinating piece of real estate. From British aristocratic history to pop culture references and haunted houses, this is one of London’s most fabled squares.
Originally designed in the mid 18th century by architect William Kent, Berkeley Square is one of the most attractive squares for visitors arriving on flights to London.
The square features a statue made in 1858 by Pre-Raphaelite artist, Alexander Munro as well as some of the oldest London Plane trees in central London (planted in 1789).
Named after the noble Gloucestershire family of the same name whose London residence, Berkeley House was here until 1733, to mention this mostly residential square is tantamount to suggesting the epitome of English affluence and privilege. Indeed, many of Berkeley Square’s residents are still titled or peeraged gentry.
With such an enviable reputation, Berkeley Square has served as muse for writers. It is the inspiration for the popular song, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” with lyrics by Eric Maschwitz and music by Manning Sherwin and Jack Strachey. Published in 1940, it was first performed in the show New Faces by Judy Campbell and subsequently has been performed by such notable, and varied, musicians as Rod Stewart, Nat King Cole, Glenn Miller, Stephane Grappelli, Bobby Darin, Mel Torme and Harry Connick Jr.
The Manhattan Transfer won a Grammy in 1981 for their rendition of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. This famous Square also has a TV mini-series named after it. The 1998 mini-series tells the story of three young women working as nannies and was based upon the 1933 film of the same name.
50 Berkeley Square is known as the most haunted house in Great Britain. Today, this assuming Georgian townhouse is occupied by antiquarian booksellers, Maggs Brothers, but reports and sightings of paranormal activities date to the Victorian era. The earliest report of 50 Berkeley Square’s hauntings involves the story of a young girl who lived in the house in the 1700s. According to legend, the girl was killed in a top floor room by a deranged servant.
As the story goes, she can sometimes be seen staring out upon the square from a top floor window. Another spooky account is of a girl who, attempting to evade an abusive uncle, climbed from a window and fell to her death. This story is accompanied by tales of a screaming ghost handing from the window ledge of this building. A number of gruesome and ghastly are associated with the address as well.
Be it ghost hunting, a walk through history or simply searching for a leafy and attractive spot for lunch or a few minutes’ rest, Berkeley Square is an ideal place to visit.