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Adam Dant’s West End Squares

June 12, 2019
by the gentle author

Cartographer Extraordinaire Adam Dant has been making forays from his home in Shoreditch up to the West End and this pair of characteristically ingenious maps of St James’s Sq and Berkeley Sq are the most recent outcomes of his explorations and discoveries in this unknown land

Click to enlarge and explore St James’ s Square

Unlike many other public squares in London, St James’s Square is in possession of a certain aloof, upper crust aura in keeping with the private finance offices and gentlemen’s clubs that hide behind its well attended facades.

Dirty, smelly dogs are no more permitted into the gardens here than they would be in The London Library, The East India Club or the headquarters of British Petroleum, although my own dog is welcomed as a regular visitor at the nearby Christie’s auction house, possibly by dint of his diminutive size, impeccable manners and Scottish heritage.

Whilst sketching from a bench in the square beneath the statue of King William III, I noticed that not very much appeared to be going on in this square. Such an atmosphere of restraint in a public arena prompts all manner of fanciful notions as to the real identities, activities and motivations of passers-by. Much in the same vein as a novel by London Library habitué Grahame Greene, visitors to St James’s square assume the mantle of the Russian spy visiting a dead letterbox, the covert couple conducting an illicit love affair or the minor royal jogging incognito. The real action here has to be invented as nobody is giving anything away.

Secrecy is the order of the day at The Royal Institute of International Affairs, better known as Chatham House whose famous ‘Chatham House Rules’ guarantee speakers at their events the requisite anonymity to encourage the sharing of sensitive information. Until recently, the church of Rome managed to keep their ownership of a handsome townhouse in the square under wraps, having purchased it with money from Mussolini.

It is in the same spirit that this topographical depiction of the square prompts the viewer to speculate as to the general goings-on of the characters portrayed and animate their stories, according to the roster of St James’s ‘types’ shown around the border.

Click to enlarge and explore Berkeley Square

The salubrious plains of Berkeley Square are viewed in this panorama from south to north, as if from Lansdowne House, whose gardens would have provided the original prospect of this perennially desirable London address.

On the west side, a ‘nameless thing’ closely resembling some kind of octopus by those who have had the misfortune of encountering this resident of London’s most haunted building, slithers from the doorway of the former HQ of  Maggs’ bookshop. Young rakes who have accepted the challenge of staying in the house overnight as a wager have been discovered in the morning, dead from heart failure.

Further north, the latest incarnation of Annabel’s, the super-trendy hangout for the nouveaux riche, Ukranian asset managers wives,  the O.P.M wranglers and the generally ‘leisured louche,’ is  guarded by liveried doormen in ‘peaky blinder’ flat caps and the lurid tweeds of celebrity ‘ratters.’

Speeding round the corner to Farm St is an e-type jag from the recent ‘Man from Uncle,’ no doubt en route to Guy Ritchie’s pub ‘The Punchbowl.’ Shops on Mount St are indicated by their products on the street corner, such as a Porsche outside their dealership and a fountain pen and envelope for ‘Mount Street Stationers’ .

On the north side is Phillip’s auction house who are hosting a sale of Barry Flanagan’s hare sculptures, which a couple of porters are having trouble coaxing through the big glass doors. Next door is Morton’s, the private club most famously patronised by the dashing early lovers of speed and the internal combustion engine, where two ‘Bentley Boys’ vehicles are parked outside.

The south end of the square is where the locals leave their rubbish for collection, this is comprised of a skip full of unwanted banknotes and a couple of wheelie bins labelled for surplus sushi.

Inside the square, care-worn by retail therapy on Bond St or striving for wealth creation in the Georgian townhouses of Curzon St, the Berkeley Square types depicted in the border of the map relax and enjoy the arts committee’s sculptural offerings, including the return of the equine statue of George lll as Marcus Aurelius. It had been removed when, due to faulty bronze casting, the legs of the horse started to bow.

The two elegantly-clad ladies from the thirties entering the gates on the south side have stepped straight out of a painting of the square by Stanislawa De Karlowska. Their presence is redolent of more genteel times in Mayfair as captured in the song which made it famous throughout the world and, hanging on the railings is a poster for “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ as performed tonight by Judy Campbell” (muse of Noel Coward and mother of Jane Birkin).





Adam Dant’s MAPS OF LONDON & BEYOND is a mighty monograph collecting together all your favourite works by Spitalfields Life‘s Contributing Cartographer in a beautiful big hardback book.

Including a map of London riots, the locations of early coffee houses and a colourful depiction of slang through the centuries, Adam Dant’s vision of city life and our prevailing obsessions with money, power and the pursuit of pleasure may genuinely be described as ‘Hogarthian.’

Unparalleled in his draughtsmanship and inventiveness, Adam Dant explores the byways of London’s cultural history in his ingenious drawings, annotated with erudite commentary and offering hours of fascination for the curious.

The book includes an extensive interview with Adam Dant by The Gentle Author.

Adam Dant’s  limited edition prints are available to purchase through TAG Fine Arts

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 12, 2019

    Brilliant stuff with fantastic details (I particularly love all the various characters around the borders – genius!)

    I often park in St James Square while delivering ‘zhush’ to Fortnums so it is great to see it celebrated in this way…

  2. June 12, 2019

    Thank you for this very informative map. Its fortunate that I saw it this morning as I was about to fill in my application to join Boodles of St James Gentleman’s Club . Having seen that dirty smelly dogs are excluded from the square, I realize that my application will have not a chance of succeeding as my cat would have been part of my application to join. Unfortunately Branston a tabby rescued from the dustbins of Enfield has a tendency to jump on your lap whilst you are taking refreshment and I am sure would act as severe source of disruption to the serene atmosphere in the dining area if fish pate is being served .

  3. Chris Webb permalink
    June 12, 2019

    Ada Lovelace lived in St James’s Square, and didn’t Bertie Wooster live in Berkeley Square?

    I’ve often thought the London Library would be a good retirement project – buy a life membership (OAP discount!) and spend your days soaking up the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the human race.

  4. Carmen permalink
    June 12, 2019

    I keep wanting to find Waldo.

  5. Annie permalink
    June 12, 2019

    One thing about St James Square, the garden is open to the public during the day which is more than alot of other garden squares are – in fact I was in there this very afternoon, sheltering from the rain under one of the huge London plane trees, eating my Tesco sandwich before going on to the cinema!

  6. Alexandra Rook permalink
    June 12, 2019

    Ooh I prefer these to the maps – it’s a bit like looking for Where’s Wally!

  7. June 13, 2019

    ‘Dirty smelly dogs…’ The London Library are in fact wholly welcoming to dogs, as long as they stay on the ‘outside’ of the membership card-activated entrance gate. Thus one can conveniently pick up and return books without, officially, entering the Library. On my last visit she was much petted and she is far from unique in this.

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