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Mayfair and Belgravia’s long love affair with dogs (and cats)

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Queen Charlotte and her dog in Bridgerton; pet lovers depicted by Thomas Rowlandson


London saw a staggering 84% rise in dog ownership during 2020. The pandemic has prompted many to discover the deep satisfaction that relationships with these dependable creatures can bring, and what better occasion to celebrate this relationship than International Day of Happiness? In Belgravia and Mayfair, the relationship has a long, rich history.
Look closely at the Grosvenor coat of arms and you will see Talbot hounds, introduced to this country by the Normans. These loyal dogs were added to the Grosvenor coat of arms during the seventeenth century, and two of these dogs flank Sir Robert Grosvenor (1767-1845) in the magnificent statue of him at the north-east corner of Belgrave Square.
 

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Talbot dogs feature in Sir Robert Grosvenor’s statue, Belgravia – and in the Grosvenor coat of arms


By the eighteenth century, dogs were adopted as much for their domestic presence as for their usefulness. In 1761, Queen Charlotte brought two Pomeranians with her from Germany to England – Phoebe and Mercury. This lively, fluffy breed evolved for harsh Baltic winters. Society became smitten, just like modern-day viewers of Bridgerton. Pomeranians appeared in outdoor portraits by Thomas Gainsborough.

Dogs were increasingly seen in domestic interiors, too, as presented by Jane Austen and cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was co-founded in 1824 by William Wilberforce, a Belgravia resident. Dogs became protected and cherished, as they remain today. On social media now, pet influencers such as Tika the Iggy (@tikatheiggy on Instagram), Pudgy (@Pudgywoke) and Tatum Talks (@hi.this.is.tatum) engage ever larger audiences, especially among Millennials and Generation Z members.
 

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Mount Street members’ club George, named after its founder’s pup, has a charitable dog committee


Dog-friendly venues can be found throughout Mayfair and Belgravia. Mercato Metropolitano, the North Audley Street church that was seamlessly converted into a food market, welcomes dogs. So too does George, the members’ club on the corner of South Audley Street and Mount Street. George has dog menus and plush dog beds, along with David Hockney sketches of his dachshunds. Indeed, George is named after founder Mark Birley’s beloved pup. Dogs even have their own charitable committee here, on which James Middleton, Yasmin Le Bon and David Gandy sit.
 
Mount Street has traditionally been home to shops such as Purdey that cater to the country set. To make this country set feel at home in town, the Connaught hotel (on Carlos Place, at the east end of Mount Street) adopted a Saluki sighthound for its logo. Below the hound is the motto, Placere Placet – the pleasure to please. A bestselling item in the Connaught’s patisserie shop today is the meltingly delicious chocolate hound available for £14.
 

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Bestselling patisserie at The Connaught honours the hound featuring in the hotel’s logo


Barbour, whose flagship shop is just to the north on Duke Street, has extended its classic country-set style to waxed dog jackets, harnesses, collars, leads, blankets and dog bandanas. Pet fashions are coming of age. In Belgravia, OverGlam offers fashionable pet products from its boutique in Eccleston Yards. ‘Business has boomed during the pandemic,’ says Dante Panetta, Director of Marketing. ‘One bestseller is a rain mac from our “You Are Not Alone” collection. For this collection, we work with Dizzy Chihuahua Rescue, a small dog adoption charity based in Belgravia. We donate £5 for every product from the collection sold.’
 

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OverGlam’s best selling products include chic dog macs and elasticated-wool cat jumpers


‘Eccleston Yards is a great place to hang out in Spring and Summer,’ adds Panetta. ‘You have people coming with their dogs, sitting on the deck chairs on the grass and chatting with their neighbours. It's the perfect afternoon outing for both pets and owners.’
 
It reminds of the area’s array of green spaces in which animals can frolic and gambol. Few spaces in any city can compare with Hyde Park, stretching to 350 acres – of which the Lanesborough on Hyde Park Corner takes full advantage. Regarding itself as a London residence for its guests, the hotel makes dogs and other pets feel at home. Butlers assigned to the rooms accompany dogs to the park if guests are tied up on business.
 

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The current tranquility of Eccleston Yards allowed Cream, a Poodle, this contemplative moment


And it’s not all about dogs: cat lovers can rejoice, too. For now the Lanesborough has a resident cat, Lilibet. The name was inspired by the childhood name of HM The Queen at nearby Buckingham Palace. Lilibet is a Siberian Forest Cat with especially fluffy fur. ‘We have one female guest from Taipei who is particularly enamoured,’ says staff member Jessica Tattam. ‘I provide updates about Lilibet – photos, videos – before the guest arrives. The guest in turn brings gifts, which have included a splendid foot-long toy goldfish. It’s remarkable how much joy Lilibet has brought to guests and staff alike.’
 
A short walk from Hyde Park Corner down Grosvenor Crescent brings us back to the magnificent statue of Sir Robert in Belgrave Square. There is now an annual summer dog show in Belgrave Square Garden. On-looking Sir Robert would surely have approved of how much we’ve taken these creatures to heart.
 

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Lilibet the Cat

 

Written by Daniel Pembrey

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