The term 'mews' was originally used to describe a birdhouse for birds of prey. From 1377 the King's falconry birds were kept in the King's Mews at Charing Cross and the name remained when the royal stables were built there in 1537. By the 17th and 18th centuries, the term had come to mean a row of stables, with carriage houses on the ground floor and living areas on the first floor arranged along a service road behind a row of London houses. Mews gradually lost their original purpose in the 20th century as horses began to be replaced by cars. After the Second World War, the number of people who could afford to live in the large houses fell sharply and many were converted into flats. Rising land and property prices meant that many mews buildings were converted into homes, or the land adjoining the mews was sold for new housing to be built.
Murray Mews is a good example of this pattern of development. The Camden Square area was developed slowly in the 19th century. Two service lanes were built - the long Camden Mews to the north west and the shorter Murray Mews to the south east. However, the Midland railway line to St. Pancras which opened in the 1860s runs directly beneath Camden Square. The need for smoke vents for the railway adversely affected the success of the development and only a few mews buildings were built to serve the grand houses. Many plots remained empty until after the Second World War, when recommended planning densities were raised.
Since the mid 1960s, a number of houses have been built in Murray Mews by modern architects, many of them for the architects themselves to live in. The brief for these houses was very similar as they were all intended for young families. The houses seek to address the two major issues with the mews location - the desire to allow as much daylight into the houses as possible while retaining a degree of privacy which is required in the narrow street. The houses are arranged in a terrace, but as the widths of the plots are determined by the older, larger houses, the mews houses are generally wider than many typical small terraced houses in London. The houses are of interest because they are unique and demonstrate a wide variety of different architectural solutions to the same problem. As a group they show changing tastes in architectural styles, as well as the changing attitudes of planners to mews developments.