Skip to main content


Sloanes in exile

Less straitened times… watching the polo in 2001. Getty

Forty years ago, Ann Barr and Peter York wrote The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, lifting the curtain on the boarding-schooled, country-housed “Carolines and Henrys”, whose universe revolved around Sloane Square in Chelsea. Very little has changed, says Rachel Johnson in Air Mail. The “sensible names”, like Fenella and Fiona, haven’t changed. The professions – Sotheby’s, Christie’s, “something vague in finance” – are the same. And the book’s 20 rules for decorating – “Furniture Must Look Old”; “The Downstairs Rooms Must Say Warrior And Landowner” – still hold fast. “NOT ONE RULE NEEDS TO CHANGE,” the architect Ben Pentreath recently emailed York enthusiastically.

What has changed is where they live. The defining characteristic of the Sloane is “old money”, which means “almost no money” compared to the “bottomlessly wealthy plutocrats and kleptocrats” who have invaded London and jacked up house prices. Sloanes have been “flung out centrifugally” from Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Chelsea ­– “even from Fulham” – to outer areas like Battersea, Wandsworth, and Ravenscourt Park. That was one silver lining of lockdown: Sloanes could retreat to their family piles in the country full-time, and no longer worry about maintaining an expensive “London embassy”.