In 1983 Cambridge academic W.G. Runciman, reviewing Peter York and Ann Barr’s The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, described the work as an 'anthropological survey' in the mould of such distinguished scholars as Malinowski and Veblen. Veblen’s late-nineteenth century The Theory of the Leisure Class was, Runciman explains, an 'earnest social-Darwinian exercise in the analysis and survival of certain archaic behavioural traits'. By attempting to define the Sloane ranger, York and Barr were Veblen’s disciples he concluded, albeit unintentional ones.
Nearly forty years later, eons from the Harpers & Queen heyday of the Sloanie, driven by Princess Diana and Fergie, we must ask ourselves this: where have they all gone?
The explanation for the disappearance of the Sloane usually runs along the following lines: once the rightful inhabitants of the SW3, 1, 7, 10, 6 and 5 canyons (correctly listed in order), Sloanes have been pushed out of their natural habitats by the rise of international 'new money', the decline of the City and its merchant banks, and the Lloyds crisis. Yes, they still exist in certain pockets of South London, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire but they are a dying breed.
Although Emma Corrin’s portrayal of the young Lady Di in the last season of the Crown may have raised the Sloane profile, it has morphed from a social class into a look. Wear a pie crust collar and pearls and transport yourself back to the early 80s said, somewhat unbelievably, the Guardian last year. One step short of fancy dress, the Sloane is an anachronism, doomed to bit-parts in Richard Curtis films and Jilly Cooper novels.
But there is a small pocket of Sloanedom that is very much alive and well. Moving with the times, this pocket is not a physical place - the eponymous Sloane Square mecca of old now quite changed – but an email list. Founded by ex-Guardsman and former 'truffle entrepreneur' Nigel Haddon-Paton, Radio H-P is the digital haven for Sloanes who want to operate without shame or fear of cancellation, a posh gumtree if you will. Do you want a Labrador bitch or a pony for your granddaughter? Or maybe you need an Aga top pad with an embroidered pheasant on it? Perhaps you’re looking for a discreet villa in the South of France or a chalet in Verbs? Then look no further.
But first, the small print. Radio H-P 'listeners' must provide two referees prepared to vouch for the candidate’s education and, perhaps more nebulously, their background. Formerly a charity when it began in 2015 (proceeds going to the Household Cavalry Foundation), the site now charges per advert on a sliding scale with property classifieds at the top. For a not insubstantial sum, you may place an advert adorned with the Haddon-Paton coat of arms and singular electronic politesse of the kind gumtree just can’t muster. All emails are automatically tailored to the recipient themselves and reassuringly signed off with 'Love/best wishes, Nigel'. When I placed an advert for my husband to find a room in London for the occasional weeknight, I was inundated with responses from all corners of South West London in tones reminiscent of long-lost friends or family acquaintances. I had a half a mind to take the room myself and leave the baby with my husband.
Originally created out of the demand for SW3 parents seeking internships for their children, Radio H-P has morphed into a mausoleum of rituals and behaviours, offering a safe space for an endangered tribe to commune. In recent times I have noticed far more dating adverts appear on the network, a bellwether (if any were needed) for the inefficiency of the Tinder/Bumble algorithm or a death-knell for a certain kind of dinner party socialising. When it comes to childcare, Radio H-P harks back to the Norland Nanny model, advertising for nice girls to cook and put the children to bed while the parents enjoy a stiff drink elsewhere. Even Boris might have found the nanny he had in mind had he advertised accordingly.
Closed networks aren’t anything new; the upper-middle classes have always operated far from the prying eyes of the masses, be it at public school speech days, gymkhanas, or tennis clubs. What is new is the level of rampart needed to protect a certain sensibility that dare not speak its name. Driven from the public eye by the tide of wokeism and latterly by the pandemic, Sloanes must huddle together to survive. Nigel H-P, dubbed the 'Mark Zuckerberg of Fulham' (without the Adidas sliders) would no doubt agree, although what he makes of Veblen is anyone’s guess.