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the history of belgravia

Past & Present

Knightsbridge London


01 the history of belgravia


Early Knightsbridge Today, Knightsbridge and Belgravia are known

However, the name of Knightsbridge has also

for exclusivity, fashionable shopping and

been attributed to the story of two knights who

luxurious houses, but the early history of the area

were heading across the bridge at the River

couldn’t have been more different. Images of

Westbourne. The two knights fought to the death

shopping at Harrods and walking down Sloane

and from that time it was commonly known as

Street are replaced by open fields dominated by

the ‘Knights Bridge’. The early bridge over the

market gardens and at night it was a popular

river that gave the area its name formerly sat by

place for thieves and highwaymen.

today’s Albert Gate.

The early history dates back to the 11th century when it was recorded as ‘Kyngesburig’ or ‘Kyngesbrigg’ - Kings Bridge, which is believed to originate from the association with Edward the Confessor. The King held the lands here and, it is believed, built a bridge for the monks of Westminster, who were given portions of the land around Hyde Park and the River Westbourne.

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03 the history of belgravia

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Early Belgravia

During the 16th century, the area where

century more houses had been built along

area was the King’s private road and where the

Belgravia is situated today was simply known as

Knightsbridge to the north and Grosvenor Place

road crossed the river was a bridge known as

Ebury Farm and covered 430 acres of meadows

to the east.

‘Bloody Bridge’ due to the number of attacks

Map of London 1746 by John Rocque

and pastureland. The estate was acquired by the

and murders that took place there. The infamous

Grosvenor family in the 17th century, when Sir

Up until the early 19th century the land behind

fields were also used for cock-fighting, as well as

Thomas Grosvenor married the young heiress,

Knightsbridge, Sloane Street and Grosvenor

bull and bear-baiting.

Mary Davies in 1676. The Grosvenor family can

Place was still open fields and marsh land known

be traced back to Gilbert le ros Veneur (meaning

as ‘Five Fields’. The name originated from the

One of the other main features of Knightsbridge

Chief Huntsman), a nephew of Hugh Lupus,

way tracks and paths divided the area into

during this time was the taverns and it was

Earl of Chester, who was a nephew of William

separate sections. During the day, the fields were

well-understood that many of the innkeepers

the Conqueror. When Mary Davies married into

used for market gardening, apparently

were in the pockets of thieves who frequented

the Grosvenor family, she brought to the

well-known for asparagus, as well as watercress

the area. To travel across Knightsbridge, people

marriage extensive land holdings across today’s

from the banks of Westbourne River, and grazing

would gather in an organised group to walk from

Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico, which still make

animals and hanging out washing. However, at

Hyde Park Corner to Kensington, and a bell

up a large part of the estate today. However,

night, Five Fields became a notoriously

sounded for the imminent departure of a group

in the 17th century, the area was only marshy

dangerous area. The lack of lighting and buildings

for those wishing to have the security of safety in

ground unsuitable for building so very little was

meant it was a popular haunt for highwaymen

numbers through Knightsbridge.

done to the land. In the 18th century some

and footpads (thieves on foot), with many stories

building began to appear on the outskirts of the

recorded about robberies and murders in Five

area, with the oldest houses in Ebury Street,

Fields. The open fields were also a popular

constructed in 1720. By the turn of the 19th

destination for duels. The only road to cross the

04 the history of belgravia


Cubbitopolis

The name Belgrave originates from Belgrave

Of course, Thomas Cubitt held a lot of

as they appear today, but rather imitation yellow

outside of Leicester, where the landowners, the

responsibility for the building of Belgravia, but

ochre of Bath Stone, which was the stone used on

Grosvenor family had an estate. However, the

estate surveyors from the Cundy family were also

Buckingham Palace.

name ‘Belgravia’ was invented from the fact that

heavily involved, as were architects, Seth Smith

Belgrave Square sat within the heart of the new

and George Basevi. In fact, the first plans for

On 18th March 1825, an agreement was made

grand building scheme by Cubitt. But, the name

building on the Grosvenor estate in Five Fields

between Lord Grosvenor and Thomas Cubitt for

took some time to be accepted, as Hermione

dates from around 1812 when the estate surveyor,

the development of most of the estate, less a few

Hobhouse explained in Country Life that in the

James Wyatt drew up plans for the area. In 1813,

specific areas which were given to Seth Smith

early period a letter addressed to “Thomas Cubitt,

a further plan was put forward by Alexander

whose premises were in Davies Street and who

Eaton Place, Belgravia”, was sent to Vienna ‘on

and Daniel Robertson. Large parts of this plan

had done considerable work in Mayfair, as well

the grounds that such an outlandish name could

remained, even after the Robertson’s themselves

as Joseph Cundy, the speculative builder brother

only belong to an Hungarian province’. The area

were no longer involved in the project.

of the estate surveyor and a few other smaller

has also been called ‘Cubittopolis’ as, still today,

builders. In 1826 it was Cubitt, with the approval

it is seen as one of Thomas Cubitt’s greatest

The first building agreements were in 1821,

of the Grosvenor Estate, who obtained the

achievements. However, this does distract from

well-timed with the recently renovated

Grosvenor Place and District Improvement Act,

the fact that many other architects and builders

Buckingham House for George IV by John Nash.

with 36 Trustees responsible for paving, lighting,

were involved in the development of Belgravia.

It is worth noting that the buildings would not

policing, drainage etc.

have originally been finished in the cream colour

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Master Builder - Thomas Cubitt Cubitt was not only a builder, but he was the

continued a modest lifestyle, refusing a title from

first to establish a building business that was able

Queen Victoria, and in particular he continued to

to supply all the building trades, as well as the

call himself ‘builder’ instead of ‘architect’ or ‘land

architectural designs for a house. Along with his

surveyor’ as was more socially acceptable.

brothers, William and Lewis, the Cubitt’s took care of land drainage, sewerage, roads, lighting, gardens, as well as the construction of the houses

One other key feature of Cubitt’s legacy in

and mews. They employed their own trades-

Belgravia was his ingenious way of overcoming

men – bricklayers, masons, carpenters, plumbers

the problems with the swampy ground. Firstly,

as well as painters and decorators. The Cubitt’s

Cubitt dug up the top layer of clay and used it to

were also known for the good workmanship and

make bricks, and secondly used earth taken from

efficiency, further establishing them as the high

the recently excavated St Katherine’s Dock to

quality builders of the age. Cubitt became known

level the ground and allow for the foundations of

as ‘the emperor of the building trade’, but he

houses to be built on gravel.

Estate Surveyors - The Cundy’s The Cundy family had a long association as

vise the progress of ongoing work. He oversaw

estate surveyors for the Grosvernor’s, with three

many aspects of the development, including

generations managing the estate from 1821 until

checking the measurements of the buildings

1890. Thomas Cundy I (1765-1825) was estate

on site and monitoring the quality of the work.

surveyor from 1821 until his death in 1825, but

Thomas Cundy, junior was also responsible for

during that time he produced and submitted the

the designs of three estate churches: St Paul’s

definitive plan (though there were later additions

Wilton Place (1840-43), in Perpendicular style;

and alterations) for Belgravia. His son, Thomas

St Michael’s Chester Square (1846) in decorated

Cundy II, junior (1790-1867) replaced his father

Gothic style; and the church of St Barnabus in

and his role was to provide plans for developers,

the street of that name, off Pimlico Road (1848-

and sometimes individual builders, and to super-

50) in pure Gothic style.

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Belgrave Square

Belgrave Square is the centre piece of Cubitt’s

The building of the terraces took place from 1825

development. Lord Grosvenor, 1st Marquess

until 1828, although building in the square was

of Westminster commissioned Thomas Cubitt

still ongoing into the 1830s. At the time of

to oversee the development of his estate, but in

completion, Basevi’s designs were the largest

Belgrave Square the development was handled by

terraced houses in London: four storeyed and

the Haldimand Syndicate. George and

stuccoed and featuring Corinthian pillars or

William Haldimand, along with Alexander Louis

pilasters and elaborate stucco decoration in the

Prevost took over much of the building of the

course above the attic. However, the facades are

terraces of Belgrave Square with architect George

not identical with slight variations in each, while

Basevi. George Basevi is known as being Sir John

still giving the impression of a grand uniform

Soane’s finest pupil, as well as the cousin of Prime

appearance.

Ordnanace Survey map 1869

Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. He was the architect of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and

Although the designs for the terraces and villas

suffered an untimely death, falling from

of Belgrave Square were completed by others,

scaffolding at Ely Cathedral in 1845.

Cubitt was responsible for the central gardens and the vital infrastructure, including the sewers,

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roads and pavements. Cubitt insisted on using only the best materials available and ensured the highest standard of workmanship.

The the history of belgravia


Four Corners

Ordnanace Survey map 1869

The four corners of Belgrave Square were

In the north western corner, No.12 was leased

the Marquis of Tweeddale; and in the 1850s was

uniquely laid out for separate large villas. Three

to Earl Brownlow, who employed Sir Robert

the home of Earl Ducie. It has been altered a

of the plots were leased to tenants who employed

Smirke to design the house. It later became the

number of times and today is the Spanish Em-

their own architects, although the fourth villa, in

home of the Earl of Ancaster and today, it is the

bassy. In the south eastern corner, No.37, known

the north east, was abandoned with the building

Portuguese Embassy. No.24, in the south western

as Seaford House, was leased to the 3rd Earl of

of Grosvenor Crescent. However, No.49, on the

corner, was leased to Brighton developer, Thomas

Sefton, who employed Philip Hardwicke to de-

angle of Grosvenor Crescent, slightly compen-

Kemp, who employed H.E. Kendall to design

sign his house. It was constructed by Cubitt and

sates for the loss. It was designed by Cubitt for

his house. The house, later known as Downshire

completed in 1846. It later became the home of

Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea and

House, was completed in 1834, but Kemp was

Lord de Waldon, who renamed it Seaford House

completed in the late 1840s. It later became the

forced to let it rather than live in it himself, and

after an ancestor. Today it is the Royal College of

home of the Duke of Richmond, and today is the

in 1837 it became the home of Viscount Hill,

Defence Studies.

residence of the Argentine Ambassador.

Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. It later became the home of Lady Harriett

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Drummond; the Right Honourable Lord Pirrie;

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Distinguished Residents

Since its completion, Belgrave Square has been a

It later became the home of Viscount Baring; the

House, was also later home of the Dowager

highly sought-after address in London. Almost

earl of Eglintoun; and cricketer, Lord Hawke.

Marchioness Conyngham, as well as Colonel

immediately houses were taken by high-ranking

Douglas Pennant. Other residents have included

politicians, military men and aristocrats. In fact,

The square has also been home to the Earl and

the Earl of Albermarle; Earl Fortescue; the

there were so many notable residents it is difficult

Dowager-Countess Beauchamp; geologist, Sir

Archbishop of York; the Duke of Connaught;

to record them all here, but below is a selection

Roderick Murchison; 1st Earl of Ellesmere; the

and the Earl of Ilchester.

of illustrious names who have lived in Belgrave

Earls of Faversham; Henry Labouchere, Baron

Square.

Taunton; and Lord Crewe. No.18 is the official

No.43 was built for the Earl of Bradford, and

residence of the Austrian ambassador and nearby

formerly known as Bradford House, before

General Sir George Murray, Quartermaster-

at Nos. 21-23 is the German Embassy. The south

becoming the home of Charles McLaren Esq.

General to the British Army during the

east terrace (Nos. 25-36) features two Coade

No.44 was the home of the Honourable Percy

Peninsular War lived at No.5, which also later

Stone reliefs with allegorical cherubs of 1796.

Wyndham; No.45, the Duke and Duchess of

became the home of philanthropist, 7th Earl of

They were installed in 1968 from the former

Montrose; and No.48 was the home of Viscount

Shaftesbury. No.6 was the home of the 7th Duke

Danish-Norwegian consulate in Stepney.

Combermere. The square was also home to Sir

of Bedford; Lord Newton and later the Earl of

William Molesworth; Sir Charles Wood, later

Pembroke. Today, Nos.9 and 10 is the Institute

Nos. 29 and 30 Belgrave Square have been the

Lord Halifax; and the Duc de Bordeaux, better

of Directors, but it has also been home to the 5th

former homes of British Prime Ministers, with

known as the Comte de Chambord, who with his

Earl of Essex, who lived at No.9 with his second

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman at No.29 and

mother, held court here in 1843.

wife, opera singer, Kitty Stephens, in 1838, a year

Charles, 2nd Earl Grey at No.30. No.36 was the

before he passed away. The Countess of Essex

home of Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess

continued to live in the square for another 40

of Kent, who lived in the house in 1840 while

years, until 1882. No.10 was the home of French

waiting for apartments to be prepared for her in

ambassador, M. Drouin de Lhuys, in 1850.

Kensington Palace. The house, known as Ingestre

10 The the history history of of belgravia belgravia


21st century Belgrave Square

Along with many large houses and villas in central London, the effect of two World Wars, higher taxes and death duties meant that few could afford to live in these large houses any longer. In the late 20th century many of the houses were converted for institutional and commercial use, in particular Belgrave Square is an extremely popular location for embassies. In fact, there are said to be over 20 embassies in this area alone. Belgrave Square is also the home of many Societies and Associations, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists; Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons; and the Institute of Physics. There are still some residential homes, but many

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of the houses were divided into separate apartments.

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Eaton Square

The name Eaton originates from the Grosvenor’s

The central terrace is in the more familiar stucco

st peter’s church

country seat, Eaton Hall in Cheshire. Eaton

with a continuous line of porches with fluted

On the eastern edge of Eaton Square is St Peter’s

Square has a slightly unusual layout, being di-

Doric columns. The terrace took a little longer to

Church, the location for many fashionable

vided by the King’s Road. The King’s private road,

complete, with building starting in 1830 but was

Belgravia weddings. It was designed by Henry

formerly a small footpath, was created by Charles

not completed until 1847. The third terrace, also

Hakewell and part of the early development, with

II for the sole use of the King and his family

by Cubitt, was different again constructed in an

Lord Grosvenor laying the foundation stone in

travelling to Hampton Court Palace. Anyone else

Italianate style.

1824. It was completed three years later and

wishing to use the road required a token, which

consecrated by the Bishop of London in June

was presented to the toll booth at the junction

The southern terraces were built by Seth Smith

1827. However, within a few years it was

with Grosvenor Place. The entire stretch of the

and George Sutton. Seth started work in 1825

devastated by fire and was completely rebuilt in

King’s Road, from Grosvenor Place to Fulham

to 1830, but in 1840 he passed the development

1837. It was later enlarged and remodelled by Sir

was opened to the public in 1830.

to Charles James Freake, who is remembered for

Arthur Blomfield during the 1870s. Misfortune

his building in South Kensington. He completed

struck again in 1988 when St Peter’s was once

Building in Eaton Square began in 1826, but was

the western section, as well as several sites in the

again almost entirely destroyed by fire. It was

not completed until the 1850s. The variation in

central block.

restored by architects John and Nicki Braithwaite,

architectural detail on some of the homes is due

and completed in 1991 retaining the original

to the length of time in construction and the

facade.

changing tastes in architecture from the 1820s to the 1850s.The three northern terraces are by Thomas Cubitt and his brother Lewis, with the earlier sections constructed in 1826-30, closest to

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St Peter’s, in a simplified late Georgian style, with the exterior in stock brick and stucco.

The the history history of of belgravia belgravia


Distinguished Residents Like Belgrave Square, Eaton Square has been the

Lord Hampton lived at No.41 in 1874; No.43

Baldwin was three times Prime Minister and also

home of many distinguished residents. The first

was home to Lord Cottesloe; another Prime

the cousin of Rudyard Kipling. No.93 was also

tenant to move in was William Whitbread of the

Minister, Lord John Russell lived at No.48 in

the home of Sir William Clay. No.114 was the

brewing family, with others such as Lord Truro,

1858; while at No.44 was Austrian

home of Lady Baden-Powell; and No.115 was

who was Lord Chancellor; Sir George Gray,

statesman, Prince Klemens Metternich, Prince of

the home of the Earl of Ellenborough, son of the

devoted servant and friend of Queen Victoria;

Metternich-Winneburg-Beilstein. When Foreign

great Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough in 1859;

General Sir Thomas Bradford; Colonel Sibthorp;

Minister he was one of the principal

Eaton Square was also the home of renowned

and Lord Napier of Magdala who was chief

organisers of the Congress of Vienna at the

American philanthropist, George Peabody, who

engineer with Sir Colin Campbell’s army during

end of the Napoleonic Wars. He was forced to

is remembered for his social housing across

the Indian Mutiny in 1857.

resign from the Austrian government during the

London.

revolutions of 1848 and took temporary refuge in No.4 Eaton Square was the home of Sir Francis

London.

Baring, first Lord Northbrook, who was

The 20th century brought great change to Eaton Square, particularly after World War II. Under

Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1839-41 and

Other notable residents have included: Lord

the 1939 Defence Regulations, many houses in

First Lord of the Admiralty in 1849-52; No.7

Sandhurst at No.60; Colonel Tulloch at No.63;

Eaton Square were requisitioned by the

was home to Sir Frederick Thesiger, Lord

Lord Alvanley at No.62; while No.71 was used as

government during the war, and for some time

Chelmsford, the victor of Ulundi over the Zulus

the official residence of the Speaker of the House

afterward. After the end of the war, plans were

under Cetewayo in 1879; No.10 was the home

of Commons during the rebuilding of the Houses

put in place to redevelop the square by converting

of General Sir William Codrington, who was

of Parliament; and No.74 was Lord Cardwell.

most of the houses into flats and maisonettes.

present at the Battle of Alma and Inkerman and

who held many positions, including President

was chief in command at the Siege of Sebastopol.

of the Board of Trade; Secretary for Ireland;

He was the second son of Admiral Sir Edward

Colonial Secretary and from 1868 to 1874 was

Codrington, who had formerly lived at No.92

Secretary for War.

Battle of Trafalgar and was chief commander at

No.75 Eaton Square has been the home of MP,

Navarino.

Ralph Bernal; as well as Baron Martin; and Viscount Knutsford. No.76 was the home of

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Former British Prime Minister, Neville

Viscount Falkland; No.92, Sir Augustus Clifford;

Chamberlain, lived at No.37 Eaton Square from

and No.93 was the home of Stanley Baldwin,

1923 until 1935; politician, Sir John Pakington,

later Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, in 1920-3.

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Courtesy of City of Westminster Centre

Eaton Square, who commanded the Orion at the


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15 the history of belgravia


16 Courtesy of City of Westminster Centre

the history of belgravia


Upper Belgrave Street & Belgrave Place

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The streets off Belgrave Square have also been

1880-81 and Hon. Robert Smith, eldest son of

highly sought after and were a vital part of

Lord Carrington lived at No.3. No.13 was the

Cubitt’s design for the Duke of Westminster’s

home of George Fitzclarence, eldest son of King

estate. Upper Belgrave Street, first known simply

William IV by his mistress, the actress, Mrs

as Belgrave Street, was laid out by Thomas Cubitt

Jordan. Fitzclarence became a Lieutenant of

in 1826, with No.1 Belgrave Street said to have

the Tower of London and later became Earl of

been the first completed house in Belgravia.

Munster in 1831, before he committed suicide

People began to move in during the late 1820s,

in 1842. No.13 later became the home of Lord

but it wasn’t until 1835 that the entire street was

Harewood. Belgrave Place was originally known

occupied. In 1827, Thomas Cubitt himself lived

as Upper Eccleston Street, but was renamed

at No.12 Belgrave Street, which later became the

in 1870. No.3 was the home of Lord Charles

home of writer and economist, Walter Bagehot.

Wellesley, and is also believed to have been the

Poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, lived at No.9 in

home of the Duke of Wellington.

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Chester Square Chester Square is one of the key squares of

ornate Italianate designs. The square is dominated

of poet, Shelley; No.22 was the home of

Belgravia. It was originally laid out as streets, but

by St Michael’s Church, built by Thomas Cundy

Matthew Arnold, who became Professor of

in 1828 Joseph Cundy, Seth Smith and another

in a decorative gothic style. It was completed in

Poetry at Oxford, but he is most remembered as

developer, Watkins proposed a new layout as an

1846, but altered again in 1874.

an essayist and poet; and No.26 was the home of

oblong square. The name of Chester originates

John St Loe Strachey, son of Sir John Strachey

from the city of Chester, where the Grosvenor’s

Chester Square has also been home to many

who rose to become a successful journalist and

country seat, Eaton Hall, is located. Building

illustrious residents including geologist, Dr.

editor of The Spectator from 1898 to 1925.

began in around 1832, but was not completed

Gideon A. Mantell, who became a Fellow of the

During World War II, No.77 was the location

until the 1840s. The south east and north east

Royal Society at the age of 35 and his collection

for the Secretariat of Queen Wilhelmina of the

terraces were built and designed by Thomas

of fossils is held in the British Museum. No.24

Netherlands, and it is also believed that the spy,

Cundy II. The north west side was built by Seth

Chester Square was the home of Mary

Guy Burgess lived in the square, staying with a

Smith, with a mixture of plain stucco and more

Wollstonecraft, author of Frankenstein and wife

friend.

Eaton Place Eaton Place was constructed to accompany

politician, Lord Carson at No.5; social reformer,

nearby Eaton Square, situated to the west

William Ewart at No.16; and scientist and

towards Sloane Square. Eaton Place has been

writer, Lord Avebury was born at No.29 in 1834.

immortalised by the television programme

In 1848, composer Chopin gave his first musical

Upstairs Downstairs and clearly illustrates the

recital in London at No.99 Eaton Place and in

type of household that would have existed in

1922 No.36 was the site of the assassination of

Belgravia during the 19th and early 20th centu-

Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson who was shot

ries. Building development also took place over

by two Irishmen when he was getting out of his

a number of years, between 1828 and the 1840s.

car. Eaton Place continued to be the home of

Thomas Cubitt also used a number of the houses

many notable residents, with many retired

in Eaton Place as his offices throughout the

military leaders, aristocracy and politicians.

development of Belgravia. It has been the home of scientist, Lord Kelvin, who lived at No.15;

18 The the history history of of belgravia belgravia


Cadogan Estate

The Cadogan Estate, which covers a large part

cadogan place

of Knightsbridge and Chelsea, was created when

Cadogan Place was laid out as part of Henry

House of Lords. Other residents have included,

Charles Cadogan, 2nd Baron Cadogan of Oakley

Holland’s scheme for the Cadogan Estate. Today,

statesman, Charles Pelham Villiers; Private

married Elizabeth Sloane, daughter of lord of

it is a highly sought-after address in

Secretary and friend of William IV, Sir Herbert

the manor, Sir Hans Sloane, in 1717. Cadogan

Knightsbridge. Charles Dickens famously

Taylor; philanthropist, Zachery Macaulay, whose

later inherited the manor and the larger portion

referred to Cadogan Place in novel, Nicholas

son, Thomas Babington Macaulay also lived in

of Sloane’s estate. The Knightsbridge section

Nickleby as “between the aristocratic

the house in 1812-23.

of the estate, near to Sloane Street was one of

pavements of Belgrave Square and the barbarism

the first areas to be developed, in the late 18th

of Chelsea”.

century, when Henry Holland set about building

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Hans Town (named after Sir Hans Sloane). The

Cadogan Place has been the home of a number

area underwent extensive redevelopment at the

of famous residents, including the mistress of the

time of George Cadogan, 5th Earl of Cadogan

Duke of Clarence, (and mother of ten of his

in the late 19th Century, which transformed the

children), Mrs Jordan, who lived at No.30 in

area from plain, classic Georgian terraced houses

1811. The abolisher of slavery, William Wilber-

into the Victorian red brick ‘Queen Anne Style’

force, died at No.44 in 1833, only a month before

houses that dominate the area today.

the Slavery Abolition Act was passed through the

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Shopping in Knightsbridge sloane street

Harrods

Sloane Street sits on the west of Belgravia and is

Harrods was founded by Henry Charles Harrod,

corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street, was

at the heart of the Hans Town development. It

a tea merchant based in east London. He moved

constructed by C.W. Stephens in 1889-94 with a

was laid out as a main route from Knightsbridge

to Knightsbridge in 1849 to open a small grocers

simple brick and stone facade. It was extended to

through to Chelsea and also named after Sir

shop and it was over the next 30 years that his

the south west and south east between 1922 and

Hans Sloane. Originally developed in plain,

son Charles Digby Harrod and his nephew

1934 by F.E. Williams & Alfred Cox, with giant

uniform Georgian terraces, large sections of

William Kibble transformed this small grocers

pilasters in a ‘Selfridges’ style.

Sloane Street and surrounding Hans Town was

shop into a large department store. By 1880, the

redeveloped during the late 19th century.

store had nearly 100 assistants and had extended

Knightsbridge Green

premises and purchased neighbouring properties.

Further along Knightsbridge towards Brompton

Sloane Street has been home to a number of

The store was devastated by fire in 1883, but was

Road is the former village green, which originally

notable residents, with many being honoured

soon rebuilt and by the time the new building

covered the entire area on the corner of

with blue plaques, including Sir Herbert

opened in 1884 the turnover had almost doubled.

Knightsbridge and Brompton Road. There is so

Beerbohm Tree at a house on the site of No.76;

The familiar building we recognise today was

little remaining of the green, in fact a single tree

Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke at No.75; and

built in 1901-5, designed by Stevens and Munt,

and the street between Brompton Road and

Edgar Allen Poe went to school, which formerly

but complete rebuilding had not been completed

Knightsbridge, but until the 19th century there

sat on the east of Sloane Street. Sloane Street was

until 1939. Harrods was the first department

was a cattle market, a watch and the village stocks

also home to Count Cagliostro, in 1780, and the

store to install escalators and had staff standing

were all located here. It is also understood that

artist, Felix Moscheles lived in a house on the

at the top with smelling salts for any ladies who

the small triangle section that remains is the site

east side in 1862, where Robert Browning was

found the

of a former burial pit for victims of the plague

a visitor, but the house was demolished in 1890.

experience overwhelming.

that hit London in 1665.

The Peruvian Embassy is at No.52 Sloane Street and a few doors down is the dramatic Royal

Harvey Nichols

Danish Embassy, at No.55, designed by Arne

Harvey Nichols was founded by Benjamin

Jacobsen and completed in 1978. The Cadogan

Harvey as a small linen-draper’s. However, the

Hotel at No.75 Sloane Street was built in 1887

exact details of the origins of the store are not

and was famously the location for the arrest of

clear, but it is believed to have started trading in

Oscar Wilde in 1895. It was also the home of

around 1813. The store operated as Harvey and

actress and mistress to King Edward VII, Lillie

Co until, after joining with linen draper, Colonel

Langtry. Today, Sloane Street is renownowed as one

Nichols, it officially became Harvey Nichols in

of the most exclusive shopping streets in London.

1859. The home of Harvey Nichols, on the

20 The the history history of of belgravia belgravia


The Lowndes Estate is the section of Belgravia to

on his estate. He also commissioned Thomas

the north, where Lowndes Street and Lowndes

Cubitt, who set about building Lowndes Square,

Square are situated today. The estate consisted of

starting with the north, west and east sections,

Large parts of Lowndes Square were redeveloped

two fields, either side of the Westbourne River,

between 1838 and 1849, while the southern part

during the 20th century, with very few original

which wasn’t covered over until 1842. The estate

was constructed by Cubitt’s brother, Lewis.

houses remaining. Sloane Street was widened and

has been in the hands of the Lowndes family of

During the building development many relics of

Harvey Nichols was extended during the 1920s;

Buckinghamshire since the 17th century. The first

the Civil War were uncovered.

on the north, the Grand Metropolitan Hotel was

building to take place was in 1670 when Henry

other politicians, military and titled residents.

built in 1968-73; Richmond Court, a block of

Swindell leased a portion of the land in the north

Lowndes Square has been the home of many

flats with shops was completed in 1937-8; and

east corner, where he built a house surrounded

distinguished residents, including civil engineer

where West Halkin Street meets Lowndes Street

by extensive grounds that became a well-known

and architect, Sir John Rennie; architect, Sir

is Bolebec House by Sir Lancelot Keay, Basil

pleasure resort called ‘Spring Gardens’, where

William Tite; Admiral Southey; and railway

Duckett & partners in 1962. Across the street

Samuel Pepys was a frequent visitor. The house

contractor, Thomas Brassey. No.1 Lowndes

is the distinct semicircular Chelsea House, with

attached to the gardens was demolished in 1828

Square was the home of Sir William Molesworth

flats over shops, completed in 1935 by Thomas

to make way for Lowndes Square.

and Mr Leader, MP for Westminster; No.7

Tait.

was the home of General Lord Airey; while the

21

At around the same time that Lord Grosvenor

square was also home to writer, Mrs Gascoigne;

was planning the development of Belgravia,

Lady Morgon; Right Honourable Robert Lowe,

William Lowndes was also planning for building

MP, and later Lord Sherbrooke; and a number of

the history of belgravia

chestertonhumberts.com

Ordnanace Survey map 1869

The Lowndes family & Spring Gardens


Albert Gate

To the north of Lowndes Square, Albert Gate,

and Henry Graham and the Countess of

A number of old houses and the pubs were

named after Prince Albert, marks more than just

Derwentwater, daughter of Charles II, in 1705.

demolished in 1841 for the creation of Albert

a short-cut to the Hyde Park. It was at this point

On either side of the chapel were pubs (remem-

Gate. The new gates were installed in 1845, with

that the early ‘Knights Bridge’ was located. It was

bering that much of early Knightsbridge was

the two stags that had formerly been on a

also around this area that some of the earliest

highwaymen and taverns), including ‘The Queen’s

gateway to Green Park. At the same time, Cubitt

houses were located. To the east was the site of an

Head’, dating back to 1576, but demolished in

was planning for the construction of two grand

ancient hospital believed to have been built in the

1843.

stucco mansions on either side of Albert Gate.

late 1500s and used for those suffering from the

The house on the east became the home of ‘rail-

Bubonic plague in 1665 and also for those

On the western side of today’s Albert Gate was

way king’ George Hudson, and since that time

suffering from Leprosy. After the hospital had

‘The Fox and Bull’, which was said to have been

has been the French Embassy, where Emperor

been demolished in the early 1800s, the site was

founded at the time of Elizabeth I and where

Louis Napoleon held a levee in 1855.

used for the Cannon Brewery, but it didn’t last

she would stop on her way to visit Lord Burleigh

long as it too had been demolished in 1841.

at his house in Brompton. It is also believed to

Hyde Park Hotel

Attached to the hospital was Holy Trinity

have been visited by Sir Joshua Reynolds and also

The Hyde Park Hotel, now the Mandarin

Chapel, which was often the location for secret

where the wife of the poet Shelley was brought

Oriental Hyde Park was constructed as a ‘gentle-

marriages. It appears that Knightsbridge was one

after she drowned herself in the Serpentine. In

men’s chambers and club, in 1889-91 by Archer

of the destinations for those wishing to cover

1809 six entire male skeletons were discovered

& Green. It was constructed in a French Early

their indiscretions or for those wishing to go

under the grounds of the pub, supposed to be

Renaissance style, with pyramid roofs with

against the wishes of relatives. Irregular marriages

remains of soldiers from the Civil War.

lanterns and ornate decoration. It became a hotel

that took place at Holy Trinity included Sir

shortly after construction, in 1902. The main

Robert Walpole and Katherine Shorter in 1700

staircase is the original from 1889.

The the history history of of belgravia belgravia

22


Courtesy of City of Westminster Centre

Motcomb Street

Kinnerton Street

Life in Belgravia

shops in the heart of Belgravia. It was originally

by Seth Smith and named after a village in

not want shops to be seen, but rather, along

named Kinnerton Mews, but the name changed

Cheshire on the Grosvenor estates. The street was

with pubs, they were banished to the mews and

shortly after completion in 1830. The north side

built as a service road, including coach houses,

smaller streets on the outskirts. Cubitt planned

of Motcomb Street features the stucco front

with accommodation above; artizans’ houses;

for the area to be exclusively private houses,

of the ‘Pantechnicon’, built by Seth Smith to

small businesses and pubs. Today, it still retains

but unusually Seth Smith deliberately created

designs by Joseph Jopling in 1830. It formerly

a feeling of a small village. Earl Mountbatten

the Pantechnicon in Motcomb Street, as well

housed carriage show rooms, shops and extensive

of Burma, who was assassinated by the IRA in

as Halkin Arcade, which is now Waitrose. Still

warehousing, with a bazaar in the block opposite.

1979, maintained a house at No.2 Kinnerton

today, the majority of the pubs in Belgravia are

The supposedly fire-proof warehouse behind

Street from 1968 until his death. Studio Place,

tucked away in the mews. Through traffic was

burnt down in 1874, and its replacement became

renamed in 1931, was built as College Place in

also banned from the estate, which was enforced

a shopping arcade and garden.

1844. It contains Bradbrook House which until

by bars across Pont Street and the King’s Road,

1890 was a series of schools of anatomy. It was

attended by barkeepers in top-hats, who were

then converted into artists’ studios, renamed

given strict instructions to turn back commercial

Kinnerton Studios in 1893 and then Bradbrook

vehicles, and unauthorised private carriages.

Today, Motcomb Street is a small enclave of

Kinnerton Street area was developed from 1824

In the design for Belgravia, landowners did

House in 1948. During World War I it was used as a hospital.

23 the history of belgravia

chestertonhumberts.com


Ordnanace Survey map 1869

The Wiltons

Wilton Crescent and Wilton Place were both

Wilton Place was built on the site of an old cow

built by Seth Smith between 1824 and 1828.

yard from 1827. It has been the home of actress,

The name Wilton originated from Lady Eleanor

Mrs Reynolds; and No.13 was the home of

Egerton, daughter of the 1st Earl of Wilton,

antiquary, Honourable Thomas Stapleton. St

who married Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess

Paul’s Church in Wilton Place was built in

of Westminster. They have been the home of a

1840-43 by Thomas Cundy, junior.

number of prominent residents, with Wilton Crescent the home of historian, Henry Hallam,

Today, Wilton Row is known for renowned

at No.24 where he entertained many from the

Grenadier pub, believed to be one of the most

literary world; No.16 was the home of the Right

haunted pubs in London and named for its

Honourable James Lowther, MP and later Lord

close association with the former Foot-Guards

Dudley Stuart; No.37 was the home of Lord

Barracks. Wilton Row, built by Thomas Cubitt,

Chewton, who was later killed at the Battle of

was first known as Wilton Crescent Mews and

Alma; No.30 was the home of Lord John Rus-

completed by the early 1830s.

sell; and the poet, Swinburne also lived in the Crescent in 1856.

24 The the history history of of belgravia belgravia


Chesham Street St George’s Place Old Barrack Yard & Chesham Place

Chesham Street was laid out for building during

Prior to the building of Belgravia, some earlier

Old Barrack Yard was laid out in 1830 and

the 1830s as part of the building development of

houses were constructed facing Knightsbridge

originally named Phillips Terrace, until 1836. It

William Lowndes on land that ran adjacent to

during the 18th century. The section between

was an entrance to a cow pasture at the rear of

the Westbourne River. The name Chesham

today’s Lowndes Street towards the Lanesbor-

Knightsbridge on which barracks of the Foot

originated from the family home of the Lowndes,

ough Hotel, much of which has been demolished,

Guards were built from 1758. In 1830, Thomas

in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Nos. 2-10

was known as St George’s Place. The section

Phillips rebuilt it as cottages and stabling.

Chesham Street were first completed in the mid

towards Hyde Park corner, named Knightsbridge

1830s with residents including a Viscountess, a

Terrace, was home to a selection of notable

Baronet, and an Earl. Chesham Place was laid

occupants, including Maurice Morgann, part of

out in 1831 and was the home of Madame

the embassy sent to negotiate peace with America

Vestris in 1837; while No.37 was home of Lord

in 1783; Charles II’s Ambassador to Persia, Sir

John Russell; No.35 was home to Sir Charles

John Chardin; and at No.8 Knightsbridge Terrace

Wood in 1851; and No.29 was the Russian

was the home of William Penn, the founder of

Embassy.

Pennsylvania in the United States. Other notable residents of this part of old Knightsbridge have included: poet and friend Harrison; Portuguese chevalier who became Secretary to the Embassy at Vienna, Francis Xavier D’Oliveyra; and the Countess of Yarmouth, mistress of George II. Nos. 11-13 was originally an entrance to Hyde Park tube station,

24

as is identified by the familiar deep red tiled exterior.

the history of belgravia

chestertonhumberts.com

Courtesy of City of Westminster Centre

of Joseph Addison and Jonathan Swift, Thomas


26 the history of belgravia


On the corner of Knightsbridge and Hyde

curiosities such as a half-sovereign taken from

The old entrance was through an arched passage

Park Corner is the grand Lanesborough Hotel,

Mr. Brunel’s windpipe and money and knives

and past a pub, ‘The Turf ’, a popular spot for a

formerly St George’s Hospital, which is on the

taken from patients’ stomachs.

drink, as well as offering accommodation for

site of the former ‘country house’ of James Lane,

the many grooms, jockeys and horse-dealers.

Viscount Lanesborough. The original house was

St George’s Hospital continued at Hyde Park

By 1864, Tattersalls had become completely

built on the outskirts of London in 1719 when

Corner until 1980, when it relocated to Tooting.

surrounded in buildings and streets and it was

this area was still countryside. Lanesborough

The Grosvenor estate then bought back the site

decided to relocate it further west to

was most notably responsible for the gilding of

and in 1988 it was agreed the hospital would be

Knightsbridge Green, where the Tattersall Tavern

the upper gallery around the dome of St Paul’s

converted into a new high class hotel, now known

is the only reminder of the former horse

Cathedral, at his own expense. He passed away in

as the Lanesborough Hotel.

auctioneers in Knightsbridge.

1724 and by 1733 the house had been acquired by the governors of the Westminster Infirmary to

Tattersalls

convert into a hospital. Over time, the old house

Behind today’s Lanesborough Hotel, was the

was converted and extended, but by the 1880s it

famous Tattersall’s horse market, “so renowned

was clear that a new building was required.

through all the breadth and length of horseloving, horse-breeding, horse-racing Europe”.

27

The new hospital was designed by William

Tattersalls was the destination point for buying

Wilkins, who was also responsible for the designs

and selling horses across the country, as well as

of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The

those for Europe seeking out the best breeds for

new hospital, built in a neo-Greek style with

the nobility and gentry and was popularly known

projecting wings and a large portico of four

as ‘the corner’. It was founded in 1773 by Richard

pillars facing Green Park, was built in 1827-29.

Tattersall, former training groom to the Duke of

The new building not only included hospital

Kingston.

wards, but also a chapel, a museum, lecture room and private apartments. The museum held

the history of belgravia

chestertonhumberts.com

Map of London 1799 by Richard Horwood

St George’s Hospital – Lanesborough Hotel


Wellington Arch & Hyde Park Corner

Prior to the building of Wellington Arch and

to complete the arch with the planned external

proposed a new plan for Hyde Park Corner

Hyde Park Screen by Decimus Burton, Hyde

decoration and Burton was forced to leave it with

which required the moving of Wellington Arch.

Park Corner was simply the entrance to London,

the plain external work, as it remains today. The

In 1883, the arch was completely dismantled

marked by a toll gate. In the early 19th century,

Arch, at this time known as Green Park Arch,

(including the removal of the statue of

a number of plans for new grand city gates were

was also situated in a different position, in line

Wellington on top) and the arch was rebuilt

submitted, including designs from Sir John Soane

with Hyde Park Screen and parallel to Grosvenor

where it stands today, looking down Constitu-

and Robert Adam, but they were deemed too

Place.

tion Hill as a grand avenue towards Buckingham

extravagant. However, after the end of the

Palace. The statue of Wellington was relocated to

Napoleonic Wars it was proposed that a grand

A few years later, in 1838, it was decided that the

a site near the

arch be built to mark the entrance to the new

top of the green park arch was an ideal

garrison church at Aldershot and a new statue

Royal Palace of George IV, Buckingham House,

situation for a monument to the Duke of

of the Duke of Wellington by Sir Joseph Boehm

which would double as a monument to the Na-

Wellington. Artist, Matthew Cotes Wyatt was

was placed outside Apsley House, the former

poleonic victories.

chosen to complete the statue, but unfortunately

home of the Duke of Wellington, in 1888.

Decimus Burton’s design for a new grand

his design, featuring the Duke of Wellington on

gateway into Hyde Park, which is the one that

a horse, was almost universally disliked. There was

The removal of the notorious Wellington statue

still stands today, was approved in 1825, and at

a great outcry against the statue, but it was still

meant that the top of the arch was empty. King

the same time he was commissioned to design a

placed on top of the arch in 1846.

Edward VII suggested a statue by sculptor,

new arch to mark the entrance to Buckingham

Within forty years, the growing traffic using

Captain Adrian Jones, who began work on

Palace. The original designs for the arch featured

Piccadilly, and the increased traffic after the

the quadriga, based on a smaller work called

ornate decoration with statues and frieze, as

opening of Victoria Station in 1860 meant that

‘Triumph’. The final work was unveiled in the

well as trophies of arms and a sculpture on top.

the roads needed to be widened. In 1880, the

presence of George VI and Queen Mary in April

However, by 1830, there was no further budget

First Commissioner of Works, Shaw Lefevre

1912.

The the history history of of belgravia belgravia

28


Grosvenor Place

Grosvenor Place was one of the earliest parts of

nistoun, Glasgow MP; and Right Honourable

Smith and those on the south were by Cubitt.

Belgravia to be built on, with the first building to

Philip Henry, 5th Earl of Stanhope, MP and

Notable inhabitants have included Lord Ash-

the south, the Lock Hospital, built in 1746, when

historian. No.17, built in 1875 by R.J. Waller

bourne at No.5; Right Honourable Sir George

much of the surrounding area was covered in

became the Irish Embassy. Other residents have

Trevelyan, Bart, M.P at No.8; the Duke of Leeds

fields. It was originally built as an isolation hos-

included: Sir Thomas Neville Abdy, first baronet

at No.11; and C. Bulkeley Barrington, MP at

pital, in particular to cure females “suffering from

MP and High Sheriff of Essex in 1875; Lord

No.14.

diseases contracted by a vicious way of life.”

George John Manners, MP and son of the 5th Duke of Rutland; Sir Thomas Bateson, Bt. Later,

Halkin Street

Grosvenor Place was laid out with houses from

it was home to first Baron Deramore; J.H. Man-

Halkin Street is dominated by Forbes House,

1767, shortly after George III made Buckingham

ners-Sutton, Lord of the Treasury and Colonial

formerly known as Mortimer House, a nine bay

House a royal country residence. The original

Governor who became 3rd Viscount Canterbury;

house, built with yellow brick and hidden behind

18th century houses were large detached villas,

and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Prime

a walled forecourt with trees. The original part of

with a number of notable residents. However, by

Minister from 1905 to 1908.

the house was built in around 1810 by Sir Robert

the 1860s, and after Belgravia had become the

Smirke for the 5th Earl of Oxford, but it was

centre of fashionable London, it was decided to

Since the turn of the 20th century, many of the

later extended in 1824 for the 3rd Earl Fitzwil-

redevelop Grosvenor Place. Thomas Cundy, the

houses along Grosvenor Place have now been

liam, and again in around 1912, for the 8th Earl

younger was responsible for much of the building

converted for commercial or institutional use,

of Granard, who was responsible for the name of

in 1865-71 in a 17th century French Renaissance

with large sections entirely rebuilt.

‘Forbes’. The Caledonian Club was built in 1913

style.

on the site of the Belgrave Chapel, which had Grosvenor Crescent

29

been built by Sir Robert Smirke in 1811.

The new houses along Grosvenor Place were soon

Grosvenor Crescent was laid out from 1837,

taken up by wealthy residents, including Honour-

over the corner of Belgrave Square through the

Chapel Street

able Harry George Vane, MP, who later became

grounds of the old Tattersalls horse auction mart,

Chapel Street was named after the former

4th Duke of Cleveland; Baron Sir Anthony de

but was not completed until 1860. The houses

Chapel attached to the Lock Hospital, which

Rothschild of the banking family; John Den-

in the northern terrace were completed by Seth

was located here. It was first built up in the late

the history of belgravia

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18th century, but only partly completed at the turn of the 19th century. Most notably it has been the former home of Richard Jones, teacher of elocution, who became known as ‘Gentleman Jones’. He was a highly sought after teacher for politicians, preachers and lawyers who needed assistance with their speech. Wilton Street Wilton Street was built between 1819 and 1825. No.8 was the home of Henry Gray, who worked at St George’s Hospital and wrote the anatomy textbook, Gray’s Anatomy that is still used by medical students today. It was also home to actress and stage performer Miss Ruth Draper during 1936. Wilton Street was also the home of former Prime Minister Edward Heath who moved to No.17 after the loss of the election in

Ordnanace Survey map 1869

1974.

30 The The history history of of belgravia belgravia


the historian melanie backe-hansen

At Chesterton Humberts we understand the

made available within property details. Historical

or a particular building and wondered how long it

importance of national heritage, with our own

information such as former residents, when the

has been there or what it may have been hundreds

history dating back to 1805.

house was built, how the area developed, and even

of years ago. The Chesterton Humberts historian

any significant events in the house are used to

can give an insight to these mysteries and an

Chesterton Humberts greatly value the history

give insight into the history of the house and the

overview of the life of a house and the people

of houses and the insight they give to the lives of

people who have lived there.

who have called it home.

our ancestors and our nation’s social history. As well as being property experts we believe that it is

Along with providing an historical overview of

important to understand our history – to support

the house, the Chesterton Humberts historian

this we employ our own in-house historian to

works closely with our marketing team and

bring the history of property to life. Chesterton

journalists with a view to generating additional

Humberts is the only UK estate agent to offer this

publicity for the property. Whether the home

unique service.

of a famous resident, striking architecture or an association with an historic event, the historian

The Chesterton Humberts historian is responsible

can offer a unique perspective that may generate

for uncovering and bringing to life the stories

further media coverage.

behind each house, as well as giving insight into the history of local areas and streets.

People are increasingly interested in knowing more about the history of their house or the

On homes where the history is deemed

house they hope to live in. Most people have

particularly valuable, historical information is

walked along a street and noticed a blue plaque

melanie backe-hansen

Specialist in researching the history of houses. Chesterton Humberts is the only estate agent to employ a full time house historian. Read Melanie’s blog at http://property-blog.chestertonhumberts.com/ or follow Melanie on twitter http://twitter.com/househistorian

30 the history of belgravia

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31 the history of belgravia


32 the history of belgravia


the history of belgravia

Knightsbridge and Belgravia Office 31 Lowndes Street Knightsbridge London sw1x 9hx sales t: 020 7235 8090

sales.knightsbridge@chestertonhumberts.com

lettings t: 020 7235 3530

lettings.knightsbridge@chestertonhumberts.com


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CH History of Belgravia