Belgrave Square is situated close to Sloane Square, Victoria and Hyde Park Corner underground stations and forms the centrepiece of the Belgravia development. Belgravia was developed from the early 19th century and currently forms part of the Grosvenor Estate which belongs to the Dukedom of Westminster. Belgravia takes its name from Belgrave, a village in Cheshire about two miles from Eaton Hall, the ancestral seat of the Grosvenor family. The lands of Belgravia, Pimlico and the Manor of Ebury (now present day Victoria and Westminster) were acquired by the Grosvenor family in 1677.
A brief history about Belgravia
Prior to its development in the 19th century, Belgravia was known as Five Fields, a marshy area on the outskirts of London and was primarily used for market gardening. Five Fields was notorious for being a haunt of robbers, highwaymen and footpads such that a nearby crossing point near the present-day Sloane Square was nicknamed‘Bloody Bridge.’ Nonetheless, it also gained notoriety as being the location of a failed hot air balloon attempt in 1784 by the adventurer, Chevalier de Moret.
The transformation of Belgravia from farmland to fashionable neighbourhood commenced in 1814 under the headship of Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess Westminster who instructed the master builder, Thomas Cubitt to create a ‘City of Palaces’ that would rival Mayfair. Thomas Cubitt set about creating terraces of stucco-fronted homes surrounding desirable garden squares. The construction of Eaton Square, the largest square in the Belgravia development, commenced in 1827 and was completed in 1853. Wilton Crescent was also started in 1827. The fourth square to be laid out, Chester Square commenced in 1835.
Thomas Cubitt is honoured by a statue located in Denbigh Street, Pimlico in recognition of his vision and talent in helping to construct the Belgravia and Pimlico.
Belgrave Square is surrounded by five and six-story terraced houses with a communal central square and detached mansions situated in each corner. Belgrave Square has a rich history since 1825 and notable people have resided in the square over the years from royalty to aristocracy to the present day use of embassies.
Number 3 was the London home of Prince George, Duke of Kent (younger brother of King Edward VIII and King George VI). Number 7 was the London home of the 7th Duke of Devonshire. Number 24 was the home of Lord Pirrie, where initial talks about constructing the Titanic took place along with J. Bruce Ismay. Number 36 was the home of Victoria, Duchess of Kent (the mother of Queen Victoria).
During World War Two, Belgrave Square played a pivotal role in the war effort and it was transformed by the government for their use. The garden of Belgrave Square was covered with clinker and used as an army vehicle compound. Equally, the gardens of Eaton Square were ploughed up and the railings removed. The houses of Belgrave Square were also converted for war use. Number 17 was used as a Red Cross supply depot and Numbers 14-16 became government offices and were used by the Ministry of Defence. Rudolf Hess is believed to have been interrogated here when he flew to Scotland in 1941 for solo peace talks.
Numbers 14 and 15 have been the home of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) since 1955. The Society of Chemical Industry was founded in 1881 by notable scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs who had the vision to move society forward through science. Specifically through the application of chemistry and the subsequent formation of products, processes and companies. SCI also advocates an understanding and appreciation of the role of chemistry in our everyday lives.
The remaining buildings in Belgrave are largely occupied by embassies or are the residences of ambassadors. Very few buildings remain in the square that are private homes. Within the square and the surrounding roads are the embassies of Spain, Bahrain, Serbia, Norway, Turkey, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Cote D’Ivoire, Syria, Luxembourg, Finland, Hungary and Germany. Along with various High Commissions and Cultural Institutions.
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