It’s one of London’s most exclusive postcodes – but how well do you know it? One of the wealthiest districts in the world, Belgravia is known for its high class and famous residents, but what else is there to learn about this exclusive neighbourhood? Here are ten things you may not know about this most fashionable of areas.
1. It is named after Viscount Belgrave, who is better known as Gerald Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster. The Duke’s family home is located a couple of miles from the village of Belgrave, in Cheshire.
2. Many of the buildings in Belgravia, particularly around Belgrave Square itself, were designed by famous London architect Thomas Cubitt. There is a blue plaque in his honour at his former home in Brighton, but he’d likely be more proud of the pub named after him in Belgravia itself.
3. The area was once known as Five Fields, and was a swampy marshland infested by robbers and bandits. Clearly Belgravia offers one of the starkest demonstrations of how the city has changed over the centuries.
4. The picturesque Gothic church of St Michael, in Chester Square, was built in 1844 from the designs of Thomas Cundy in a fourteenth century style. Its lofty spire towered over the rest of the church, which was constricted by the space available, and its design was heavily criticised before modifications were made 30 years later. It now serves as a thriving meeting place at the heart of the community.
5. During the Second World War, Belgrave Square was used as a tank park, and three bombs are known to have been dropped on the square during the Blitz. Eaton Square suffered even more, with no fewer than nine direct hits according to the bomb census at www.bombsight.org.
6. Mozart wrote his first ever symphony at 180 Ebury Street, at just eight years old. Symphony No. 1 in E flat major was composed as the young maestro travelled Europe with his father, and was heavily influenced by Johann Christian Bach, son of Johann Sebastien, who was living in Belgravia at the time.
7. Belgravia has been called home by countless luminaries and celebrities over the years, from Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain to composers Frédéric Chopin and Andrew Lloyd Webber, plus of course Mozart. Unfortunately, one of its most famous residents is one the area would like to forget – Richard Bingham, better known as the infamous Lord Lucan.
8. The area has a particular connection with the James Bond series of films. Writer Ian Fleming lived on Ebury Street, while actors Sir Sean Connery and Sir Roger Moore have also called Belgravia home in the past. One of the series’ most notable villains was played by Sir Christopher Lee, who was born in Belgravia.
9. One of the more relaxing areas of Belgravia is Belgrave Square Gardens. This beautiful green area, designed by George Basevi and planted by Thomas Cubitt in 1826 contains a tennis court, a quiet area and a children’s playground. Within the gardens you will find bronze and stone statues of historical explorers including memorials to both Christopher Columbus and Simon Bolivar.
10. The average property price in Belgravia today is around £2.5m, with a large number of properties far in excessive of that figure. It is comfortably among the most expensive areas in the world to live.