Written on 4 October 2018 by Giles Cook in
Today, Belgravia is celebrated for the unified grandeur of its fine Regency architecture, its fashionable streets, and its sought-after residences.
The area was developed in the early 19th Century, and has since maintained its status as one of London’s most prestigious residential addresses.
Belgravia’s continued fortunes have much to do with The Grosvenor Estate, and large swathes of Belgravia is still owned by the family-operated property company Grosvenor Group, with the Duke of Westminster as its figurehead.
The name ‘Belgravia’ stems from the Grosvenors, who were also known by the title Viscount Belgrave, and from the village of Belgrave in Cheshire, the location of the Grosvenor family’s country house, Eaton Hall.
Much of Belgravia was built by the master builder Thomas Cubitt in the 1820s – The Thomas Cubitt pub on Elizabeth Street makes tribute to the role he played in the history of Belgravia. Cubitt received the commission from the 2nd Marquess of Westminster, and most of Belgravia’s buildings and squares were constructed over the following 30 years. Prior to this construction surge, the area was little more than swamp land, and was known as the Five Fields.
The large villas and elegant townhouses which comprise Belgravia were first owned by members of the aristocracy. But following World War II, the make-up of Belgravia changed, and more embassies and institutions set up in the area. Belgrave Square, in particular, is noted as a home for embassies.
Belgravia was then, and remains, a fine example of urban planning, with a coherent layout and a pleasing sense of unity in the architecture – and we can largely give Cubitt credit for this. It’s incredible that so much of what Cubitt built has survived intact and continues to generate admiring reactions from all who visit Belgravia.
Belgravia is characterised by rows of white, stucco townhouses, each one as stately as the last, and garden squares. Belgravia lies within a conservation area, while many of the properties and buildings, including some of the embassies, are listed. This gives them protected status and will ensure the character and appearance of Belgravia’s heritage and architecture is preserved for generations to come.
Expensive land values in Belgravia mean that its properties are out of reach for all but a small handful of buyers. Many buyers originate from or are based overseas, which means that some properties are unoccupied for part of the year. This has contributed to the area feeling somewhat disconnected and quiet. However, Belgravia is booming, largely as consequence of a succession of regeneration projects being carried out.
The history and heritage of Belgravia is being celebrated in the current and recent projects which continue to revitalise this part of central London. Completed projects include the redevelopment of Elizabeth Street, one of Belgravia’s main shopping streets. The project aimed to ‘significantly improve the streetscape’ and was carried out by Grosvenor in partnership with Westminster City Council.
Meanwhile, current projects include the improvement of Motcomb Street, another main shopping street in Belgravia. Though already a street of architectural interest and possessed of a unique character, the project aims to enhance its streetscape and the surrounding environment further, making a visit to Motcomb Street an enjoyable experience for everyone.
Another major regeneration project is Eccleston Yards, which is something of a local success story. The recently-opened site is a hub for co-working and creative enterprise and offers shopping and dining destinations as well as co-working spaces.
You can discover more about the projects currently taking place here.