A well-appointed home in Belgravia remains one of the world’s most enviable assets. Ruth Bloomfield has put together a guide to Belgravia to find out why
Belgravia began its journey to real estate superstardom when King George III moved to Buckingham House, now Buckingham Palace. Aristocrats and courtiers started looking around for places to live nearby and Richard Grosvenor, the second Marquess of Westminster, was quick to react to the demand. In the 1820s he asked architect Thomas Cubitt to design an estate modelled on neighbouring Mayfair. He named it Belgravia in honour of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Cheshire village of Belgrave which is a short walk from the country seat of the Grosvenor family.
Belgravia’s grand townhouses were an immediate hit, and it rapidly became one of London’s most fashionable locales. So entrenched is SW1W in the DNA of the British upper classes that it provided the setting for five novels by Anthony Trollope, the classic television series Upstairs Downstairs, Julian Fellowes’ follow up to Downton Abbey, Belgravia, a lockdown guilty pleasure when it screened last year.
At first glance
Away from the tourists and supercars of Knightsbridge, Belgravia has a distinctly villagey feel with its traditional pubs and charming independent shops – albeit a village filled with elegant terraces of tall and slender townhouses and huge white stucco villas, most divided up into large lateral apartments.
The streets are leafy and quiet, and they have an rather celebratory feel thanks to the flags of the numerous embassies that are based here. “Belgravia is a community,” says Shereen Malik-Akhtar, head of central London sales at Sotheby’s International Realty. “Everybody knows everybody, it works for families, for couples, and for people who want a pied-à-terre, and you can get to Mayfair, or Knightsbridge, or Soho, without being in the middle of all the hustle and bustle.”
The streets of Belgravia are also simply overflowing with blue plaques: both Stanley Baldwin and Margaret Thatcher lived at 93 Eaton Square, London’s largest garden square. Just around the corner, the Iron Lady’s bête noire, Michael Heseltine owned an even larger townhouse, on Wilton Crescent. Ebury Street has probably the most star-studded line up of former residents: it was where Mozart composed his first symphony at the age of eight, Noel Coward grew up, and Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, also lived.
Hollywood glamour comes in the form of actors Vivien Leigh, star of Gone with the Wind, and Omar Sharif, of Lawrence of Arabia and Dr Zhivago fame. They lived in the same flat on Eaton Square – although not at the same time.
Belgravia also has strong links to the British Royal Family. Lord Mountbatten owned 2 Wilton Crescent during the 1960s, while Camilla Parker Bowles had a pied-à-terre at the Cundy Street flats in the 1970s. The site is now earmarked for redevelopment into more than 300 new flats. More recently the shamed socialite Ghislaine Maxwell bought a house on Kinnerton Street which she is reported to be selling to help pay for her legal defence in the US.
Belgravia isn’t quite on Mayfair’s level when it comes to Michelin stars, but it does have the three-starred Amaya, Tom Aiken’s Muse, below, and The Dining Room at The Goring. Long established local favourites such as wine bar Motcombs, La Poule au Pot, and the old school Italian Zafferano, have been joined by a raft of new arrivals. At the Pantechnicon, the recently opened Sachi restaurant (the name means happiness) serves delectable sushi, while the Chestnut Bakery has irresistible breads and pastries. The newly opened Ganymede offers modern-European cuisine from Oliver Marlowe. While gastrobpubs The Thomas Cubitt and The Alfred Tennyson are packed most evenings.
Schools and shops
Lots of smart prep schools to choose from, including the all-through option of Hill House or Eaton House. There are also top rated state primary options, including St Peter’s Eaton Square and St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School. For older pupils Saint Thomas More Language College also gets top marks from Ofsted. Francis Holland School for girls is close by, as is Westminster School for boys (with girls in the sixth form).
With the retail superstreet that is Knightsbridge to the north, what Belgravia has to offer is beautifully curated local boutiques, cafés and restaurants. Buy heels from Christian Louboutin, stock the fridge at The Fine Cheese Co, and pick up glorious flowers at Neill Strain on Halkin Street. Elizabeth Street has been transformed with cake shop Peggy Porschen, Jo Malone’s Jo Loves London Store, and jewellers Loquet London.
Eccleston Yards, a former power station just around the corner from Elizabeth Street, reopened three years ago as an urban oasis with co-working space, cafes and restaurants. The workplace concept called 25EP is Grosvenor Britain & Ireland’s first foray into the flexible working sector, mixed with a dash of luxury hospitality. Neighbours include Wild by Tart, Atis, Morena, Ole & Steen, Barry’s Bootcamp and Re:Mind. And earlier this year the designer Anya Hindmarch returned to her Pont Street roots and opened five stores including a café, hair salon, and shops selling recycled bags, personalised gifts, and even a shop entirely devoted to the art of home organisation.
Like the rest of Prime Central London, Belgravia has had a tough ride over the past decade – according to the latest research from LonRes prices stand two per cent lower than they were ten years ago, after a series of blows from global financial crises to tax hikes to Brexit. According to LonRes, prices range from a one-bedroom flat at £495,000 to a five-bedroom penthouse currently on at £45 million.
Lulu Egerton, senior director at Strutt & Parker, believes its market was poised to ignite in early 2020 – until the pandemic put the brakes on again. “It really became a very difficult market overnight because the international buyers were not there,” she says. She estimates that more than half of all properties sold in Belgravia under normal circumstances go to overseas buyers, and this outlet simply dried up.
However as travel restrictions ease, Egerton is seeing demand returning. “Prime London real estate as an asset class is still what everyone would like to have,” she says. “We have just sold a house for £14m to a buyer from Saudi Arabia, and one for £24m to a buyer from South Korea. There have been some fairly big ticket purchases by buyers who have taken advantage of the fact that there is so
These early signs have encouraged Egerton to take a “pretty bullish” view of Belgravia’s prospects. “We are learning to live with the pandemic,” she says.
One the market
Enjoyed reading about homes for sale? Read about other properties on the London market