Bet you didn’t know…
The word ‘pantechnicon’ comes from the horse-drawn vans used by the early-19th-century’s answer to John Lewis, The Pantechnicon, which was based in large premises on Motcomb Street. Although its warehouse was destroyed by a fire in 1876, The Pantech-nicon Ltd continued to trade as a furniture-storage and removal company until the 1970s.
Belgravia residents are a cross-section of the richest and most successful people in the world, from bankers to Middle Eastern royalty, oligarchs, Premier League football managers and actors. But it isn’t full of obvious wealth. ‘Knightsbridge is increasingly a haven for new money, but Belgravia is more about established wealth,’ explains Guy Meacock of buying agents Prime Purchase (020-7881 2392). ‘It still has class. It’s also likely to have the lowest occupancy levels of any residential area of London-you only have to walk around the streets at night to see that. But this appeals to residents, who appreciate the discretion and the anonymity.’
Famous past residents include the former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Noël Coward, Mary Shelley, Vivien Leigh and two James Bonds (Sean Connery and Sir Roger Moore).
Motcomb Street’s Mayhew Newsagents does a brisk trade.
‘St Paul’s in Wilton Place is one of the wealthiest churches in the country in terms of its congregation,’ says James Bailey of Henry & James in Motcomb Street (020-7235 8861). ‘The Christmas carol service is packed with the rich and famous.’ There’s also St Peter’s Eaton Square, which has a lively and varied programme of concerts.
The area has its fair share of gastropubs, including The Orange on Pimlico Road and The Thomas Cubitt on Elizabeth Street, but surprisingly-it also has its fair share of old-school boozers, which are tucked away in mews and back streets, from The Fox & Hounds on Passmore Street to The Nag’s Head on Kinnerton Street and The Grenadier on Wilton Row.
For everything you need
Residents are more than catered for in terms of all matters bread- and breakfast-based by Elizabeth Street. The Parisian baker Poilâne has an outpost at No 46 (excellent croissants), the cafe and deli Baker & Spice is at No 54-56 and the Tomtom Coffee House stands on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Ebury Street. Those with sizeable wallets (of which there are plenty) can head for Daylesford Organic on Pimlico Road to stock up on provisions, and Ottolenghi’s Motcomb Street branch ticks the deli box.
Candle chandler Rachel Vosper owns a shop on Kinnerton Street, where she has a fragrance library and also runs candle-making courses. H. R. Stokes has been supplying stationery to local residents since 1861, and those who think that shopping at Boots leaves something to be desired will be cheered to discover that proper, old-fashioned chemists such as Walden Chymist on Elizabeth Street are still very much in business. And for everything else, there’s Waitrose.
And for things you don’t
There are many, many ways to spend a fortune on the gilded streets of Belgravia. Christian Louboutin is rumoured to have opened his shop on Motcomb Street with the words: ‘For such a pretty street, I want my prettiest shoes.’ Very smart, very expensive children’s clothing is available
at La Stupenderia. Erickson Beamon does a nice line in dramatic jewellery, and Les Senteurs has pretty much every unusual scent on the market. Finally, dieters should definitely avoid Peggy Porschen’s pink bakery on Ebury Street.
Urban Gentry (020-8149 6253; www.urbangentry.com) runs behind-the-scenes and historical tours of Belgravia led by know-ledgeable and entertaining London Blue Badge Guides. Tours start at £214 and must be booked 14 days in advance.
The very popular Pimlico Road Farmer’s Market has run every Sunday on Pimlico Green (also known as Orange Square) since 2002, and has helped to create a sense of community in this southern (and once rather drab) end of Belgravia. Seasonal delights on offer include South Downs game and Colchester oysters.
It’s more a case of street parties than fêtes here, but there are two held each year on Elizabeth and Motcomb Streets. The Belgravia Christmas Sunday on December 2 will see a huge range of stalls set up along Elizabeth Street with carol singers, and on December 6, a late-night opening takes place in Motcomb Street, organised by the traders’ association.
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According to Mr Meacock, ‘you’ve got to be doing very well as a British buyer to enter the Belgravia market these days, because you’re competing against very powerful international buyers’. In tough times, people retreat to what they know, which is why this part of London achieves such consistently high prices.
The interesting thing at the moment is that the Americans have come back. ‘We haven’t seen them really since 2008,’ explains Mr Bailey. ‘We get a lot of interest from Greek, Middle Eastern and Russian buyers-and, more recently, the French.’ Be aware that Belgravia is ‘sorting out its southern borders,’ adds Mr Meacock, with the potential development of Victoria Coach Station and the Chelsea Barracks.
The most popular properties are big lateral flats, but because there aren’t many of them, they command the highest prices. Mews houses, love them or hate them, help give the area a village air.
£18 million, 10, Chester Square, SW1
This six-bedroom freehold house has recently undergone
a comprehensive redesign. It has a superb south-facing, first-floor drawing room, a contemporary and professionally equipped kitchen/breakfast room and a large roof terrace. There is also a private garage. Knight Frank (020-7881 7722)
£8 million, Belgrave Mews West, SW1
A four-bedroom, 3,000sq ft house in this pretty mews has come to the market. It has a large kitchen/breakfast room, cinema room and study, and all the bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms. There is also an integral garage ‘that can happily accommodate a 4×4,’
say agents Henry & James (020-7235 8861).
£1.45 million, Eaton Square, SW1
This large (1,763sq ft) ground-floor flat opens into a central hallway, off which lie a reception room, kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. There is also a balcony off the dining room. Seven years remain on the lease. London Sotheby’s International Realty (020-7495 9580)