Monday, September 29, 2008

Belgrave Square , Belgravia

Belgrave Square covers nearly 10 acres. It was the centrepiece of the whole estate and contained the grandest homes The north and east sides of the square were the first to be constructed. When it became clear that there was going to be considerable demand for the houses, the west and south sides were built in a more extravagant and flamboyant style. The houses are very large. There are only 11 in the terraces on each side (with one more on the south side).
In the first half of the 20th century the area fell into decline, and the square was saved by the need for suitably large and imposing houses for embassies. In recent times, several buildings have returned to use as residences, but as flats rather than houses. The original facades have been kept but many of the buildings have been substantially rebuilt behind to create large flats, some running laterally behind more than one house front to make very large flats indeed.
The central gardens are private. On the east side of the gardens, there is a bronze statue of Simon Bolivar, which was created by Hugo Daini in 1974, and apparently donated by grateful South American countries. (Simon Bolivar liberated much of South America from Spanish colonial rule, including Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama.) The inscription on the plinth - apparently his own words - reads: "I am convinced that England alone is capable of protecting the world's precious rights as she is great, glorious and wise." He must have been applying for a loan at the time.
Like Belgravia itself, Belgrave Square was named after Belgrave, a village near Leicester owned by the Grosvenor family.
Earl Grosvenor had to get an Act of Parliament passed to allow him to begin building on the site in 1826. The builder he chose was Thomas Cubitt. The architect was George Basevi, who was responsible for many of the best Regency buildings in Kensington.
Large detached houses were placed at the corners of the square, separated from it by the roads radiating outwards. Each house is place diagonally, facing into the centre of the square. No. 12, on the north-west corner, was built in about 1830 for Lord Brownlow by Sir Robert Smirke. No. 24, on the south-west corner, was built in 1834 by H E Kendall for Thomas Read Kemp. (Read Kemp had himself built Kemp Town in Brighton). No. 37, Seaford House, the house on the south-east corner, was designed by Philip Hardwick for Lord Sefton, and built in 1842-6. Finally, No. 49, on the north-east corner, was designed by Sidney Herbert. Thomas Cubitt built it in 1847, possibly for his own use. Two of these houses are now homes to the Spanish and Portuguese Ambassadors

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