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London’s Iconic Streets

Eaton Square, Belgravia, London

Eaton Square in London’s Belgravia district is one of three neighboring garden squares regarded as some of the most desirable prime residential real estate in Britain. For the last two centuries residents have included; Prime Ministers, oligarchs, actors and royalty.

Glamour is only one of the appeals of this quiet patch of Kensington and Chelsea. Here you’ll find some of the finest Grade-II listed Georgian architecture anywhere in London. The properties range from 60 sq m flats to 1,200 sq m houses. Unlike other prime real estate that fronts some of the capital’s streets, these residences come with views over 2.5 hectares of private gardens for the residents’ use only. Furthermore with the boutiques of The Kings Road and Sloane Street within strolling distance, it’s easy to see how this exclusive enclave seduces so many of the world’s super-rich.

1868 map of Eaton Square and Belgravia

History

Thomas Cubitt’s ingenious solution

In 1813 the area of land that Eaton Square now occupies was owned, as it had been for 136 years and remains to this day, by the family of Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess of Westminster. It was in this year, that the Marquess commissioned the first masterplan to be drawn for the area.

Initially his plans were put on hold as a consequence of the ground being perceived as too boggy to build on. However new impetus for development would arrive seven years later when King George IV ascended the throne in 1820. The new King regularly used a private road on the Grosvenor’s land to link him on to The King’s Road, which was the main traverse between Queen’s Palace (later Buckingham Palace) and his other palaces at Kew and Hampton Court.  The Marquess’ vision was to build a new aristocratic neigbourhood on his land that would serve as a base from which aristocratic residents could court the new King.

Appointing Mr. Thomas Cundy to the job of revisiting the original master plan for the area, it took Cundy five years from 1820 to develop a credible vision for the area, which would include Belgrave and Eaton Squares. The names of these two most prestigious squares were taken from the Marquess’ family’s seat at Eaton Hall in the village of Belgrave, Cheshire.  The old problem of building on marshy ground was overcome, when Thomas Cubitt was appointed as the main building contractor. He suggested that it was possible for earth to be excavated from another of his projects at St. Katherine’s Dock and then ship this up-river to stabalise the marshy Marquess’s land. An ingenious solution for the time.

So it was that by 1827, work eventually began on Eaton Square, under the approval of the first Marquess’s son, who by now had assumed his father’s title and shared his father’s vision to realise the neighbourhood of Belgravia.

Typical Georgian period house along London's exclusive Eaton Square

Architecture

From above one can see that Eaton Square is actually rectangular in shape, spread across six hectares and bisected by; Kings’ Road, Eccleston and Lyall Streets. These roads effectively form two rows of three gardens that are together enclosed by a perimeter of Georgian style housing that lines the Square.

The architecture of Eaton Square, as designed by the architect Thomas Cubitt and Seth-Smith is Georgian dating between 1827 and 1849. Cubbit designed the northern, slightly more prestigious side of the square, whilst Seth-Smith the southern. The differences are small, with the north generally featuring slightly larger apartments with a tad more grandeur. Nonetheless the majority of housing here is decorated in rich cream stucco. Fine motifs embellish the facades of the properties, with the finest being centrally located amongst the properties on both sides of the square. Further classical references are observed from the projecting Doric porches that let you into the buildings from the street. With such an accumulation of prestigious architectural features, it’s no wonder that the vast majority of homes in the Square are Grade II listed.

Interiors

In the 1950s most of the properties of Eaton Square were converted into apartments, meaning there are very few entire houses available to lease or purchase on the square today. What residents do with the interiors of their properties very much depends on their circumstances; some of the properties will be used as a primary residence and others simply as a place to spend a part of their time or hold their capital.

A few number of the whole properties that still exist typically span six-floors up and can be up to 12,000sq.ft in size. These properties are known to have the capacity for swimming pools, gymnasiums, spas, media rooms and personal libraries. Whilst smaller apartments ranging from 600 to 4000 sq. ft still provide high-ceiling spaces in which to craft elegant entertaining, dining and study spaces from.

The grade II listed features of these period properties make them an interior designers dream to work with. Often owners of these properties want to update the look of their property in a way that makes it inviting and comfortable for themselves, without it feeling too cold or dated. There are many great examples of such modernization projects in the square.

One of the six gardens that form Eaton Square

Neigbourhood

The majority of property on the square is leased by the Duke of Westminster, Lord Grosvenor’s estate.  Where once his forebears purposely kept rents low, to entice a glamorous cocktail of the rich and famous into the area – today leaseholders tend to be captains of industry and hedge fund managers rather than Hollywood royalty. These residents are internationally minded and come and go as they please, utilizing their Belgravia address only when they are visiting London. The square is incredibly serene thanks to this pattern of behavior and the expansive gardens. It is said that when any of the residents meet each other in the street, there is an instant camaraderie and respect for ne another, because if you live at any of these addresses then one’s sure to have more in common than first appearance might suggest.