Thursday, 14 March
In our last blog, we reported that we’ve gone
out to tender with four design and build contractors. While we are
waiting for the next phase to begin, it seems like a good time to
pause and think about the building that has been our HQ for the
last 39 years – 17 Belgrave Square.
For those who haven't visited Number
17, it is a stucco-fronted Regency house built in the early 1830s
The area we know today as Belgravia
started being developed by the Grosvenor family in the early 19th
Previously, it had been a rural area
between Westminster and the village of Knightsbridge, but it soon
turned into a high-class residential area.
Today, the building is owned
by The Grosvenor
Estate, a portfolio of businesses, rural estates and other
assets owned by trusts on behalf of the 6th Duke of Westminster and
According to the
archives, Number 17 was first tenanted in 1839 by Sir Ralph
Howard, a Whig MP for Wicklow. In the 1841 census he was living
here with his wife, seven female servants and four male servants.
The next tenant was Pandeli Ralli. He too was an MP, a Liberal who
represented Bridport and then Wallingford.
The third tenant was Leontine,
Lady Sassoon, who lived here from 1929 to 1942, but retained
the tenancy until 1955. She is said to have kept an open house for
soldiers during the Second World War, and used part of the property
as a Red Cross supply depot.
Number 17 was taken over by the Institute of
Metals in 1956, before the College bought the leasehold for
£725,000 in 1974. Thus, in the 174 years since it was first
occupied, 17 Belgrave Square has only had five different
Many visitors to the College are impressed by
the beautiful period detail of our formal rooms – the Council Room,
Library, Members’ Room and Dining Room. These rooms, with their
high ceilings, marble fireplaces and elegant wood paneling, were
sympathetically refurbished in the late 1990s.
The crowning glory of our entrance hall is a
stunning English crystal chandelier, dating back to the 1890s (see
photo below). It was donated to the College in 1976 by The Priory
Hospital and Dr Wilfrid Warren, who was Vice President
of the College at the time, thanked the Board of Directors for
their generosity and kindness. We are busy thinking
about how the chandelier, along with our collection of portraits,
paintings, busts and antiques, can be incorporated into the new
This beautiful English crystal
chandelier, made in the 1890s, currently takes pride of place in
the entrance hall of 17 Belgrave Square. A new home will need to be
found for it after the move.
With the move to east London later this year,
the College is about to start a new chapter in its long history.
And so, too, will 17 Belgrave Square, as it prepares to welcome a
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