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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

The College Archives
Frequently asked questions about 17 Belgrave Square


When was the house built?

In the early 1830s.

Why was it built?
The whole area was being developed. King George IV had made alterations to Buckingham Palace and this led to high-class residential development in the surrounding area.
 
Who owns it?
The Grosvenor Estates, the head of which is the Duke of Westminster.
 
What was it like when it was built?
The rooms on the ground and first floor would have been reception rooms, with family bedrooms on the second floor, domestic staff sleeping in the attics and cooking and laundry done in the basement. There was probably always a water supply and a sewage system.
 
Who has lived here?
The first two tenants were MPs, Sir Ralph Howard and Pandeli Ralli. The next one was Leontine, Lady Sassoon who was tenant from 1929-52. She is said to have had parties here for soldiers here during the Second World War (1939-45); also part of the property was used as a Red Cross supply depot during this war.
 
How long has the College been here?
Since 1974.
 
Who was here immediately before the College?
The Institute of Metals.
 
Who is on either side?
The Country Landowners' Association is at number 16. The Austrian Ambassador lives at number 18 and this house has been the Austrian Ambassador's residence since at least 1871.
 
Has anything historically interesting happened here?
King Edward VIII, when he was Prince of Wales, is said to have met Mrs Dudley Ward here. She was his mistress for many years before he met Mrs Simpson, whom he married.
 
Are there any ghosts?
Possibly. There have been occasional sightings by staff working late.
 
Has the College made any alterations?
Yes, it has been extended both at the back and upwards. There was also an extensive refurbishment of the formal rooms in the late 1990s.
 
Are there still any original features?
Yes, many. The 1990s refurbishment took particular care to enhance the period detail of the property.
 
Are there any pictures of the house before the alterations?
No but there are some architects' plans in the College Archives.
 
Is there a garden?
No. There is a small courtyard but the College has built an extension in what was the garden. This new extension houses the Communications and Policy Department
Is there disabled access?
Yes, a ramp can be brought to the front steps.
 
Can the formal rooms be hired for outside bookings?
Yes, please contact the College for a brochure.
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