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

The College Archives
Frequently asked questions about Belgrave Square

When was the Square built?
Between 1825 and 1847. It was transformed from a large undeveloped area sometimes described as a swamp, a waste or a cess pit into one of the most fashionable districts of London. The marshy ground was partly filled with rubble from excavations in Dockland but the whole area is still not far above the level of the Thames.

What was here before it was built?
It was part of an uncultivated and marshy area between London and Knightsbridge, called the Five Fields which was thought to be very dangerous because of highwaymen.
 
Who owns the land?
The Grosvenor estates (the Duke of Westminster). They acquired it in 1656 when Sir Thomas Grosvenor married Mary Davis, heiress to Belgravia and much of the surrounding area.
 
Who designed it?
The architects were George Basevi and Lewis Cubitt and the builders were Thomas Cubitt and William Seth-Smith. A statue to George Basevi was put up in the Square recently.
 
What is the architectural style?
It's difficult to say exactly. It has been described as Greek Revival and it is post-Georgian (less regular than Georgian) and pre-Victorian (less fussy than Victorian).
 
How many houses are there in the Square?
49
 
Is the Square square?
Not exactly; the corners are on the points of the compass and it faces north-east to south-west rather than north to south.
 
How big is it?
Nearly 10 acres.
 
Where does the name 'Belgrave' come from?
It is the name of an area of Leicestershire that the Dukes of Westminster also own.
 
Who has lived here?
No really famous names but most of the tenants have been the aristocracy and gentry and many of them have been MPs.
 
Who occupies the houses now?
Some are embassies and many are occupied by professional or charitable organisations. Number 17 is one of the few to be occupied by a single tenant.
 
Who looks after the gardens?
A committee including representatives of the Grosvenor estates and of the organisations occupying the houses in the Square. The College's Chief Executive is the current chair of the Committee and has developed part of the gardens to become The Quiet Garden.
 
Who can use the gardens?
Anyone who works in the Square. Occasionally, College special events are held in the gardens.
 
What is in the gardens?
A tennis court, children's play area, paths, lawns and seats. The gardens were used for storage of heavy vehicles during the Second World War and were given a hard surface. This means the present topsoil is very shallow and this limits what can be grown. The College has planted a tree there in 1995 for World Mental Health Day and, more recently, a statue of Magellan was unveiled by the President of Portugal.
 
Is there a history of the Square or any pictures?
There is a history and a few pictures in the College Archives.