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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
10th December 1688 King James II flees London
10th December 1541 Sir Thomas Culpeper, courtier of Henry VIII and lover his fifth queen, Catherine Howard, beheaded at Tyburn.
Five Fields becomes One
A beautiful square with Cheshire at its heart.
Location: Belgrave Square, SW1X
Description: The district of London known today as Belgravia was developed in the 1820s. Previously it was called the Five Fields and was a rural area between London as it was then and the village of Knightsbridge.
In the early 19th century the landowners, the Grosvenor family, Dukes of Westminster, began developing the area. The name Belgrave comes from their property of that name in either Cheshire or Leicestershire. This was a time of expansion for London and the overall architect of Belgrave Square, Thomas Cubitt, is said to have done 'more to change the face of London than any other man'. The square is ten acres in size (about 4 hectares). The street layout was the work of Thomas Cundy II, the Grosvenor estate surveyor, and the terraces were designed by George Basevi, a cousin of Disraeli, who also designed the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
Belgrave Square was laid out in 1826. The corners of the square are on the points of the compass and number 17 is part of the south west terrace line, the last to be completed. The first house to be occupied was one on the north west side in 1828, the first occupants in number 17's terrace came in the early 1830s and all the houses, including the mansions on the corners, were occupied by 1848. The development was a success from the start, probably helped by George IV's decision to convert nearby Buckingham House into a palace for his residence. Later Queen Victoria rented number 36 for her mother and this was considered to be a royal seal of approval for the square.
It is no longer possible to appreciate the original layout because of the growth of trees in the central garden but apart from the traffic Belgrave Square remains much as it was when it was built in the 1820s and 30s.