At Ayrton Wylie we believe in absorbing interesting, relevant, oblique and entirely random knowledge. We have been doing it collectively in Belgravia for over 50 years.
Knowing all the nooks and crannies, the history and the scandal, the famous and infamous, the ballrooms, sculleries, air-raid shelters and wine cellars, all add to the excitement of discovering, selling or letting these remarkable homes. They each have their stories to tell and their streets and gardens their footprints. Knowing our patch, in and around Belgravia, like the back of our paws does help us find the right solution for every one of our clients – however unusual their requirements might occasionally be!
Belgravia was originally called Five Fields and much of it was marshland. Earth was used from the excavation of St Katherine’s Dock, to the east of the City of London, to fill and level the land to make it suitable to build on.
- Ian Fleming bought an apartment at 22b Ebury Street from the fascist leader Oswald Mosley in 1934. Moonraker’s Sir Hugo Drax also lived in the street. Fleming lived there until 1945.
- George Smiley of Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy fame, lived at 9 Bywater Street, off the King’s Road opposite Wellington Square.
- Chelsea Square at the bottom of Manresa Road was originally named Trafalgar Square, until its better-known parvenu cousin persuaded the authorities to change it.
- Royal Avenue, running north from The Royal Hospital in Chelsea, was originally called Chestnut Walk unsurprisingly after its trees, renamed White Stile Walk in 1748 and finally Royal Avenue in 1875.
- The Cadogan Hotel in Sloane Street is one of London’s oldest hotels and is haunted quite regularly by the actress Lillie Langtry, paramour of Edward VII. It is also famousn as having been the location for the arrest of the brilliant, green carnation wearing Oscar Wilde in 1895.
- Christopher Columbus, Prince Henry the Navigator Simon Bolivar and Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man all stand around inBelgrave Square for some peculiar reason.
- Irishman Bram Stoker, manager of the great Victorian actor Henry Irving, wrote that light-
hearted bodice ripper Dracula from his house in St Leonard’s Terrace, Chelsea in 1897.
- The Grenadier pub in London’s Belgravia is allegedly haunted by the ghost of one unfortunate grenadier who was apparently caught cheating at cards, beaten up and was killed on being thrown down the stairwell.
- The London Sketch Club in Dilke Street, Chelsea, still operates each Tuesday and was founded in 1898 on April Fool’s Day. Members have included HM Bateman, Heath Robinson, Edmund Dulac and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Georgian Pheasantry building on the King’s Road, was home in the 1960s to Eric Clapton, Anthony Haden-Guest, photographer Robert Whitaker, Australian artist Martin Sharp and Germain Greer, who wrote “The Female Eunuch” there. Interestingly, in an earlier life The Pheasantry was home to cabinetmakers, Joubert’s. The last family member to work there, Felix, crafted miniature furniture for Queen Mary’s dolls’ house.
- The Goring Hotel was built in 1910 by Otto Richard Goring and every room featured an en suite bathroom – the first in the world.
- The piazza in front of the former Duke of York’s Headquarters has a map engraved in the pavement of the King’s Roadat the time of Charles II. The thoroughfare, dating back to the 8th century, became King Charles’ private road from Westminster to Fulham Palace, and then by boat to Hampton Court.
- There has been a church on the site of Chelsea Old Church since at least the 11th century. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Henry VIII acquired a manor house immediately behind the church and in the 1540s built Chelsea Palace as a wedding present for the already twice-married Catherine Parr. She survived the king and married again!
- The River Westbourne runs through Sloane Square tube station, in an overhead iron pipe. If you listen you can hear it.