Pimlico, A Story

Pimlico is a small area of central London in the City of Westminster that is for the most part residential and well known for its assortment of small hotels and striking Regency architecture.

The area is just about bordered by Victoria Railway Station to the north and the River Thames to the south, crossed by Vauxhall Bridge.

At its centre lies the extremely sought-after residential area encircled by Belgrave Road to the East, Westmoreland Terrace to the West, Lupus Street to the South and Eccleston Square to the North, and is populated by handsome, stucco-fronted late Regency and early Victorian properties, the whole area was previously owned by the Grosvenor family.

The large majority of the buildings in Pimlico are residential and were designed by the architect and builder Thomas Cubitt, a statue of Cubitt can be seen in Denbigh Street.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Manor of Ebury (from which Pimlico's Ebury Street gets its name) was divided up and leased by the Crown to servants or favourites and in 1623, James I sold the freehold of Ebury for £1,151 and 15 shillings, the land was sold on several more times, until it came into the hands of heiress Mary Davies in 1666, Mary's dowry not only included "The Five Fields" of current Pimlico and Belgravia, but also most of what is now Mayfair and Knightsbridge. Understandably, she was much pursued, but in 1677 married Sir Thomas Grosvenor. The Grosvenors were a family of Norman descent long seated at Eaton Hall in Cheshire who until this favourable marriage was but of local importance in their home county of Cheshire, throughout the improvement and good management of this land, the Grosvenors attained vast wealth.

At some point in the late 17th or early 18th century, Pimlico ceased to be known as Ebury or "The Five Fields", and acquired the name by which it is now known, although it was also known as South Belgravia to some residents from its development until the early part of the twentieth century

Pimlico at one time a district of public gardens greatly visited on holidays, according to tradition, got its name from Ben Pimlico, famous for his nut-brown ale, his tea-gardens, however, were near Hoxton, and the road to them was called the Pimlico Path, so that what is now called Pimlico was so named from the popularity of the Hoxton resort. (Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898 edn.), the name might also originate from a Spanish word for drink, or even from the Native American Pamlican tribe, as many locals believe.

By the 19th century, and as a result of an increase in need for property in the formerly unfashionable West End of London following the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire of London, Pimlico had become suitable for expansion. In 1825, Thomas Cubitt was commissioned by Lord Grosvenor to develop Pimlico the land up to this time had been marshy but was reclaimed using soil excavated during the construction of St. Katherine's Dock, Cubitt developed Pimlico in the form of a grid, with handsome white stucco terraces occasionally with mews behind them and large garden squares.

As early as the latter half of the century, however, Pimlico saw the construction of a number of Peabody Estates these benevolent housing projects were intended to provide affordable, quality homes. Additionally, in the post-World War II period, several large public housing estates were built in the area on land cleared by German bombing and many of the discerning Victorian houses were transformed to other uses, such as hotels.

This led to the area developing an exciting social mix, and an unusual character combining exclusive restaurants and residences with Westminster City Council run facilities. In 1950, uncomfortable by the slums and brothels with which Pimlico had become linked in the press and criminal courts, the Second Duke of Westminster sold the part of the Grosvenor estate on which it is built.

Nowadays, as in Central London in general, Pimlico property prices are high, and the area is once again chic a great number of houses have once again been reclassified, being divided into one or two bedroom flats planned for affluent young professionals.