More Dubai on the Thames luxury flattery. On this occasion it’s the Duke of Westminster via his property company, Grosvenor Estate. Luxury flats. How original. But why not? Everyone else is at it – it’s the most efficient way to turn a buck.
This is not a class warrior thing with me. Rather, I despair at the homogenisation of London by developers, this incessant conversion of historically significant buildings and areas into luxury apartments. There have been a few small, yet pleasing wins. A pub here, another one there. The retention of West Smithfield for the Museum of London. But mostly it’s the chucking up of bland glass and steel, little of it with much architectural merit. Stinking up the place and blighting the skyline.
But back to the story. Grosvenor Estate has given a group of six shopkeepers in Pimlico Road notice to quit their premises by the end of the year. The plan is to bulldoze the lot and replace them with luxury flats and, oh, some larger retail units. The owners of these shops – all successful – are none too pleased, needless to say.
One of the units is a Victorian timber yard which has been in continuous business since 1840. Run today by Travis Perkins, for most of its history it was owned by the family firm WH Newson, who founded the business 175 years ago. Travis Perkins has recently been celebrating this fact with its Pimlico Road employees.
Back in 1840 Pimlico was very much on the up, largely thanks to that titan of suburban development Thomas Cubitt, who had a massive goods yard on the Thames nearby. The area had formerly been virtually uninhabitable owing to its marshy, mosquito-ridden landscape. But Thomas Telford’s new St Katharine’s Dock east of the Tower of London had changed all that when spoil from the development had been used to reclaim land in the Pimlico area, hence rendering it fit for development. One wonders whether Cubitt’s contractors and foremen engaged WH Newson as a supplier? Highly likely.
Pimlico Road is located opposite the dual intersection with Ebury Street and Bourne Street (formerly Westbourne Street). It wasn’t called Pimlico Road in 1840 either: west of Ebury Street it was Grosvenor Road, and to the east, Queen Street. If you look it up on a map, you’ll see it sits right where Chelsea meets Belgravia meets Pimlico, in the middle of an area largely dominated by the Grosvenor and the Cadogan estates, both of which resulted hundreds of years ago from lucky young chaps marrying phenomenally wealthy heiresses.
They have proved over the years largely to be enlighted and responsible landlords, something one hopes this may prevail in this particular case and that Grosvenor may yet change its mind over Pimlico Road as it did once before, in 2001.