Pimlico Area Guide

Pimlico is real London, a proper riverside community. The odd name was almost certainly adopted when the area was expanding in the late 16th century. Sir Walter Raleigh's settlement in Virginia was hot news at the time, and the rescue of the few survivors by Sir Frances Drake in 1586 only increased public interest. The local Indians were known as the Pamlicos, and somehow their name, slightly modified, got attached to the area between Westminster and Chelsea.

For many years the area was devoted to osier beds and market gardens. A few cottages called the Neat Houses were a popular destination for Londoners. Samuel Pepys went there in 1667 with his wife and a friend, the actress Mrs Knipp. He wrote in his diary: "There, in a box in a tree, we sat and sang, and talked and eat; my wife out of humour as she always is when this woman is by."

Things changed dramatically in the 1830s when the builder Thomas Cubitt leased the area from the Grosvenor Estate and began to drain the ground, digging the clay out to make bricks and bringing thousands of tons of spoil from the digging of docks in the East End to raise the levels above the river.

The development was on a more domestic scale than next-door Belgravia, but the architectural style is similar with tall, stuccoed fronts decorated with elegant classical flourishes.

As with Belgravia, Pimlico's highlights are the squares, Ecclestone and Warwick. Both are large and gracious, and survive very much as Cubitt planned them.
But whereas Belgravia was designed for the pinnacle of society with legions of servants, Pimlico was a very family-oriented area with conveniently-located shopping streets providing all everyday household needs, restaurants and cafes and lavishly-appointed public houses on corner plots. The proximity of all the things a family needs is one of the keys to the area's continuing popularity.

Later development of the area focused on flats, however. In the 1930s, Dolphin Square was built on the site of Cubitt's building works. Overlooking the Thames, it was claimed to be Europe's largest self-contained block of flats, and was heated by waste heat from Battersea power station via a pipe on the river bed. Dolphin Square has been home to many as varied as the fascist Oswald Mosley and the Princess Royal. Churchill Gardens was built after the war on an area that was heavily bombed.

Pimlico's location close to Westminster makes it very popular with politicians (Winston Churchill lived in Ecclestone Square).

Artists also like the area, with Tate Britain next door in Millbank and the Chelsea College of Art and Design now located next to it in the grand Edwardian buildings of the former Royal Army Medical College.

However, developments over the river will dominate the Pimlico property market in the near future. Battersea power station is finally to be redeveloped after decades of decay, creating a new shopping and leisure destination, and the new American Embassy is planned for Nine Elms. These incredible projects will create a vibrant new quarter in London, and many people who want to live close by but prefer to live in period style will be looking at Pimlico for their homes.

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