In the 18th century the area of London now known as Belgravia was a marshy tract where market gardening and crime flourished. By 1820 the neighbourhood was coming up in the world, with a series of developments such as Chester Square, built in the 1840s by Thomas Cubitt, the era’s star architect. His passions were symmetry and white stucco. Like the surrounding squares, Chester Square took its name from locations in Cheshire, the ancient country seat of the dukes of Westminster. This dynasty owns the London estate that encompasses Belgravia and Mayfair.
Since its beginnings, Chester Square has attracted the celebrated and the powerful, with past residents including Mick Jagger and Margaret Thatcher. If you want to join this roll call of the rich and famous, the price of admission is steep — £29.5 million, although for this you will acquire an 8,055 sq ft, grade II listed house over seven floors with eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms.
In the core of the house there is a 25ft light wall, with a yoga room on the ground floor — the only ascetic space in the property, every inch of which has been painstakingly refurbished. The style is grand, with lots of gunmetal grey and dark wood, but not oppressively so. You can imagine yourself relaxing, rather than sitting to attention. There is also the opportunity to meditate (in the yoga room, the study or the library) on the history of the house, of which there is plenty of evidence, inside and out. Original features such as cornices and marble fireplaces have been restored.
This venture is the work of Wilben, a 21st-century force in luxury developments led by William and Benjamin Samuel, twin brothers who specialise in design and financing respectively. The house was acquired by one of Wilben’s clients in 2014 and then made over to appeal to European and US buyers in search of a family house — this is not a show-off pied-à-terre. Such househunters may have plenty of money but that does not mean they are happy to pay higher rates of stamp duty. As a result the price of the property, on sale through Savills and Strutt & Parker, has been cut from £32.5 million. William Samuel says that the reduction, combined with the fall in sterling, has sparked interest, with second and third viewings, particularly from Americans.
Can Cubitt glamour triumph over the forces of taxation? Let’s wait and see.