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Pimlico is a small area of central Londonmarker in the City of Westminstermarker. Like Belgraviamarker, to which it was built as a southern extension, Pimlico is known for its grand garden squares and impressive Regency architecture.

The area is separated from Belgravia to the north by Victoria Railway Stationmarker, and bounded by the River Thames to the south, Vauxhall Bridge Road to the east and the former Grosvenor Canalmarker to the west.

At Pimlico's heart is a highly disciplined grid of residential streets laid down by the planner Thomas Cubitt beginning in 1825 and now protected as the Pimlico Conservation Area. Pimlico is also home to the pre-war Dolphin Squaremarker development and the pioneering Churchill Gardensmarker and Lillington Gardensmarker estates, now designated conservation areas in their own right. The area has over 350 Grade II listed buildings and several Grade II* listed Churches.

Notable residents have included politician Sir Winston Churchill, designer Laura Ashley, philosopher Swami Vivekananda, actor Laurence Olivier, illustrator and author Aubrey Beardsley, Kenyan nationalist Jomo Kenyatta, and inventor of tennis Major Walter Wingfield.


Early history and origin of name

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Manor of Ebury was divided up and leased by the Crown to servants or favourites. 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 modern-day Pimlico and Belgraviamarker, but also most of what is now Mayfairmarker and Knightsbridgemarker. 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 auspicious marriage were but of local consequence in their native county of Cheshiremarker. Through the development and good management of this land the Grosvenors acquired enormous wealth.

At some point in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, the area ceased to be known as Ebury or "The Five Fields" and gained the name by which it is now known. While its origins are disputed, it is "clearly of foreign derivation.... Gifford, in a note in his edition of Ben Jonson, tells us that 'Pimlico is sometimes spoken of as a person, and may not improbably have been the master of a house once famous for ale of a particular description." Supporting this etymolovy, Rev. Brewer describes the area as "a district of public gardens much frequented on holidays. According to tradition, it received its name from Ben Pimlico, famous for his nut-brown ale, His tea-gardens, however, were near Hoxtonmarker, and the road to them was termed Pimlico Path, so that what is now called Pimlico was so named from the popularity of the Hoxton resort.

Belgravia and Pimlico in 1903

Development and decline

By the nineteenth century, and as a result of an increase in demand for property in the previously unfashionable West End of London following the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire of Londonmarker, Pimlico had become ripe for development. In 1825, Thomas Cubitt was contracted 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 Dockmarker.

Cubitt developed Pimlico as a grid of handsome white stucco terraces. The largest and most opulent houses were built along St George's Drive and Belgrave Roadmarker, the two principal streets, and Eccleston, Warwick and St George's Squaresmarker. Lupus Street contained similarly grand houses, as well as shops and, until the early twentieth century, a hospital for women and children. Smaller-scale propertes, typically of three stories, line the side streets. An 1877 newspaper article described Pimlico as "genteel, sacred to professional men… not rich enough to luxuriate in Belgravia proper, but rich enough to live in private houses." Its inhabitants were "more lively than in Kensington… and yet a cut above Chelsea, which is only commercial."

Although the area was dominated by the well-to-do middle and upper-middle classes as late as Booth's 1889 Map of London Poverty, parts of Pimlico are said to have declined significantly by the 1890s. When Rev Gerald Olivier moved to the neighbourhood in 1912 with his family, including the young Laurence Olivier, to minister to the parishioners of St Saviourmarker, it was part of a venture to west London "slums" that had previously taken the family to the depths of Notting Hillmarker.

Through the late nineteenth century, Pimlico saw the construction of several Peabody Estates, charitable housing projects designed to provide affordable, quality homes.

Twentieth Century resurgence

Proximity to the Houses of Parliamentmarker made Pimlico a centre of political activity. Prior to 1928, the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress shared offices on Eccleston Square, and it was here in 1926 that the general strike was organised.

In the mid 1930s Pimlico saw a second wave of development with the construction of Dolphin Squaremarker, a self-contained "city" of 1,250 upmarket flats built on the site formerly occupied by Cubitt's building works. Completed in 1937, it quickly became popular with MPs and public servants. It was home to fascist Oswald Mosley until his arrest in 1940, and the headquarters of the Free French for much of the Second World War.

Pimlico survived the war with its essential character intact, although parts sustained significant bomb damage. Through the 1950s these areas were the focus of large-scale redevelopment as the Churchill Gardensmarker and Lillington Gardensmarker estates, and many of the larger Victorian houses were converted to hotels and other uses.

In 1953, the Second Duke of Westminster sold the part of the Grosvenor estate on which Pimlico is built.

Pimlico was connected to the underground in 1972 as a late addition to the Victoria Line. Following the designation of a conservation area in 1968 (extended in 1973 and again in 1990), the area has seen extensive regeneration. Successive waves of development have given Pimlico an interesting social mix, combining exclusive restaurants and residences with Westminster City Councilmarker run facilities.

Notable buildings

Pimlico Schoolmarker, a comprehensive school built between 1967 and 1970, is a notable example of Brutalist architecture. It is currently being rebuilt as Pimlico Academy.

Dolphin Squaremarker is a block of private apartments built between 1935 and 1937. At the time of their construction the development was billed as the largest self-contained block of flats in Europe. It is home to many Members of Parliament.

Churchill Gardensmarker is a large housing estate covering the south-west corner of Pimlico. It was developed between 1946 and 1962 to a design by the architects Powell and Moya, replacing docks, industrial works, and several Cubitt terraces damaged in the Blitz.

On Buckingham Palace Road is the former "Empire Terminal" of Imperial Airways, a striking Art Moderne building designed in 1938 by architect Albert Lakeman. Mail, freight and passengers were transported from the terminal to Southamptonmarker via rail before transferring to flying boats. The building now serves as the headquarters of the National Audit Office.

The area contains a number of attractive Anglican churches, most constructed at the time the neighbourhood was laid down. Among them are St Gabriel'smarker, St Saviourmarker and St James the Lessmarker. The area's Catholic church, Holy Apostles, was destroyed in the Blitz and rebuilt in 1957. The headquarters of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales are located in Eccleston Square.

The Tate Britainmarker is located within the ward of Millbankmarker, but is a short walk from Pimlico underground station and is regarded as a Pimlico landmark. The district's association with fine art has been reinforced by the Chelsea College of Art and Designmarker's recent move to the former Royal Army Medical College next to the Tate.

Notable residents

Blue Plaques


In the arts

Post-World War II Pimlico was the setting of the Ealing comedymarker Passport To Pimlico.

In G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, Pimlico is used as an example of "a desperate thing." Arguing that things are not loved because they are great but become great because they are loved, he asserts that if merely approved of, Pimlico "will remain Pimlico, which would be awful," but if "loved with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason" it "in a year or two might be fairer than Florence."

Barbara Pym used St. Gabriel's Churchmarker as her inspiration for St. Mary's in Excellent Women.

The area is the home of Francis Urquhart in Michael Dobbs's 1989 novel, House of Cards.

Alexander McCall Smith's on-line Telegraph serial novel Corduroy Mansions is set in Pimlico.



Pimlico is served by Pimlico stationmarker on the Victoria Line and Victoria station on the Victoria, District and Circle Lines. It is also served by National Rail services to London Victoria Stationmarker, and by numerous bus routes. Riverboat services to Waterloomarker and Southwarkmarker run from Millbank Millennium Piermarker.

The area would be connected at Victoria to the proposed Chelsea-Hackney line (Crossrail 2).

Location in context


External links



  • Secret London by Andrew Duncan (New Holland Publishers, London, 2001)
  • The Face of London by Harold P Clunn (Spring Books, London, 1970)

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