In the previous post we gave an overview of this historical area. We continue in this post – and take in the next four pubs!
Foreign embassy capital
Belgrave Square is home to around twenty foreign embassies; among them Norway, Spain, Germany, Austria, Brunei, Portugal, Bahrain, Turkey, Argentina, Mexico and the Ivory Coast. In the middle of the square is a large, leafy and secluded private garden for the officials of the embassies and residents of the square. On the south side is a statue of Simon Bolivar; the liberator of South America (from Spanish control) and the founder of Bolivia (another nearby embassy).
Heading to West Halkin Street, we visit The Star Tavern. It was here, in the summer of 1963, that the Great Train Robbery was planned by Peter Scott, Buster Edwards and others. Peter Scott was the man to whom the phrase ‘cat burglar’ was first used after jewellery belonging to Sophia Loren was stolen during a night raid in London.
Around the corner in Motcomb Street, the Pantechnicon towers over the pedestrianised street. Originally built as a store for works of art in the 1820’s, this very building gave its name to the large vans that moved art and furniture around the world for wealthy Brits and foreign embassy officials!
In Kinnerton Street, we have three pubs in quick succession; The Alfred Tennyson, The Naggs Head and The Wilton Arms. Plus, the most authentic ‘village’ grocery shop you’ll find in central London.
In Wilton Place, St Pauls Church (1843) was the first in London to champion the Oxford Movement; a group that sought adoption of ‘High Church’ practices by the Anglican faith. A plaque on the side of the church commemorates 39 women who served as part of the female Special Operations Executive (SOE), bravely operating on French soil in WW2. The Croix de Guerre next to their names signifies those who died in action. The SOE women were drawn from the Women’s Transport Service (WTS) for their language skills, family ties in France and true grit.
Behind the church, in Wilton Row is The Grenadier. This was built, in 1720, as an officer’s mess for the First Foot Guards. Barracks were subsequently built, in 1750, at the back of the pub. The Duke of Wellington played cards with fellow officers on the first floor. After the battle of Waterloo in 1815, the guards were re-named the Grenadier Guards – and today they are one of the five foot regiments of the Queen’s Household Division. The present day cottages and stables replaced the barracks in 1826. The Grenadier is renowned for its pewter topped bar (in the article photograph) and wandering ghosts of soldiers. It was also the American composer Burt Bacharach’s local!