Knightsbridge is an exclusive residential and retail district in central London, south of Hyde Park. It is identified in the London Plan as one of two international retail centres in London, alongside the West End. Today the term Knightsbridge is used by those emphasising how to find districts of Central London by tube station to denote the wider area around Harrods. As such it is made up of Knightsbridge in the North, much of Brompton for the main central part and parts of Belgravia in the East.
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Knightsbridge was a hamlet located primarily in the parish of St Margaret (detached) and partly in St Martin in the Fields (the part that later became St George Hanover Square). It also extended into the parishes of Kensington and Chelsea. It was therefore divided between local authorities from a very early time.
In the time of Edward I, the manor of Knightsbridge appertained to the abbey of Westminster. It was named after a crossing of the River Westbourne, which is now an underground river. It is recorded that the citizens of London met Matilda of England at the Knight's Bridge in 1141.
From 1885 to 1887, as a result of the opening of trade between Britain and the Far East, Humphreys' Hall in Knightsbridge hosted an exhibition of Japanese culture in a setting built to resemble a traditional Japanese village. The exhibition was very popular, with over 250,000 visitors during its early months. Japanese artisans illustrated "the manners, customs, and art-industries of their country, attired in their national and picturesque costumes. Magnificently decorated and illuminated Buddhist temple. Five o’clock tea in the Japanese tea-house. Japanese Musical and other Entertainments. Every-day Life as in Japan". W.S. Gilbert and his wife attended the exhibition, which is said to have inspired him to write The Mikado. When the Mikado requests of Ko-Ko the address of his son (Nanki-Poo) after Ko-Ko tells the Mikado that Nanki-Poo has "gone abroad," Ko-Ko replies that Nanki-Poo has gone to Knightsbridge.
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Knightsbridge is east of Exhibition Road and west of Sloane Street. Brompton Road, Beauchamp Place and the western section of Pont Street serve roughly as its southern border together with their adjacent gardens and squares such as Ovington Square, Lennox Gardens and Cadogan Square. South of this area, the district fades into Chelsea while Belgravia lies to the east and South Kensington to the west.
Knightsbridge is home to many expensive shops, including the department stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols, and flagship stores of many British and international fashion houses, including those of London-based shoe designers Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik, and two Prada stores. The district also has banks that cater to wealthy individuals. Some of London's most renowned restaurants are here, as well as many exclusive hair and beauty salons, antiques and antiquities dealers, and chic bars and clubs.
The district and road itself which is the only definitive place within it is small which assists its cachet — more than half of the zone closest to its Tube Station (and nearer no others) is Hyde Park. Knightsbridge had in its park-side, east and west gold-coloured blocks of exceptional wealth in philanthropist Charles Booth's late Victorian Poverty Map of London; formerly excluding Brompton Road to the west but extending well into Piccadilly, St James's to the east. Knightsbridge is home to many of the world's richest people, and has some of the highest property prices in the world. In 2014 a terrace of 427m² sold for £15,950,000, a home in Montpelier Square. The average asking price for all the properties in slightly wider SW7 was £4,348,911 (as at Autumn 2014). On-street parking spaces have sold for as much as £300,000 for a 94-year lease. Fourteen of Britain's two hundred most expensive streets are in the neighbourhood, as defined by The Times.
One Hyde Park
In February 2007, the world's most expensive apartment at One Hyde Park, sold off plan for £100 million, bought by a Qatari prince, and another apartment at the same place in February 2009, of almost the same the price was bought by an Afghan prince. Apartments of this secure, optimum specification, address equate to in excess of £4,000 per square foot (£43,000 per square metre).
In 2014, a 16,000 sq ft two-storey penthouse in One Hyde Park sold for £140 million.
History of property construction
Land in Knightsbridge is for the most part identified by City of Westminster (and by the RBKC where former Brompton parts are included) as strengthened planning law-governed Conservation Areas: 'Albert Gate', 'Belgravia', 'Knightsbridge' and 'Knightsbridge Green'. Properties must be offered here by developers as refurbished flats or houses meeting the enhanced architectural demands in the local Conservation Areas policy of the Local Plan. Within each many buildings are covered by the similar but separate requirements of being listed. Growing demand has since 2000 persuaded the authority to revise its planning policies to permit roof terraces and basement extensions, for residential facilities from leisure suites to private nightclubs, a degree of economic liberalisation documented by a non-tabloid paper in 2008.
The underlying landowners of the few streets making up, without any dispute, Knightsbridge are the Duke of Westminster, Lord Cadogan and the Wellcome Trust with a minority of the freeholds to houses in each street sold to others. Red-brick Queen Anne Revival buildings form most of the Cadogan Estates, whereas white stucco-fronted houses are mostly found on the Grosvenor Estate, designed by architect Thomas Cubitt.
The Brompton Oratory, a place of Catholic worship, marks one of the transitions into Kensington however Belgravia and Brompton have competing mapped neighbourhood status in the east and south of the neighbourhood, and as they have no eponymously named Tube stations nor historic parish boundaries, their limits are completely arbitrary and the triangular salient of Brompton, administratively in Kensington, as part of South Kensington, once coloured mid-wealth by Charles Booth, is now definitely blurred with 'Knightsbridge' into which it long projected. Brompton is only used where postcode and/or Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is being emphasised, rather than the modern Central London 'district' definitions, which suggest Knightsbridge or South Kensington, either tube station, being at most 350 metres away and thus discoverable from all maps.
Crime and terrorism
For centuries the area was renowned as the haunt of highwaymen, robbers and cutthroats targeting travellers on the western route out of London, but its fortunes were transformed in the 19th century.
However, the area has often been a target for high-profile crime. In 1980, the Iranian Embassy siege took place in Knightsbridge, lasting several days. It ended when the Special Air Service stormed the building on live television. In 1983, three Christmas shoppers and three Metropolitan Police officers were killed by an IRA car-bomb placed outside Harrods. In 1987, the Knightsbridge Security Deposit centre was the target of a robbery and the thieves left with a hoard worth £60 million.
In 2005, 22-year-old beautician Clare Bernal was gunned down by her stalker and ex-boyfriend Michal Pech on the shopfloor of Harvey Nichols in front of colleagues and shoppers, before Pech fatally turned the gun on himself. The case attracted extensive coverage in the media, and Clare's mother Patricia has since led a campaign to address flaws in the system which allowed her daughter's murder to happen.
Many residential buildings are heavily covered by CCTV and are staffed by security guards, while railings or bars on lower floor windows are commonplace.
To the north of the area, is the Hyde Park Barracks of the Household Cavalry, with a distinctive 33 storey tower by Sir Basil Spence. The Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Department is based in Walton Street. The Embassy of Libya is located at 15 Knightsbridge, the Embassy of France at no 58 and the Embassy of Kuwait at 2 Albert Gate, just off Knightsbridge.
It contains the Victoria and Albert Museum. On the religious side it contains the impressive Brompton Oratory (Catholic church, Brompton Road) and the CoE Holy Trinity Church behind it, a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Exhibition Road, the Russian Orthodox Church in Ennismore Gardens, and St Columba's Church of Scotland, Pont Street.
Knightsbridge takes its name from the road that runs along the south side of Hyde Park, west from Hyde Park Corner, spanning the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Up to Brompton Road, it is a part of the A4 arterial road, while the remainder is part of the A315 road.
- Royal Thames Yacht Club, 60 Knightsbridge
- St Columba's Church of Scotland, Pont Street
- Caledonian Club
- "London's Places" (PDF). The London Plan. Greater London Authority. 2011. p. 46. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
- Mayor of London (2008). "Central activities zone policies". London Plan. Greater London Authority. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
- London, David Hughson, 1809
- British history online, 'Knightsbridge Green Area: Scotch Corner and the High Road', Survey of London: volume 45: Knightsbridge (2000), pp. 79–88
- An advertisement from the Illustrated London News, 3 January 1885, quoted in McLaughlin, para 10.
- Arthur Sullivan with English text by W.S. Gilbert. "The Mikado: libretto of the Japanese comic opera in two acts". Retrieved 2012-08-18.
- Booth's Poverty Map of London: Belgravia and Knightsbridge
- Sold prices in SW7. 3 Montpelier Square Mouseprice.com Retrieved 26-11-2014
- The Times, 2007
- "Sheikh shells out £100m for London's most expensive flat" The Times 28 March 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2007
- "London penthouse sells for £140m". Financial Times. May 2, 2014.
- Conservation Areas Map. Numbers 22, 23, 36 and 37 City of Westminster. Retrieved 2014-11-26
- Property with Swimming Pools: The Deep End Sonia Purnell, Sunday Telegraph, 29 June 2008.
- Settlement and building: From 1865 to 1900, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 12: Chelsea (2004), pp. 66–78. Retrieved 11 June 2007
- "Bomb unauthorised says IRA" The Guardian, 19 December 1983
- Honigsbaum, Mark (27 February 2006). "'He was allowed to plan my daughter's murder'". The Guardian.
- "The London Diplomatic List". 8 December 2013.
- John Timbs (1867), "Knightsbridge", Curiosities of London (2nd ed.), London: J.C. Hotten, OCLC 12878129
- The Knightsbridge Association
- Knightsbridge District Residence - Photo Gallery
- Knightsbridge area guide