One of a number of streets that take their name from Eaton Hall, in Cheshire, the principal seat of the Duke of Westminster, owner of the Belgravia Estate in which this and neighbouring streets were developed. The land came into the family when in 1677 Sir Thomas Grosvenor, aged 21, married 12-year-old Mary Davis – also spelt Davies. Mary was the only-child of Alexander Davies, the great-nephew of Hugh Audley, a lawyer of humble origins but who had a great talent for making large profits on all his dealings. When he died aged 85 in 1662 he had accumulated vast landholdings across the country, including the seemingly worthless marshland known as Five Fields in which a few shepherds and farmers picked out a meagre living alongside robbers and bandits who plagued the highways. This was given the rather grander name the Ebury Estate – which encompassed Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico (the most valuable single estate in Britain). Audley’s longevity was a lucky touch for Davies, one of the his remaining relatives, he inherited much of the fortune. This made Mary a prize catch for suitors interested in improving their own fortunes. Her father initially considered the equally young son and heir of Lord Berkeley, whose property adjoined their own. But when the family were unable to pay the £5,000 dowry, a new match was sought. The Grosvenors may only have been baronets but they could lay claim to being descendants of William the Conqueror’s nephew, they also held large estates in Chester. In 1824 Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess of Westminster, employed Thomas Cundy, and then his son, as architect and surveyor, and Thomas Cubitt, a master builder and developer of outstanding merit, to create a square of large terraced houses on the Five Fields marshland. This new development called Belgravia created a fashionable new quarter of houses, garden squares, streets and crescents in the Regency style, on a scale and with an enduring cohesion not previously seen in central London. Work was finally completed in 1855, the year of Cubitt’s death.
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