Grosvenor PlaceThe railways largely replaced the canals as a means of transport. Uniquely for a main line station, Victoria station was built on top of one.
is the main road connecting Hyde Park Corner
It forms the eastern boundary of Belgravia, extending south from St. George’s Hospital (which later became the Lanesborough Hotel) and overlooking the gardens of Buckingham Palace
. It was at the beginning of the nineteenth century described as "a pleasant row of houses".
When George III added a portion of Green Park
to his new garden at Buckingham House, he sold the fields on the opposite side of the road for £20,000. The ground was consequently leased to builders, and a new row of houses was erected "overlooking the king in his private walks, to his great annoyance."
In maps of London dating from the beginning of the nineteenth century, the whole of the future site of Belgravia, between Grosvenor Place
and Sloane Street
, appears still covered with fields. In the centre of Grosvenor Place
, at that time, stood the Lock Hospital, which was founded in 1787 by the Rev. Thomas Scott.
This area of countryside was originally known as Five Fields, and became a dangerous place for highwaymen and robberies. It was developed in the early 19th century by Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster under the direction of Thomas Cubitt, focusing on numerous grand terraces centred on Belgrave Square
and Eaton Square
During the years 1873–76 the appearance of a large section of Grosvenor Place
was changed. In place of some dozen or so houses which formerly stood at the north end, five princely mansions were erected. Moving in to these were the Duke of Grafton, the Duke of Northumberland, Earl Stanhope and the head of the Rothschild family.
At the north end of Grosvenor Place
, St. George’s Hospital was built upon the site of a suburban residence of the first Lord Lanesborough, who died in 1723.
At No. 17, in the twenty first century, stands the embassy of the Republic of Ireland.
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Before the railway arrived in 1862, this area - like the area immediately south of it - was known as Pimlico
. The Grosvenor Canal ended in a large basin here.
Victoria station’s origins lie with the Great Exhibition of 1851, when a railway called the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway
came into existence, serving the site of the exhibition halls which had been transferred to Sydenham from Hyde Park. The terminus of that railway was at Stewarts Lane in Battersea on the south side of the river. In 1858 a joint enterprise was set up to take trains over the river: it was entitled the Victoria Station and Pimlico Railway
; and was a mile and a quarter in length. The railway was owned by four railway companies: the Great Western (GWR); London & North Western (LNWR); the London, Brighton and South Coast (LBSCR); and the London Chatham and Dover Railways (LCDR). It was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1858.
The station was built in two parts: those on the western side, opened in 1862, with six platforms, ten tracks and an hotel (the 300-bedroom Grosvenor) were occupied by the Brighton company; whilst adjacent, and in the same year, the Chatham company were to occupy a less imposing wooden-fronted building. The latter’s station had nine tracks and was shared by broad-gauge trains of the GWR, whose trains arrived from Southall via the West London Extension Joint Railway through Chelsea. The GWR remained part owner of the station until 1932, although its trains had long since ceased to use it. Each side of the station had its own entrance and a separate station master; a wall between the two sections effectively emphasised that fact.
At the start of the twentieth century both parts of the station were rebuilt. It now had a decent frontage and forecourt, but not as yet a unified existence. Work on the Brighton side was completed in 1908 and was carried out in red brick; the Grosvenor Hotel was rebuilt at the same time. The Chatham side, in a Edwardian style with baroque elements, designed by Alfred Bloomfield, was completed a year later. The two sections were eventually connected in 1924 by removing part of a screen wall, when the platforms were renumbered as an entity. The station was redeveloped internally in the 1980s, with the addition of shops within the concourse, and above the western platforms.
The station was now serving boat trains, and during WWI it became the hub of trains carrying soldiers to and from France, many of them wounded. After the war the Continental steamer traffic became concentrated there, including the most famous of those trains, the Golden Arrow. The area around the station also became a site for other other forms of transport: a bus station in the forecourt; a coach terminal to the south; and it is now the terminal for trains serving Gatwick Airport.
Victoria is also well-served by London underground. The sub-surface Circle and District Lines opened on December 24, 1868; and the Victoria Line line came to Victoria Station with the third phase of construction of the line - the station’s platforms were opened on March 7, 1969, six months after the Victoria line had started running in outer London.