Besides Arundel House, at 4 Palace Green, the Embassy of Romania also has a building at 1 Belgrave Square.
The building at 1 Belgrave Square is part of the Belgrave Square architectural complex, in the district generically known today as” Belgravia”. The construction started in 1820. It was initially called “Five Fields” and it used to be a rural swampy area between London and Knightsbridge village. Today is one of the most famous and fashionable districts in London, neighbouring Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and Serpentine Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum as well as one of the most luxurious and exclusive commercial areas in the world – Sloane Street – Knightsbridge.
At the beginning of the XIXth century, the Grosvenor family, dukes of Westminster, started developing the area. The name Belgrave comes from one of their properties in Cheshire or Leicestershire. The land belongs to Grosvenor Real Estate (Duke of Westminster). They bought it in 1656 through the marriage between Thomas Grosvenor and Mary Davis, heiress of “Belgravia” and of several other properties in the area. The Belgrave Square has an area of 10 acres (about 4 hectares) and includes 49 buildings.
The central garden in Belgrave Square has multiple uses from playground for children and a tennis court to promenade and picnic area, being at the same time a space for sculpture exhibitions in open air. Access is allowed only to people living or working in the Square.
The buildings were constructed by Thomas Cubitt and William Seth – Smith and the architecture is the work of George Basevi and Lewis Cubitt. The general architectural style is difficult to define, being somewhere between Greek Revival, post-Georgian and pre-Victorian.
Its inhabitants have always been members of the aristocracy and high-ranking politicians, such as Sir Ralph Howard, whose uncle was Earl of Wicklow, former parliamentarian with vast properties in Ireland. Different embassies and important institutions have headquarters here, such as the Embassies of Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Turkey, Austria, Serbia, Syria, Brunei, Ghana, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Royal Society of Psychiatrists and the Society of Chemical Industry.
The building at number 1 Belgrave Square belongs to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having been bought by the Romanian state in 1936, during the reign of King Carol II, as a lease for a period of 999 years. It was the first to be built in the square and it is part of the North-West wing of the Square. The building is listed with the highest degree of importance in terms of architecture (“degree 1”), which means it is protected by Westminster Council and the British Patrimony. The building is impressive in size – 4 floors plus the attic and basement - surrounded by an English garden –more than 1,500 square metres in total. The building had and continues to have a dual purpose: from 1936 to 2005 it was the official residence of the Ambassadors of Romania, as well as venue for protocol events (receptions, cultural and other public events) organised by the Embassy; since 2006, the building continues to host protocol events for the Embassy and is also headquarters of the Romanian Cultural Institute in London.
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