Blessed with a wide variety of things to do – upmarket shopping, fine dining and imbibing, theatre-going and visiting arts venues – the area of Central London in and around Knightsbridge is also adorned with many an historical building that’s well worth taking a look at – not least if you’re staying at the nearby San Domenico House hotel Chelsea…
(149 Piccadilly W1J 7NT)
The one-time legendary London home of the iconic Napoleonic war hero, the Duke of Wellington (and famously nicknamed ‘No.1 London’ owing to it supposedly being, back in the day, the first building one came across inside the city limits from the west), this fine example of early 19th Century townhouse-cum-mansion architecture is today most worth visiting for the 200-odd fine art masterpieces it comprises, including paintings by Rubens, Goya and Velazquez.
(Brompton Road SW7 2RP)
Boasting an utterly exquisite interior, this Italianate Baroque-style place of worship is, in fact, an exact replica of Rome’s Church of Gesu. With its extraordinarily beautiful, 50-feet-high-vaulted-dome ceiling/ roof, it’s one of the finest – if not *the* finest – example of Catholic architecture to be found in the UK; it was the first Roman Catholic church to be built in the capital following the 16th Century Reformation. Actually, so popular is the venue that it attracts in excess of 3,000 worshippers every Sunday, not least for its sung Latin mass that begins at 11am.
No. 4 Hamilton Place
(4 Hamilton Place W1J 7BQ)
If you’re planning a visit to this district of London and, while staying in one of the many fine boutique Chelsea hotels, also looking to host a social event in the area, then you couldn’t go far wrong with this Mayfair venue. Great for gatherings of all sizes (and specialising in stylish weddings, especially), it’s blessed with an Edwardian dining room, a modern lecture theatre, a sensational roof terrace and smaller rooms, each of which is ideal for private dining. An outstanding example of 17th Century Restoration architecture, it was originally built to titivate the street in which its stands (which was laid out and owned by the man after whom it was named, James Hamilton, ranger of nearby Hyde Park and later groom of the bedchamber to King Charles II). Today, its sumptuous interiors are embraced and enjoyed by visitors from all over the world, with their echoes of the opulent era from which the building dates.
St. Columba’s Church of Scotland
(Pont Street SW1X 0BD)
Unlike the other buildings featured here, this one’s much more modern; being just over 60-years-old, it was built in 1955 on the same site of the previous St. Columba’s Church (which dated from the late Victorian era and was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War Blitz in 1941). So, if it’s so relatively young, why’s it being mentioned in the same breath as those esteemed buildings already noted? Well, as far as modernist Christian architecture goes, this stark but beautiful church is a striking sight, to say the least, it’s pseudo-brutalist rectangular tower having something of the medieval Romanesque style about it. Designed by architect Sir Edward Maufe, it was granted Grade II-Listed status in 1988 and remains an important – and rare – place of worship in the UK capital for Scottish Presbyterianism. It’s named after the Ulster-hailing saint, Columba.