The grand stucco buildings and garden squares found in Pimlico rival those of its neighbour, Belgravia. But this Zone 1 district is also home to Dolphin Square, built in 1937, which was billed back then as the largest self-contained block of flats in Europe.
Over the decades Dolphin Square has been home to top lawyers and MPs, and it remains so today.
Pimlico is also on the home seekers’ radar for its award-winning and well-maintained council estates, where “right-to-buy” flats are a bargain for the area.
The neighbourhood was laid out as the southern extension of Belgravia in the first half of the 19th century by the master builder Thomas Cubitt, whose statue stands on the corner of St George’s Drive and Denbigh Street.
The arrival of the railway in 1860 marooned Pimlico’s fine squares and terraces on the wrong side of the tracks, cutting it off forever from wealthier Belgravia.
Estate agent Robert Oatley, from the local branch of Knight Frank, says flats in one of Pimlico’s garden squares, or houses in the so-called “Pimlico Grid” of streets between St George’s Drive and Sutherland Street, are popular with buyers who love the classical architecture but can’t afford Belgravia prices.
“Many of our buyers have homes outside London and buy a weekday pied-à-terre in Pimlico,” adds Oatley. “Once here, people love the villagey feel and realise how central and convenient it is. We also get a lot of French and Italian buyers who like apartment living.” Churchill Gardens occupies a large site between Lupus Street and the Thames and was designed by architects Powell & Moya, who went on to create other mid-century classics such as the Chichester Festival Theatre and various Oxford college buildings.
Developed between 1946 and 1962, Churchill Gardens has 1,600 flats in 32 blocks and right-to-buy flats are some of the best value in Zone 1, with one-bedroom homes from about £450,000; two-bedroom flats at £540,000 and three-bedroom flats at £600,000.
Award-winning Lillington Gardens Estate, between Vauxhall Bridge Road and Tachbrook Street, was designed in the Sixties by architects Darbourne and Darke. With its dark red brick and cascading balconies, it remains popular and again, right-to-buy flats here are a Zone 1 bargain.
Only a mile away from Trafalgar Square, Pimlico has Belgravia to the north; Westminster to the east; the River Thames to the south and Chelsea to the west.
The property scene
The choice in Pimlico is from grand white stucco terrace houses and garden squares, similarly classical but smaller houses in the Pimlico Grid, and much cheaper right-to-buy flats in a number of well-maintained estates of social housing.
Knight Frank’s Robert Oatley says that if you take price per square foot, the most expensive homes in Pimlico are first-floor flats with access to the two best garden squares — Eccleston Square and Warwick Square. Prices here for a flat in immaculate condition are between £1,850 and £1,900 a square foot.
A house in the Pimlico Grid streets will be about £1,450 a square foot and a three-bedroom apartment at Lillington Gardens Estate, one of the popular estates of social housing, costs about £850 per square foot.
Ebury Place in Sutherland Street is a development of 47 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats that come with underground parking in a 10-storey block on an island site shared with Sir Simon Milton Westminster University Technical College. Prices start at £799,000 for a one-bedroom flat. Visit eburyplace.com or call Taylor Wimpey on 020 3319 3514.
Riverwalk, on the corner of Millbank and Vauxhall Bridge, is a curvaceous block of 116 one-, two- and three-bedroom riverside flats from developer Ronson Capital Partners.
Designed by Stanton Williams Architects, the curves represent the bends in the Thames. Now 80 per cent sold, prices of the remaining flats, which are ready to move into, start at £799,000 and the penthouse is priced £25 million. Visit riverwalk.co.uk or call 020 7828 3007.
In nearby Millbank, 67 Tufton Street is the conversion of a former post office building into 19 flats and three duplex penthouses. Two-bedroom move-in ready flats start at £1.75 million. Call Hamptons on 020 3451 1544. Ashburnham Mews off Regency Street is a new-build development from Thornsett of 11 apartments. Two-bedroom homes start at £985,000. Call Hamptons (as before).
In conjunction with local charity Dolphin Living, Westminster council runs Westminster Home Ownership Accelerator. Launched last summer, it offers 50 households the chance to earn a deposit of between £21,800 and £54,500 to buy a home in Greater London after spending three years renting in Westminster at an intermediate rent.
Emma Vincent, lettings manager at the local branch of Knight Frank, says Pimlico attracts a wide range of tenants, from students at the Chelsea College of Arts in Millbank, to embassy families, to downsizers who are selling but want to keep a connection with the area.
Landlords are a mix that includes professionals with a portfolio of properties and accidental landlords who never expected to keep their home as a rental investment when they moved. Rental yields are about three per cent, rising to five per cent for a flat in Churchill Gardens or Lillington Gardens.
Estate agent Robert Oatley of Knight Frank says there are many long-standing Pimlico families who would never live anywhere else in London, even if their main home is elsewhere.
Pimlico, the area between Victoria station, Vauxhall Bridge Road, the river and Chelsea Bridge Road is covered by the SW1V postcode. Where it merges with Belgravia and Chelsea in the area around Pimlico Road it becomes SW1W.
Eccleston Square and Warwick Square.
Up and coming
The estates of social housing — Churchill Gardens and Lillington Gardens — offer value for money in Zone 1. The Millbank Estate behind Tate Britain is a fine Arts & Crafts estate, one of the very first estates of social housing, where many of the flats are now owner-occupied.
Within walking and cycling distance - or a short bus ride - of Chelsea, Westminster and the West End, Pimlico is also served by three Zone 1 Tube stations: Pimlico on the Victoria line; Victoria (District, Circle and Victoria lines) and Sloane Square (District and Circle lines). An annual Zone 1 travelcard is £1,296.
Shops and restaurants
Pimlico’s main shopping street is along Warwick Way but extends into Tachbrook Street, Churton Street and Wilton Road. There are local shops along Lupus Street and off it, Moreton Street has a number of top designers.
The shops along Pimlico Road are the most exclusive but it could be argued that this is really Belgravia, rather than Pimlico.
In Warwick Way there is a Little Waitrose and Tesco Metro. In Churton Street, Grumbles bistro has been going since 1964, while locals are raving about relative newcomer Cacio & Pepe, an Italian restaurant.
Being so close to Victoria station and a number of hotels, Wilton Road has a concentration of restaurants including Nando’s, Dim t, and just off it, Rosa’s Thai Café in Gillingham Street, where you will also find Tozi, a highly rated Venetian restaurant in the Park Plaza Hotel.
The all-day Cambridge Street Kitchen is tucked away in Cambridge Street in the Pimlico Grid.
In Lupus Street, Goya is a long-standing tapas restaurant and round the corner in Moreton Street there is a branch of PizzaExpress, some antique shops and galleries, designer boutique Ulrich Engler, interior designer Nicky Dobree, wedding dress boutique Ingrida Bridal and popular local café and delicatessen Khallouk & Taylor.
Tachbrook Street Market has recently been revived with the arrival of street food stalls, and Upper Tachbrook Street has one of London’s best cheese shops, Rippon Cheese.
Pimlico Road has a very exclusive feel with Daylesford Organic Farmshop and Café, a favourite with lunching girlfriends, furniture shop Linley, owned by the Queen’s nephew, David Linley, and upmarket interiors shop Rose Uniacke.
This area is home to some of London’s most interesting antiques shops, including Robert Kime in Ebury Street, where you’ll also find interiors star Nicholas Haslam, fashion designer Tomasz Starzewski and La Poule au Pot, one of London’s oldest French restaurants.
Orange Square, where Ebury Street meets Pimlico Road, has a popular Saturday farmers’ market and boasts a statue of Mozart. The boy composer’s family brought him to live in Ebury Street in 1764-5 and he composed his first symphony there at the age of eight, during his Grand Tour of Europe.
St George’s Square is the only Pimlico garden square open to the public. The others — Eccleston Square and Warwick Square — are private and open only to keyholders. The lack of green space is one of Pimlico’s downsides, although St James’s Park and Hyde Park aren’t far.
Leisure and the arts
The nearest cinema is the Curzon in Victoria Street and the nearest theatres are the Apollo Victoria in Wilton Road, where the musical Wicked has been playing for nearly 11 years, and the Victoria Palace in Victoria Street where the US smash-hit musical Hamilton reopens the theatre in October following huge refurbishment.
The Other Palace, formerly the St James Theatre, in Palace Street is being promoted by Andrew Lloyd Webber as a venue for new, untried musicals.
The nearest council-owned swimming pool is the Queen Mother Sports Centre in Vauxhall Bridge Road and there is a lovely Art Deco swimming pool at the Dophin Square Fitness Club in Chichester Street.
Pimlico and the surrounding area has a plentiful supply of state and private schools to choose from.
State primaries judged “outstanding” by the Ofsted education watchdog are: Pimlico Primary in Lupus Street, Millbank in Erasmus Street, and St Peter’s CofE Eaton Square in Lower Belgrave Street. The rest are rated “good”.
“Outstanding” state comprehensives are: Grey Coat Hospital (girls, ages 11 to 18, with boys in the sixth form) in Greycoat Place; Pimlico Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Lupus Street, and Harris Westminster Sixth Form (co-ed, ages 16 to 18) in Tothill Street. The other local comprehensive, Westminster City (boys, ages 11 to 18,with girls in the sixth form) in Palace Street, is judged to be “good”.
The presence of two cathedrals in nearby Westminster brings two choir schools to the area: Westminster Cathedral Choir School (boys, ages seven to 13) in Ambrosden Avenue and Westminster Abbey Choir School (boys, ages eight to 13) in Dean’s Yard.
Westminster School (boys, ages 11 to 18, with girls in the sixth form) in Little Dean’s Yard and the associated preparatory school, Westminster Under School (boys, ages seven to 13) in Vincent Square is a high-achieving private school with the senior school situated in the Westminster Abbey precinct.
Other private primary and preparatory schools are: Eaton Square School (co-ed, ages two to 13, with a senior school opening in Piccadilly in September) in Eccleston Square; Eaton House (boys, ages, five to eight; Eaton House is a chain of eight schools in south-west London educating girls to age 11 and boys to 13) in Eaton Gate; Garden House (co-ed, ages three to 11, although after the kindergarten boys and girls are taught separately) in Turks Row, Chelsea; and in Knightsbridge, there’s Sussex House (boys, ages eight to 13) in Cadogan Square and Hill House (co-ed, ages four to 13) in Hans Place. The private and secondary schools are: Francis Holland (girls, ages four to 18) in Graham Terrace in Belgravia and More House (girls, ages 11 to 18) a Catholic school in Pont Street, Chelsea.