Thursday, November 30, 2006

Grosvenor Square - London

Grosevenor Square and Statue of Roosevelt

This photo of Grosvenor Square and the Statue of Roosevelt in London is part of one of the panoramic images found on the Tour of London. There are over 100 images taken from around London linked to an interactive map.

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Grosvenor Square is an important square in the centre of London, mostly know now for the presence of the United States Embassy that sits at the west end of the square. Grosvenor Square sits in the middle of Mayfair, and, with Berkley Square, is one of the two large squares in the area. You can find Grosvenor Square on Tagzania, pinned to a map of London.

Grosvenor Square is in fact oval and the footpaths arch in from the corners to the centre in graceful curves. Towards the north side is a statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt from which a broad walkway runs directly to the south side. This is a pleasant area to sit in the summer, south of Oxford Street and away from the bustling shoppers.

The square was developed by Sir Richard Grosvenor in 1710. The Grosvenor family have long been important to this and the surrounding areas; the Dukes of Westminster all come from the Grosvenor family and own a huge percentage of the surrounding land of both Mayfair and Westminster. . Building around the square finished in 1727 and 0f the 51 people who took up residence here over the next 20 years some 35 were titled, with 16 peers, 2 dukes, 9 earls, and a scattering of dukes, duchesses and knights. Up to WWII, Grosvenor Square was considered to be one of the 3 most desirable locations in London to live, and, as can be seen, many of the aristocracy did so. Few, if any, of the original buildings survive.

The American Embassy was established in Grosvenor Square in 1938, and many of the houses swiftly became occupied by staff and military personnel associated with the embassy. Because of this American presence, Grosvenor Square was chosen as the location for the British memorial to F.D. Roosevelt, which was unveiled by Mrs. Roosevelt in April 1948. At the same time the current layout of the square was established, with many old trees and other plantings being removed.

Not everyone is happy now at sharing the square with the American Embassy, for the embassy remains a prime potential target for terrorist attack and, in spite of the huge amount of security, the price of the surrounding properties have been hit somewhat, much to the chagrin of their wealthy occupants.

There is an interesting fact about Mayfair, the name comes from a 2-week long fair that used to be held in the area in May between 1686 and 1764. It was then banned and moved out of the area. It is somewhat surprising that there has not been a move to reclaim the event for the area, though I suspect that hosting the fair in Grosvenor Square would not be acceptable to the American Embassy.

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The nearest tube stations are Bond Street and Marble Arch on Oxford Street, though Green Park is also fairly close.

The full panoramic image taken of Grosvenor Square can be found on the London tour by An enlargement of this photo can be found on Flickr.

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