Welcome to the first instalment of the Landlords of London series! In this set of posts, I’ll be peering into the workings of some of the most prominent commercial landlords in London.
Each profile will take a brief look at the corporate owner’s history, as well as getting into the details of a few investments in their property portfolios.
So, without further ado: let’s take a look at the Grosvenor Estate.
Key facts about The Grosvenor Estate
The Grosvenor Estate’s history goes way back, starting in 1677, when the most senior Grosvenor (Sir Thomas) married an heiress (Mary Davies) who inherited the 500 acres of land that later became Mayfair, Belgravia, and Pimlico.
Their son (Sir Richard G) was the first to catch the estate development bug and had grand ambitions for how the land would eventually be used. His successors (Robert G, then the first Duke of Westminster, Hugh G) carried on the vision and saw to it that the area kept being developed as envisioned from the 18th century onwards.
That vision resulted in the regal architecture and opulence we see in the ever-trendy, insta-friendly Mayfair and Belgravia of today.
As of now (November 2021), the Grosvenor Group has £11.1 billion worth of assets under management across its global portfolio. The company invests across the globe with properties in Britain, Ireland, Europe, the Americas, and the Asia-Pacific region. Despite its global reach, The Grosvenor Estate’s HQ is still in London (on Grosvenor Street in Mayfair, of course), but it has 12 offices in total. Other cities where the group has offices include San Francisco, Vancouver, Tokyo, and Stockholm.
In the present day, the current Duke of Westminster (the second Hugh G) – who, at one point, was the richest person under 30 in the world – owns the company in its entirety. Talk about pressure!
Notable properties in The Grosvenor Estate’s London portfolio
Aside from the fancy shopping of Mount Street and the large picnic/people-watching spot that is Grosvenor Square, the Grosvenor Estate has an impressive portfolio of land and properties in central London – and not all of them are in Mayfair or Belgravia. For example…
The Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey
At the end of 2020, the Grosvenor Estate started £500 million worth of redevelopment works on the site of a 12-acre former biscuit factory in Bermondsey.
It’s reported to be a community-focused project that will create over 1,500 rental homes, a new school building, and office and retail space. The first phase, comprising 359 homes and the new school building, is expected to complete in 2024.
Initially, Southwark Council denied the Grosvenor Estate’s request for planning permission because the firm couldn’t guarantee the required 35% of affordable homes as part of the development (and yes, evidently, the firm quickly changed its tune).
St Mark’s, Mayfair
On a vaguely related note: Mercato Metropolitano opened up a second delicious outpost in St Mark’s, a Grade I listed, former church owned by the Grosvenor Estate. The famous food market and dining destination’s original location is in Elephant & Castle, also in a former factory down the road from the aforementioned former biscuit factory site.
The Diocese of Westminster had left the old church empty and sad since 1974, after the congregation shrank in size following the Second World War. No one had been successful in reviving St Mark’s for other uses – until the council approved the Grosvenor Estate’s plans to transform the old church into a retail, dining, and community events space in 2014.
Then, two years and £5 million later: Voila!
Eaton Square, Belgravia
And of course, we can’t forget one of the favourite selfie locations for Instagram influencers. Those majestic, white Grade II listed facades have probably featured in more Instagram photos than their respective owners would have liked…
As the largest residential garden square in London, the Grosvenor Estate still owns almost all the freeholds to Eaton Square’s 380-plus apartments. The firm directly manages the upkeep of most of these properties, as well as the central gardens within the Square itself.
The Square is, and has been, home to various notable residents, including politicians, entertainers, football club owners, and financiers – as well as the current Duke of Westminster himself. Unsurprisingly, it was once crowned the most expensive place to buy a home in Britain.
Anything newsworthy (or especially interesting) about The Grosvenor Estate?
As I mentioned earlier, Hugh Grosvenor became the sole beneficiary of the Grosvenor Estate aged 25 after his father passed away suddenly. Despite having two older sisters, the old-school boys’ club-sounding legal rules of primogeniture at the time meant he got the lion’s share of inheritance as the family’s firstborn son.
You might be glad to know (or perhaps you might not care) the law on primogeniture in aristocratic circles changed in 2013, just before the birth of Prince William’s first child. That ensured their future children – whether boys or girls – would get their due chance at the throne.