Chester Square is one of the nicest parts of Belgravia. When the estate was built, the best houses were in Belgrave and Eaton Squares. Chester Square was planned in 1828 to provide ‘second rank’ houses. That was in the days when families were larger, and you had to accommodate the servants. Nowadays the houses in Belgrave Square are far too big for families and have been turned into embassies. The ‘second rate’ homes in Chester Square have meanwhile become as big as you would want for a family home. They are still 5 or 6 storeys, so by no means small. Work started in 1832 and the last house was completed in the late 1840s, so it was a long drawn out development. Most of the houses are still family houses.
The mainly stucco facades are highlighted by the attractive trees of the gardens in the centre of the square through which the facing terraces look at each other. Busy Eccleston Street cuts Chester Square into two halves. Nos. 42 – 45 on the south side are especially grand and appealing houses with imposing cornices above first floor level and pilasters. No. 46 (also on the south side) has a rather fine balcony over its front door. The north side in the western part of the square has modernish block of flats built in the 1960s. Here too there are house-proud owners. Nos. 21 and 31 are particularly attractive, and No. 30 has a colourful display of flowers on its first-floor balcony.
Thomas Cubitt began building Chester Square in 1840. Joseph Cundy and Seth Smith built many of the houses in the square.
St Michael’s Church on the west side of Chester Square is the local Church of England church. It was designed by Thomas Cundy II in 1844.
The historic home of the Dukes of Westminster was at Eaton Hall in Cheshire and the ‘Chester’ name comes from the nearby town of Chester.
Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) lived at No 2 from 1839 -1867. Mary Woolstonecraft Shelley, the author of ‘Frankenstein’, and wife of Shelley, the poet (d.1851) lived for a time at No 24. Harold Macmillan lived at No 14 before he was Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher has lived in the square since 1991. Sir Yehudi Menuhin also bought a house there in 1991. Other famous past owners include Baron Thyssen, the art collector (No 56), John Strachey, the editor of The Spectator (No 76) in 1926 and Lord Seiff in 1991. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands had her secretariat at No 77 from 1940 – 1945.