This will be first in a series of articles on Pimlico, putting words to page on an area of London that I’ve lived in for a few years. It will be an interesting exercise to conversationally gather my thoughts on Pimlico, and maybe do the same on other parts of London I know or explore. You can use the ‘Pimlico’ category tag on this site to see the related posts.
What this isn’t, is an attempt to be more factual than Wikipedia entry, or provide reviews such as Yelp can provide. Nor is it a replacement for checking an area out via Tripadvisor and Londontown (or just actually visiting, of course). Those all do it better, and I’m not going to compete. That’s said, onwards we go.
There’s a map on my bedroom wall of London from around 1500s, and Pimlico isn’t on it. Back then it was just marshy fields next to the Thames, on the edge of the rapidly growing London. As such, in London terms at least, it’s actually relatively new – being only a couple of hundred years old.
Pimlico is across the river from Vauxhall, and next to Westminster, Victoria and Belgravia. It is well located, and often overlooked as there aren’t a huge number of obvious attractions to draw people in. There’s no big shopping, no major late-night spots, no huge monuments, and both Parliament and Buckingham Palace are only a short walk away. It does have the Tate Britain nearby, but even the location of that actually draws crowds away from, rather than to, central Pimlico.
But this is something the residents all rather enjoy, in my experience. Pimlico is a quiet part of London that is only a mile and change from some of the most central parts of town. It seldom causes any fuss, and is never too busy.
The area wasn’t actually developed until the 1800s, as part of the same project that created Belgravia. This gives it distinct type of architecture that was prevalent in this end of London at the time – orderly roads full of white regency buildings with black iron railings outside. Sometimes their similarly gets a little disorienting.
Pimlico is primarily a residential area, and the local commerce reflects that. Pimlico has a wealth of restaurants, pubs and small shops, including some rather niche ones, but other than the large Sainsbury’s and the small ‘express’ versions of Waitrose and Tescos, there are few major retailers. For clothing and other goods, and depending on lifestyle/budget – Pimlico is served adequately by the proximity of Chelsea, Victoria and Mayfair, with even Piccadilly and Oxford Street being less than 30 minutes by foot (or five to ten by underground).
Of course, being so close to those other areas, as well as to Westminster, this means that Pimlico isn’t cheap to live in. I’ve been here as part of a flat share for six years, and I’m pretty sure this flat once homed an MP. I gather there are quite a few second homes in this area that serve those of the wealthier and more politically oriented careers. I’d never be able to afford to buy my own in a place like this – even when I was on a City salary. I think that does give part of the answer as to why this area is quieter than you’d expect – less people are actually here at any one time than the number of houses would suggest. There is still range of different socio-economic backgrounds here, it isn’t only the modestly-to-much wealthier folk…. But there are a lot of them.
Transport wise, Pimlico is well served by bus routes, and by Vauxhall to the south or Victoria to the North West. It has its own underground stop, on the Victoria line. And that route (when not closed due to cement), is such a quick North-South passage through London that Pimlico is a great staging point to get to a lot other places, but also quiet enough to stay away from it all, too. And it’s even quieter now that Big Ben / Elizabeth Tower is undergoing renovation – I miss lying on my bed and hearing the toll of that great bell carried on the wind.
There’s still plenty more to say about Pimlico, though. It’s not exactly a slouch when it comes to famous people who have lived here. Most notably, perhaps, is Winston Churchill himself. Then there are persistent rumours of this or that celebrity is living under-the-radar in the area. I’ve certainly chatted with a movie director one evening in one of the local pubs. And I wouldn’t be shocked to find out some of the other regulars are a bit more than first meets the eye. Perhaps one day they can put a blue plaque up about me.
The pubs and bars themselves a not a let-down. They may not be large (except in the case of the perpetually busy Weatherspoons next to Victoria station), but there are enough of them. From bar at the Park Plaza, The Brougham opposite that, and the supposedly ‘secret’ Clarendon Cocktail Cellar, to the Marquis of Westminster, The Queens Arms, The Warwick and Cask, there are plenty of places to have a tipple.
There’s good food in Pimlico, too. A Wong is a Chinese with a Michelin star, Uno is a friendly Italian place, Kazan does Turkish, and guess what the Pimlico Thai does? There’s Mexican, Brazilian, Indian, Spanish, pan-Oriental and French cuisine here. Fish and chips, too. I still haven’t been to all the restaurants in Pimlico, for which I blame my weak dating game.
There are nine more articles to write, as there’s plenty to cover and ten feels like a good writing challenge. There’s the annual parade to mention. The street market. The films that were shot around here. The places to eat and the pubs. I’ll even cover some of the local running routes. And the ups and downs of actually living here.
But for now, as a simple introduction to the quiet place that shouldn’t be as quiet as it actually is, that is how I wanted to start.
You can use the ‘Pimlico’ category tag on this site to see the related posts.