Knightsbridge (formally known as Knightsbridge and Belgravia
) is a rather posh
part of the Westminster
district of London
(postcode SW7), with a population of around 9,000 residents.
Knightsbridge is famed for containing London's best shopping districts and stores, including Harrods and Harvey Nichol. Other attractions include Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace, Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall. Educational facilities include the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, Imperial College, the Royal College of Art, and the Royal College of Music. There are also several small, exclusive hotels and embassies, tucked up in Christopher Wren-era terraced houses.
Yet Knightsbridge has a more violent past.
Legend suggests that a duel between two knights on a bridge that spanned Westbourne River led to the district getting its name. Knightsbridge would continue to serve as a venue for duels by aristocrats, including Lord Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton in 1712 (both ignored ettiquette, rushed at each other in blind fury and both subsequently died).
It was a favourite haunt of highwaymen and footpads (Harold Walpole was a robbery victim here in 1749). As an unsuccessful deterence, King William II had 300 night lamps installed along Rotten Road (what was called Route de Roi, but the vernacular name survived; this road was the first road in Britain to have public lighting). The edgy atmosphere of Knightsbridge and the taverns it spawned (such as World's End, the Fox and Bull and the Swan) attracted and inspired writers including William Blake, Thomas Otway and Samuel Pepys.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 changed the tone of Knightsbridge. As an englightened act of urban renewal ahead of its time, Prince Albert chose Hyde Park as the venue to build Crystal Palace. The proceeds of the exhibition went to finance eighty acres of land south of Hyde Park to build several cultural and educational establishments, many whcih bear Prince Albert's name.
Incidentally, the name Knightsbridge contains the longest string of consonants in English - only equalled by the compound words catch-phrase and latch-string, and the foreign pluralised loan word borschts.