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1st Earl Cadogan, Charles ‘Sloane’ (1728-1807)
Early origins

Sloane Street was created by Henry Holland for the 1st Earl Cadogan, Charles ‘Sloane’ (1728-1807), who sold the development lease to Holland in 1777.

Before 1777, travellers wanting to get from Knightsbridge to the King’s Road would have to trudge a kilometre across a patchwork of fields.

The route would take them dangerously close to the infamous Five Fields area to the east – what is now Belgravia was then a marshy no-man’s-land home to brigands and highwaymen, just across the Westbourne river. At that time, on the eastern side of what is now Sloane Square was Blandel or ‘Bloody’ Bridge, so called because of an infamous murder committed on the spot in 1590.

The Westbourne river forms the ancient boundary between the lands of Chelsea, under the stewardship of Cadogan to the west and the Grosvenor Estate to the east. The river still exists, although now runs underground.

At the end of the 18th century, Holland (architect, builder and father-in-law to ‘Capability’ Brown) developed over 90 acres of Chelsea, designing the street plan for Sloane Street, Sloane Square and Hans Place, as well as many other streets in the locale, as part of the development named Hans Town.

The Pavilion, Hans Place in the 1800s
A blue plaque dedicated to Jane Austen, who lived at 64 Sloane Street

The late 19th century saw Sloane Street become a busy shopping centre serving the fashionable local residents

A fashionable address

Sadly, nearly all of Holland’s original elegant Georgian houses have been swept away by later developments. However, No.123 Sloane Street is one of the few surviving examples – a house that would be familiar to novelist Jane Austen.

In 1811, Austen lived with her brother Henry at No.64, where she worked on the proofs of Sense and Sensibility. Hans Town was a very fashionable place to live, and Knightsbridge became a magnet for shopping – laying the early foundations for the future growth of large stores.


An iconic shopping destination

Harvey Nichols can trace its history back to Benjamin Harvey’s 1831 shop on the corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street, in exactly the same spot Harvey Nichols still sits. Much has expanded since then, and the frontage of Harvey Nichols today was constructed in the 1880s.

The latter part of the 19th century saw much development in Knightsbridge and the locality of Sloane Street. An increasingly busy shopping centre serving the fashionable local residents, Sloane Street boasted a variety of drapers, tailors, hosiers and milliners – see image, top, of Sloane Street circa 1900.

The London Shoe Company of Sloane Street, 1905
Lillie Langtry, actress and close friend of Edward VII, who lived on Pont Street from 1892-1897
Staying in style

Luxurious hotels also sprang up, such as The Cadogan Hotel at No.75 Sloane Street, which opened in 1887. Lillie Langtry, a famous actress and close friend of King Edward VII, lived next door to the hotel. When the hotel expanded, incorporating Lillie’s former home, she stayed in her old bedroom (Room 109). The Cadogan Hotel was also the site of Oscar Wilde’s arrest in 1895, immortalised in John Betjeman’s poem.


A defining era

Sloane Street has always been upmarket. However, the seeds of its journey towards becoming the prominent destination for exclusive, luxury brands it is today were sown in the 1960s, with the nearby King’s Road of ‘swinging 60s’ fame sparking the influx of high-end, trend-setting stores. This continued over the subsequent years; however, Sloane Street really came into its own in the mid-1990s. No longer was the street anything approaching a normal high street, as recovery from the early 90s recession saw an explosion of luxury designer brands and flagship stores.

Sloane Street through the years

A snapshot of one of London's most salubrious streets through the ages

Bollard showing the fashionable area of Hans Town, developed in the late-18th century
Sloane Street today

Today, Sloane Street is home to flagship boutiques and concept stores for some of the world’s leading luxury brands and acclaimed local designers, with many of them offering VIP and bespoke services. The street continues to evolve as a vibrant destination for shopping, dining, leisure, wellbeing and cultural events, attracting a discerning global clientele.

Recent openings include, in 2019, the refurbished Belmond Cadogan hotel and the five-storey wellness emporium Urban Retreat at The White House, and the first UK standalone store for cult fashion brand Off-White in 2020. This year, Sloane Street welcomed brand-new retail concept The Anya Hindmarch Village, and new flagship stores for Ralph Lauren, Balenciaga and Burberry. It also sees the opening of new boutique hotel Beaverbrook Town House, and the reopening of The Carlton Tower Jumeirah, following a £100million renovation.

Sloane Street is now home to some of the world's leading luxury brands