Secrets of The Star in Belgravia
Belgravia. An area of grandeur and apparent calm. But behind and among the stucco, there’s often a different story. Michael Duncan has been investigating…
Belgravia is not normally an area associated with pub crawls, but there is one to be done in these exclusive streets, perhaps starting with the tiny Grenadier at the Knightsbridge end and finishing at The Plumbers arms at the Victoria end.
But one pub you must visit along the way is the excellent Star Tavern in Belgrave Mews just off Belgrave Square.
It’s a great pub that perhaps really hit its stride in the 60’s as a place where high-life met low-life.
It’s believed that this was a favoured haunt of John Profumo for his discreet liaisons with Christine Keeler and that assorted luminaries from Bing Crosby to (perhaps less surprisingly) Peter O’Toole and Princess Margaret would occasionally pop in for a quick sharpener.
But it is also where, in the upstairs bar, Britain’s most famous heist was planned.
So infamous was this crime that some members of the gang (notably Buster Edwards and Ronnie Biggs) remain household names to this day. But the gang’s leader and master planner, Bruce Reynolds (he’s the handsome looking chap above), is perhaps less well-known. The pub’s website takes up the story…
“Reynolds, who co-ordinated the robbery, regularly drove his Aston Martin from his Streatham home to meet Edwards and one or two other members of the gang in The Star to go over details during the run-up to the robbery.
Four was the maximum number to meet in public at any one time, in case the police were observing them. Reynolds’ friend, Terry Hogan, introduced him to The Star following the Eastcastle Street mailbag robbery of 1952 in which they both took part. Reynolds felt he’d broken through into the upper echelons of the criminal fraternity… …here in The Star.”
So everything clearly not as calm and genteel as it first seems among the grandeur of Belgravia…
Want to hear more stories of the secrets of this most exclusive of London enclaves? Then join Michael’s new walk “Behind the Stucco” which reveals many of the scandals that took place behind the opulent Belgravia facades. See booking details and Michael’s walk schedule here.
Sean Gay adds some personal recollections of The Star:
There’s an awful lot to The Star – I spent part of my childhood outside it.
A lot of our parents drank in mews pubs in the 50s and 60s because the kids could be left outside safely to play as long as Cokes and crisps came our way on a regular basis (The Nags Head in Kinnerton street was another much haunted venue).
I remember the Star’s landlord Paddy Kennedy very well – He once told Elizabeth Taylor to “move your fat a**e” off a bar stool to make way for a friend of his – and she did.
There were two very different drinking crowds – upstairs and downstairs – and the lads who frequently tested the patience of ‘the boys from the Yard’ drank upstairs.