King Ferdinand the Catholic created the Spanish Diplomatic Representation before the Court of St. James in 1494, turning Spain into one of the first countries to appoint a permanent Ambassador to the English Court. Don Rodrigo González de Puebla arrived in London in May 1495, when Henry VII reigned. England, in turn, accredited a permanent Ambassador to Spain in 1505.
Over the centuries, the London residences of the Spanish Ambassadors followed one another. One of the most prominent was the one located in Manchester Square, situated where the Wallace Collection is today, next to the Spanish Place and the Catholic Church of St. James. The church was built over the chapel of an old Spanish Embassy, which for many years was the only place in London dedicated to Catholic worship from where pilgrims set out on route for the Camino de Santiago. Before the relocation to the current Belgravia Embassy, the diplomatic headquarters were at No. 1 Grosvenor Gardens.
Today the residence is located at 24 Belgrave Square, in a mansion known as Downshire House. Designed by architect H. E. Kendal, it is listed as "Outstanding Interest" by the National Heritage. The building is from the late Georgian period (18th century) and is in the Palladian style. Deputy Thomas Read Kemp, the first tenant, financed the work on land that still belongs to the Duke of Westminster. Its construction was part of the urban development of the Belgravia neighbourhood at the beginning of the 19th century.
The most famous occupant of the house before the arrival of Spanish diplomacy was surely W. J. Pirrie, President of the Harland and Wolff shipyard. After a meeting held at this residence, the White Star line entrusted Pirrie with the most ambitious project of that time, the construction of the Titanic. In testimony of this, a table was designed for the ocean liner that, to this day, remains at the Residence in the dining room.
The mansion became a Spanish diplomatic representation in 1928, and its first occupant was the Marquis Merry del Val Zulueta. A thorough reform of the building was then carried out, which included the acquisition of the adjoining units destined for the Chancery. The Parisian firm Alavoine and the French architect Fernand Allart were in charge of the work and the new decor, in which furniture and pieces from Madrid and London antique dealers were incorporated.
What stands out the most at the Residence is the Spanish Hall, principally displaying on the ceiling the coats of arms of the peninsular kingdoms of the Catholic Monarchs -Aragon, Asturias, Castilla, León, Galicia and Granada. The table built for the Titanic stands proudly in the main dining room, long considered the largest one-piece table in London.
24 Belgrave Square houses a rich variety of sculptures, tapestries and paintings on loan from the Prado Museum. Two portraits of Isabel II and Felipe III stand out, as well as oil paintings by Ramón Bayeu (Spanish artist of the 18th century), or the series Victorias of Carlos V by Juan de la Corte.