The Pantechnicon was built as an emporium straddling two sides of Motcomb Street in Belgravia. The other less-notable building straddles the block between West Halkin Street and Motcomb Street - and now plays host to my local Waitrose supermarket. Sadly the emporium idea did not work, and thus the Pantechnicon was transformed into a "fireproof" storage facility, much of which was to burn down in 1874. I have a facsimile of the London Illustrated News of that time containing illustrations of the blaze. Lucky for us the facade of the main building remains as a poignant reminder of the pretensions of the original venture. Some of the original drawings are included below, courtesy Westminster Public Library.
Who was Seth Smith?
Seth Smith, the son of a rector from Warminster in Wiltshire, was a property developer in London in the early 19th century. He was responsible for building large parts of the West End of London including Belgravia and Mayfair. Most of the Mayfair developments have since disappeared but the Belgravia buildings remain, a testament to the vision that Seth Smith, Thomas Cubitt and the Cundy brothers had for what was once a swampy, crime-infested city-fringe area. Smith lived at 33 Eaton Square, having built a substantial proportion of the square that he lived in. He was born December 15th, 1791, and died June 18th 1860. His wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1852, had 11 children.