Chaucer Avenue, TW9

Place Name

This was laid out over the orchards of North Sheen Acres by Richmond Council between the First and Second World Wards. It had previously been part of the Leyborne Popham estate,  the family having inherited the property, then largely market gardens, in 1838. Geoffrey Chaucer was chosen because as squire of the royal household and Clerk of Works would have been a regular visitor to the area to see King Edward III and Richard II when they resided at Sheen Palace. Indeed he refers to Shene in his works. Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 – October 25, 1400) is best known for The Canterbury Tales, and is widely seen as the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages having been called the “father of English literature”. Born on or near Upper Thames Street in London to a family of wealthy vintners, his family name is derived from the French chausseur, meaning shoemaker. He became a page to the Countess of Ulster and through this connection was brought into the close court circle. In 1359, during the early stages of the Hundred Years’ War, Edward III invaded France, and Chaucer travelled to the Continent as part of the English army. In 1360, he was captured during the siege of Rheims and only released when a £16 ransom was paid. This experience aside, he travelled widely across Europe and later studied law back in London, serving for a time, in 1368 as a yeoman at Shene Palace. Sometime around the 1380s he moved to Kent and is thought to have started writing the Canterbury Tales, a bawdy series of poems telling the stories of a varied group of pilgrims heading from Southwark to Canterbury Cathedral. Away from writing, he gained many lucrative appointments and in 1386 was elected a Knight of the Shire of Kent (a member of the House of Commons), during which time he was probably living in Greenwich. Four years later he was appointed clerk of the works at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and also put on a commission to repair the banks of the river Thames between Woolwich and Greenwich. After receiving a pension he took a lease on a house in the garden of the Chapel of St Mary, Westminster. When he died he was the first writer to be buried in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.




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