Davies Street, W1K



Place Name

Mary Davies (also spelt Davis) (January 1665 – 1730) was only-child of Alexander Davies, the great-nephew of Hugh Audley, a lawyer of humble origins who had a great talent for making large profits on all his dealings. Alexander, was a scrivener by profession and had worked for Audley, drawing up deeds. Although scriveners were technically the draftsmen of such papers they also undertook many of the functions later associated with lawyers, particularly the management of investments for clients, and Davies probably had access to ready supplies of capital. When Audley died, aged 85, he left Alexander most of the 300 acre Ebury estate, that included marshland known as Five Fields, in which a few shepherds and farmers picked out a meagre living, alongside robbers and bandits who plagued the highways. Alexander’s brother, Thomas, was also given land which Alexander, later bought for £2,000. Despite the seemingly worthless nature of the property it was close enough to the City for speculators to see its potential value. Wasting no time Alexander decided to embark on speculative building on his new land choosing Market Meadows at Millbank as the first project. He let the land along the river front for building, reserving a large plot at the southern end as the site of a mansion for his own occupation. This was later called Peterborough House and then Grosvenor House when it became the principal London residence of the Grosvenor family in the first half of the 18thCentury. In 1665, however, “in the time of the … greate Sicknesse” (the plague) Alexander died aged 29, leaving his mansion half built, and an infant daughter less than six months old as his heir. Mary’s mother, also called Mary, began the search for a suitable match. She initially considered the equally young son and heir of Lord Berkeley, whose property adjoined their own. But when the family were unable to complete the dowry, of £5,000 and valuable land, a new husband was sought, and 21-year-old Thomas Grosvenor was chosen. The Grosvenors may only have been baronets but they could lay claim to being descendants of William the Conqueror’s nephew, they also held large estates in Chester. On October 10, 1677, the two were wed at St Clement Danes, where the bride’s grandfather, Dr Richard Dukeson, was rector. (Although at 12 Mary was able to consent to the marriage, she remained for at least two years in the care of a guardian aunt.) The couple were eventually reunited and the marriage consummated, they had three sons, before Sir Thomas’s death in 1700, and a daughter who was born a month after it. Widowhood hit Dame Mary Grosvenor, as Mary was now known, particularly hard. She had already shown signs of instability during her husband’s lifetime but her illness only got worse after it. In 1701 while in Paris she married, or was inveigled into a bogus marriage by, Edward Fenwick, the brother of a Roman Catholic chaplain she had taken into her household. Four years of legal disputes ensued until the supposed marriage was annulled by the Court of Delegates in 1705. In the same year a commission of lunacy was appointed to enquire into her mental state. She was adjudged insane and committed to the care of Francis Cholmondeley of Vale Royal in Cheshire, who had been appointed one of the guardians of her children by Sir Thomas Grosvenor’s will. As a result the revenues from her estate were paid into the Court of Chancery to be invested for her benefit, and any change in the use or disposition of the land could only be made by leave of the Court. Dame Mary lived on without regaining her faculties until 1730. The road, built sometime around her death has Davis Street by 1735, it was written as David Street on John Rocque’s 1746 map of London, but took its present spelling by 1792 when it appeared in Richard Horwood’s Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster from 1792.

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