John Churchill (May 26, 1650 – June 16, 1722), 1st Duke of Marlborough, was one of England’s greatest generals. He helped to wipe out Monmouth’s rebellion in 1685, backed William III’s ascension, and survived dubious charges of treason. His career reached its peak when he was Commander-in-chief of the Anglo-Dutch armies in the War of the Spanish Succession between 1702 – 1714. Early in the war he notched up a series of victories at Kaiserwerth, Venlo and Liege driving the French out of the Netherlands in what had previously been the Spanish Gelderland. His most famous victory was at Blenheim on August 13, 1704 fighting against the French and Bavarians. He later routed the French at Ramilles in 1706, so winning Brabant and Flanders and then, defeated the French at Oudenarde in 1708. Victory was also won at Malplaquet in 1709 but with greater losses than the French. While the duke and his many victories are commemorated in street names all across London, Gillian Bebbington in London Street Names says that this is the earliest, with its construction beginning in 1704, the year of his victory at Blenheim. The prefix Great was added not only to distinguish it from Little Marlborough Street but also because of the magnificence of its buildings. Dan Cruickshank in his book Soho surmises: “In 1712 John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll extended the house he had built in 1706 at the west end of Great Marlborough Street and enlarged it yet further in 1720 by the addition of two new wings. Argyll had served with distinction with Marlborough and it might well have been his suggestion to name the new street adjoining his house in honour of his former commander.” The street was laid out by builder Joseph Collens who leased five acres of land here in 1704.
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