Grosvenor Place, SW1X

Place Name

Overlooking Buckingham Palace’s gardens, this certainly counts as one of the most exclusive addresses in London. It was an unnamed road to Pimlico when John Rocque drew his map in 1746. Twenty-one years later the road began to be developed with a row of houses going up in 1767. George III, who was fiercely defensive of his privacy attempted to prevent it by buying the land, but the Treasury refused to grant him the £20,000 needed. It was named after Richard Grosvenor, the 1st Earl Grosvenor (June 18, 1731 – August 5, 1802), who owned extensive lands around Westminster. He was also Mayor of Chester, close to the family’s country seat Eaton Hall. But he extended the family’s Cheshire landholdings buying the village of Belgrave, and the manor of Eccleston in 1769. In politics he crossed the house several times, starting as a Tory he supported the Whigs under William Pitt the Elder. He changed his allegiance again to back the Tory PM the Earl of Bute, returned to backing Pitt when he became PM for a second time. Supported Lord North in his loose Tory – Whig coalition and then backed William Pitt the Younger. His personal life was no less turbulent. On July 19, 1764 he married Henrietta Vernon, daughter of Henry Vernon of Hilton Park, Staffordshire. She was 14 years his junior. Despite the fact that they had four sons, the marriage was not a happy one. Soon after marrying she discovered that he was huge gambler, even by 18thCentury standards. He was also a regular customer of the prostitutes around Leicester Square. The unhappy Henrietta began an affair with Henry, Duke of Cumberland, the younger brother of George III. But the affair was exposed in 1769 when the couple were caught literally in the act at mutual friend’s house. Grosvenor brought an action against the Duke for “criminal conversation” (adultery). He was awarded damages of £10,000, which together with costs, amounted to an award of £13,000. But with his own extra marital interests he could not sue for divorce. The couple separated and he settled an annual allowance of £1,200 on his estranged wife. Grosvenor died at Earls Court and was buried in the family vault at St Mary’s Church, Eccleston. The name Grosvenor is derived from Hugh Le Grand Veneur (literally Master Huntsman), a member of a Norman French family that came over with William the Conqueror in 1066. Initially, Hugh was called Hugh Lupus. Lupus was overweight, and his townsmen gradually changed his title from Le Grand Veneur  to Le Gros Veneur – meaning  the Fat Huntsman, a title he evidently took pride in.


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