There has been a road or tow path alongside the River Thames since at least John Rocque’s 1746 map. It was originally called Neat Houses, as can be seen in Richard Horwood’s Plan of the City of London from 1792 which shows extensive and elaborately laid out gardens. Lockie’s Topography of London describes it as “a district on the N bank of the Thames, extending from Tothill-fields, Westminster, to Chelsea”. The road was renamed during the time of Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess of Westminster (March 22, 1767 – February 17, 1845) who became the 2nd Earl Grosvenor in 1802. He was created Marquess of Westminster in 1831. Grosvenor did a great deal to put the family’s expansive holdings into order, under him the family’s London estates continued to be developed, creating the areas now known as Belgravia and Pimlico – helping to secure the family’s fortunes. He also rebuilt the family’s country seat, Eaton Hall in Cheshire where he also restored the gardens, and built a new London home, Grosvenor House. He maintained and extended the family interests in the acquisition of works of art, and in horse racing and breeding racehorses. Unlike his father the profligate gambler Richard Grosvenor, 1st Earl Grosvenor, his personal life was uncomplicated. On April 28, 1794 he married Eleanor, the only child of Sir Thomas Egerton (later the 1st Earl Wilton) and in due course extended the family’s property interests. The couple had four children. His political life was more radical. In 1790 he was elected as MP for Chester and continued to serve in this seat until 1802. Between 1793 and 1801 he was a commissioner of the Board of Control. He raised a regiment of volunteers from the city of Westminster to fight against France and in 1798 was appointed its major-commandant. In the House of Commons he followed the family tradition of being a Tory and supporting William Pitt the Younger. However, after Pitt’s death in 1806, he changed his allegiance and became a Whig. During this time he supported the victims of the Peterloo massacre, backed Catholic Emancipation, and called for the abolition of the Corn Laws, he also voted for the Reform Bill. He championed the wronged Queen Caroline and is reputed to have thrown either a Bible or a Prayer Book at the head of King George IV. And when the Duke of Wellington was presented with the freedom of the city of Chester, Grosvenor refused to allow the town hall to be used for the event. 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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