Gwynne Place, WC1X

Place Name

Formerly Granville Place. Eleanor Gwyn (February 2, 1650 – November 14, 1687) more popularly known to history as Nell Gwyn (also spelt Gwynn, Gwynne) was a celebrity figure of the Restoration period and long-time mistress of King Charles II. Called “pretty, witty Nell” by Samuel Pepys, who raved about her comic performances, she has been regarded as a living embodiment of the spirit of the Restoration period. Her early life is shrouded in mystery and myth, something that she is believed to have done much to encourage. By all accounts she was of low birth but had a quick and ready wit. With the theatres reopening following the end of the short-lived republic, Gwyn found herself much in demand as a comic turn. It was at the theatre that she caught the eye of the monarch. This was encouraged by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, who wanted too use Nell to influence the King. The two swiftly began an affair. She may have been Charles’s favourite but she was not his only mistress, the notoriously fickle Charles had many long and short term lovers, much to the annoyance of his wife the Portuguese Queen consort Catherine of Braganza. Gwyn, who had two sons by King Charles: Charles Beauclerk and James Beauclerk (the surname is pronounced boh-clair), was no fool. She insisted that the King transfer the ownership of the grace and favour mansion she occupied on Pall Mall over to her, which he eventually did – and it was there she died from apoplexy “almost certainly due to the acquired variety of syphilis”, three years after the King’s death. However, she also had a summer residence called Bagnigge House, that stood to the west of King’s Cross Road and handy for visiting the Cold Bath, where she would go to bathe. The house later became a spa and pleasure garden but was demolished in 1862. As to why its name was changed. This street was originally named after the slavery and abolitionist campaigner Granville Sharpe (1735 – 1813) whose niece Mary Sharpe married into the Lloyd Baker family who owned an estate on the land in the 19thCentury (See Granville Square and Street). It was one of many streets renamed in 1936 to avoid confusion with similarly named roads nearby.

 

 

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