Northumberland Street, WC2N

Place Name

The site of the former Northumberland House, which for most of its history served as the London townhouse of the Percy family, who have held the titles Earls and later Dukes of Northumberland, since the 14th and 18th centuries respectively. The house, an impressive building fronting the Strand and overlooking the Thames, however, was originally built for another Earl, Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton, who cleared the grounds of a former convent to make way for it, in about 1605. After that, it passed to the Duke of Suffolk (another branch of the Howard family) and was renamed Suffolk House, before being sold to Algernon Percy, the 10th Earl of Northumberland, as part of the marriage settlement when he married Lady Elizabeth Howard. From that time on it became known as Northumberland House. The Percys had been one of England’s leading noble and landowning families since the time of the Norman Conquest, when William de Percy, 1st Baron Percy came over to England and was bestowed modest estates in Yorkshire by Hugh d’Avranches. His descendants would go on to amass huge estates in the north of England and Scottish border territories and play a large role in the history of both countries – as nearly every Percy was a Warden of the Marches, responsible for the security of the border between the two nations, Scottish affairs were often of more concern than those in England. The Earldom was first bestowed upon Henry Percy, 4th Baron Percy, by King Richard II upon his coronation in 1377. The Dukedom came much later, having originally been bestowed upon John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick, in 1551, it was created for the third time for Sir Hugh Percy in 1766 following his marriage to Lady Elizabeth Seymour, the last of the senior Percy bloodline (hence Percy Street). Other famous Percys include Sir Henry (“Hotspur”) Percy who supported the rebellion of Henry Bolingbroke (later King Henry IV) and gives his name to Tottenham Hotspur football club; and another Henry, the 6th Earl of Northumberland, who was Anne Boleyn’s leading suitor before her marriage to King Henry VIII. The house survived up until 1874 when it was compulsorily purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works, much against the will of the then Duke of Northumberland, to make way for Northumberland Avenue, planned as an approach road to the new Victoria Embankment. The street itself originated as a medieval lane, running alongside the house.

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