Distillery Lane, a drunken heart, and adultery

Caroline
Caroline prior to her ill-fated marriage

This day in London’s history: on 17 May 1768 Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, known as Caroline of Brunswick, wife of the future King George IV, was born.

It was a marriage not made in heaven; of the wedding night consummation of their marriage, George wrote, “it required no small [effort] to conquer my aversion and overcome the disgust of her person”. She, on the other hand, said that he was so drunk that he “passed the greatest part of his bridal night under the grate, where he fell, and where I left him”.

George was later to attempt to divorce Caroline and strip her of her title of Queen consort on the grounds of adultery; while all this was going on she stayed at Brandenburgh House in Fulham. She was popular with the masses, however, and that effort failed.

However, George did succeed in barring her from his coronation service at Westminster Abbey when her attempt to gain entry lost her soon of the popularity she had enjoyed. She died soon after at Brandenburg House, which was then demolished, presumably, says one source, by the king in a fit of pique at her popularity.

All of which brings us to Distillery Lane, which takes its name from the H&J Haig Distillery, built in 1857 on the site of Brandenburgh House, giving its name to Distillery Lane, which led to it, and to Distillery Road close by.

The other famous resident of Brandenburgh House and, indeed, the person for whom it was built, was Sir Nicholas Crisp, who was so loyal to his monarch, Charles I, that he had a bust of the king established in the Hammersmith parish church of St Paul’s.

He also directed that, following his death, his heart be placed in an urn under the effigy of his king. The heart was to be refreshed annually with a glass of wine; this service was performed for around a century until the heart became too much decayed.

The name of this loyal subject lives on in the nearby Crisp Road, which has other grisly connections.

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