Continuing our theme of the 12 days of Christmas in London street names, let’s look at lords and ladies. There are various lady and lord so-and-so street names, but the most Christmassy is Noel Street, just south of Oxford Street.
The street takes its name from Lady Elizabeth Noel who was married to Henry Bentinck, 1st Duke of Portland. There is no hint anywhere as to whether she was prone to dancing; however, not only did she have seven children so she may not have had time, but her husband was one of the unfortunate people who lost vast sums of money in the South Sea Bubble, so she may not have been in the mood.
Elizabeth’s father-in-law was Hans William Bentinck, Ist Earl of Portland and a friend of William III. The king gave a great deal of land in Soho to Bentinck; in the 1730s it was Lady Elizabeth who was responsible for developing much of the property, and the nearby Marylebone area abounds with street names from the Bentinck family.
Our ‘lord’ name is cheating, because it’s not a street name at all, but hopefully I will be forgiven a little artistic leeway. Lord’s Cricket Ground, one of London’s most famous landmarks, was built for lords by a Lord. That makes it kind of a double lord, and cricket certainly involves a lot of leaping.
Cricket was once considered suitable only for the elite, and originally the aristocracy played their manly sport in Islington. Eventually they tired of the commoners who turned up to watch the matches and one Thomas Lord was asked to provide a private ground.
The current Lord’s, on the site of what was once a duck pond, is the third iteration of that private ground: the first was in Marylebone, on the site of the current Dorset Square, and the second, briefly, was in Regent’s Park.
In case I need to redeem myself, there is a Lordship Place in Chelsea, near Cheyne Walk. It stands on what was the old Manor House belonging to the Lawrence family.
According to the admirable Gillian Bebbington, author of Street Names of London, it was, “the scene of the Manor Court, whose instruments of judgment and punishment were kept here: the duckingstool, stocks, whipping-post and lock-up”.
If there had been any ducks in the 12 Days of Christmas, I could have brought in both ducking stools and the former duck pond on which Lord’s Cricket Ground now stands.