However much you think you know about London, there’s always something to surprise and it’s often tucked away between or behind huge Victorian buildings. Little snippets of intriguing history, waiting to be revealed. Those of us lucky enough to have had ancestors living in London, will find a wealth of description about the streets in which they lived and the neighbours they may have had. Some places just seem to attract interesting characters through the centuries.
One such place is Cecil Court WC2.
- It sits as a hub between Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and the Royal Courts.
- Now and historically, the thoroughfare has hummed with a rich collection of diverse characters, the theatrical and artistic and the scholarly and learned, all rubbing along together.
- The land was purchased in 1609 by the Cecil family of Hatfield House. A famous family descended from Robert Cecil, Secretary of State to Elizabeth I and James I and a great spymaster.
- It was open land that would connect St Martins Lane and Trafalgar Square. It is not certain when it was first developed but it has been suggested that work had started towards the latter part of the C17th century.
- The Court was built with fine town houses but the area fell into decline by the mid C18th
Over the centuries it was the home for many famous and infamous characters
- Mozart lived above a barbers shop on a visit to London with his parents in 1764. It has been suggested it was where he wrote his first symphony.
- TS Eliot made his home above the shops, as did Ellen Terry and John Gielgud.
- The Foyle brothers set up their bookshop and the area is now known as ‘Book sellers Row’, as it is home to many rare and second hand book dealers
- It was where the young Arthur Ransome began to dream of writing whilst working for the Unicorn Press
- The mother of William Hogarth died as a result of shock following a fire that tore through the Court in the latter part of the C18th
Cecil Court started life with fine houses but the Court went into decline and references to it’s less than salubrious occupants can be found in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey.
The whole of Cecil Court was redeveloped at the end of the C19th but although the physical evidence no longer remains, it’s history can be traced through the lives of the people who lived there and who continue to draw inspiration from it’s location.
There are plenty of intriguing historical locations in London, take a look down Artillary Passage and explore some of it’s history or if you are in the city, seek out it’s oldest synagogue.
Find your way to the house of Dr Johnson or see where Alice Garthwaite created her amazing silk designs
Click through to Intriguing Family History and explore a whole host of useful resources to enrich your family history