London History

.’. Duke of Buckingham – cryptic namesake .’.


GEORGE VILLIERS, DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM’s – on the wall of York Place, next to Mc Donalds on the Strand, is a grimy little plaque commemorating the strange street’s original name, Of Alley.

The second Duke of Buckingham sold york House to developers in 1672, but made it a condition of the sale that his name and the title should be commemorated by George Street, Villiers Street,Duke Street, Of Alley and Buckingham Street (thus spelling out George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham).

The streets are still there, though Of Alley was renamed York Place and George Street is now York Buildings.

PS: London brings you all the little amazing secrets from the past if you look into it.

London History

.’. York House Watergate .’.


Last Vestige of a riverside mansion….

The enclosure of the Thames within the Embankment in the second half of the 19th century is generally hel to be a miracle of Victorian engineering, giving London a state-of-the-art water system as well as creating more land for building. (See the photo of before).

However, it dramatically changed the city’s relantionship to the river, and nowhere is this more visible than this watergate in Embankment  Gardens, tucked away beside Charing Cross Station. At first sight, the baroque archway looks like a folly, a gate to nowhere marooned in a small park. In fact, it was once the river entrance to York House, one of the a line of mansions that originally stood along the route from the City of London t the royal at Westminster. The River now lies 150 metres from to bottom step of the watergate, giving an idea of how far into the city the tidal Thames previously extended. If you stand on the opposite embankment at high tide, especially near Blackfriars Bridge on the South Bank, the height of the water is closeness to the lip of the wall both underline the river’s power.

The watergate itself was created by Inigo Jones in 1620, as an extension to the palace built by the first Duke of Buckingham in 1620. The design looks florid in comparision to its surroundings, and still bears the Buckingham family coat of arms. Alongside Banqueting House and the Temple Arch next to St. Pauls, its one of the few surviving reminders in London of the Italianate tastes of King Charles I. The second Duke of Buckingham was the King’s favourite and one of London’s wealthiest landworners. Like the King, the Duke was an art lover. The 1635 inventory of his collection shows 22 paintings and 59 pieces of Roman sculputure in the Great Chamber alone. Gentileschi and Rubens both lodge at the house during their visits to London.

London History

.’. The Duke of Wellington’s Mounting Steps .’.


The British Empire may be defunct, but Gentlemen’s Club still reign supreme in this upper crust corner of London. Both the Athenaeum Vlub and the Institute of Directors preside over Waterloo Place, their lavish interiors off limits to the hoi polloi. Outside each is a pair of kerb stones, bearing a rusty plaque: “This horseblock was erected by desire of the Duke of Wellington 1830”. Possibly recycled from materials from Carlton House or the Duke of York Steps, they allowed the Duke to mount and dismount from his horse with ease while visiting the Athenaeum. Whether the shorter members of the club were also permitted to take advantage of the Duke’s steps is unknown.