The case of little Mary Davies

It was in my mind at the time, but somehow was left dangling off the keyboard.

England can boast as rewarding a bit of child-rape as the Cawdor Campbells. By the way, the “Calders” seem to have become “Cawdors” entirely on Bill Shagsper’s typo.

GrosvenorPermit me to introduce you all to Sir Thomas Grosvenor, baronet.

Already possessed of his family estate in Cheshire, on 10th October 1677 Sir Thomas, aged not-quite twenty-three, married Miss Mary Davies. Since Miss Mary was born in 1665, that makes her fully a dozen years of age.

What made Mary Davies such a ripe prospect was her inheritance: her late Daddy, Alexander Davies, had been a scrivener — a law-writer — who had come into possession of Ebury Farm, now buried under the bricks and masonry of London’s Chelsea, and other lands between Tyburn Brook and Park Lane, convenient for the imminent expansion of Westminster. All told about five hundred acres.

I’ll pause for a moment, to draw breath, sip coffee, and meditate on how Alexander Davies came to own these lands.

We have to start with Geoffrey de Mandeville, one of Guillaume le Bâtard’s William the Conqueror’s henchmen, who received this tract as a thank-you. Much of it was swampy marshland, so Geoffrey de Mandeville passed his manor to the Abbey of Westminster, doubtless for the benefit of his immortal soul. Which meant, in due course, it came back, after the monasteries were shut down, into the sweaty maw of Henry VIII. This became the “Manor of Hyde”, and was leased out.

In 1618 much of this land was acquired, a bit dubiously, by  Sir Lionel Cranfield, an upwardly-mobile tradesman, who had taken several official post under James I, until he was impeached for corruption. Canfield, in due course, fell upon harder times, and sold his freehold on to Hugh Audley (as was the norm of that time, his name could be rendered as “Audley” or “Awdeley”). This involved one of those dodgy back-to-back transactions (the kind of thing that, in these days, gets solicitors struck off, and SNP MPs rendered semi-detached). Audley was a law-clerk, working in  the Court of Wards and Liveries. By no coincidence, he had a side-line in money-lending, and had built himself a fat bank-roll. On Audley’s death, half-a-century later, the land passed to his grand-nephew, Alexander Davies, who promptly pegged out himself, leaving the six-month-old Mary as his heiress.

Mary was to be married off to to the Hon. Charles Berkeley, the eldest son of John, first Baron Berkeley of Stratton; but the Berkeleys had overstretched themselves, and the deal didn’t go through. Waiting in the wings was aforesaid Sir Thomas Grosvenor, who acquired the girl, sorted out the monies due to the Berkeleys, and laid out certain insurances that Mary would reach the age of 21, and inherit the property.

There are three, at least, little wrinkles here:

At the age of twelve, Mary was deemed mature enough to consent to the marriage;

the monarch, in this case Charles II Stuart, had a duty of care to orphaned wards, and it must have helped his caring soul that Grosvenor was such an upright chap, friend of the king, and a good Tory.

Throughout her life, Mary showed increasing signs of what we might be benignly-termed “mental instability”, to the extent that, in her widowhood, she was adjudged insane.

1 Comment

Filed under History, London, sleaze.

One response to “The case of little Mary Davies

  1. Pingback: Sticks in the Smoke 29: Bessborough Gardens, Pimlico – Sticks in the Smoke

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