Vic Keegan’s Lost London 10: the grave of Alexander Davies

by Victor Keegan

St Margaret’s Church yard in Parliament Square is not short of famous dead bodies, being the resting place of William Caxton, Sir Walter Raleigh, Wenceslaus Hollar, the brilliant engraver of London, and the largest number of regicides you’ll find anywhere. 

Yet, curiously, there is only one tomb that is above ground. It is near the road and completely ignored by passers-by. And it is the source of the greatest property wealth this country has ever known. 

Here lies Alexander Davies, a scrivener, who died of the plague, heavily in debt, in July 1665, leaving a seven-month-old daughter, Mary. She eventually inherited 500 acres of worthless pasture land in what we know today as Belgravia, Pimlico, Buckingham Palace and Mayfair. 

To cut a long story short, Mary was married at age 12 to a little known baronet in the north, Sir Thomas Grosvenor, who at the time was busy building his family seat, Eaton Hall. By all accounts they had a happy 20 years together before Mary became mentally ill around 1697.

A few years later Sir Thomas died, leaving behind what became Britain’s richest estate and which has remained almost entirely within the Grosvenor family – now headed by the Duke of Westminster – ever since.

Previous instalments of Vic Keegan’s Lost London are stored here. You can buy Vic’s latest book of poems about London here.

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