Tuesday 17 June 2014

On Tour with George Villiers Duke of Buckingham

To business. The Unknown Unknown comes out in independent bookshops at the end of next week, enticingly priced at £1.99. I think it comes out in other bookshops and things in September. To celebrate I shall be doing a little tour. The dates are as follows:

Saturday 28th June - RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey
Tuesday 1st July - Jaff√© & Neale, Chipping Norton
Wednesday 2nd - Foyles Charing Cross Road for the Great Bookshop Debate
Thursday 3rd - Mostly Books, Abingdon
Friday 4th - Red Lion Books, Colchester
Saturday 5th - David's Bookshop, Letchworth

Do come along and say hello.

Last week I did a small, private tour of my own commemorating my favourite London street namer: George Villiers Duke of Buckingham.

George Villiers Duke of Buckingham owned a very valuable bit of land just off the strand next to Charing Cross. In 1672 he sold it to developers, but he made a condition of the sale that his name be commemorated for ever in the streets.

So there was George Street. The name has since been treacherously changed to York Buildings, but George Court remains. Here's proof.

But that wasn't enough for George Villiers Duke of Buckingham. He wanted his surname out there too. And so, running from Charing Cross to Embankment:

Which all Londoners know to be the home of Gordon's wine bar. But that wasn't enough for him, he wanted the Duke bit out there too. So the made Duke Street. Unfortunately this is now called York Buildings, but it was there once. And then he wanted Buckingham Street, and he got it.

But none of this is what makes me love the chap. So far, it's just been a little bit egotistical. That's all. Nothing really fun. George Street, Villiers Street, Duke Street, Buckingham Street. I can almost see him pointing out to the urban planners that his name was not, absolutely not, George Villiers Duke Buckingham.

Oh no.

His name, and the world had better remember this, was George Villiers Duke OF Buckingham, goddammit. Never forget the Of. And hence the best street name in London. A name so good, that even though the philistines at Westminster Council have changed it, they still have to keep the original mentioned on the sign.

Here is a photo of me at the end of my pilgrimage, my tribute to a man who cared enough to preserve his own prepositions. Here is me in Of Alley.

Those tour dates again:


  1. I can remember visiting it way back in the 60s when it still was Of Alley and the delight that dawned on me when I realised the nearby streets all added up to a name.

  2. Will the book be in Chorlton Bookshop? As far as I know it has been independent for its whole 30 years.

  3. It's still rather lamentable that some unwanted aristo can stroll in, name places after himself (and even after his obscure conjunctions) and leave us to put up with his self-imposed legacy? I wonder what these streets were called before His Lordship turned up? Something rather more connected with local history than the Villiers family, I'll be bound?!