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A bit of a drama

Take a stroll along the Strand and you’ll be confronted by Arundel Great Court, described in some architectural journals as a “Brutalist Behemoth” It was completed in 1976 and to say that critics got themselves worked up would be a bit of an understatement.

Arundel Great Court was built on the former site of the Bishop of Bath and Welsh Inn, granted to Eustace de Fauconberg in 1221. During the “Dissolution” it was taken by the Crown and then became the Hampton Palace and later the Seymour Place.

After 1549, it was purchased by Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel, who gave it its final name of Arundel House. This house was demolished between 1680 and 1682 but gave its name to the street where it used to stand.

The Arundel Great Court was supposed to embrace modernist ideals. However, it was highly critiqued and was even nicknamed “the Arundel not so Great Court“. Critics claimed that the construction damaged the Strand by erasing a part of its history. This piece of Marmite architecture is now under threat as it is planned to be redeveloped and once more there’s a bit of a drama brewing among the people who apparently know best when it comes to architecture. This drama motif is something embedded in the area.

John Rocque’s map of London, Westminster and Southwark (1746)

Anne Bracegirdle

Howard Street which now sits under the Arundel Great Court was in 1692 the site of an attempted abduction of actress Anne Bracegirdle by Cpt Richard Hill and Lord Charles Mohun. Anne was apparently a great beauty with a critic writing of her “She had no greater Claim to Beauty than what the most desirable Brunette might pretend to. But her Youth and lively Aspect threw out such a Glow of Health and Cheerfulness, that on the Stage few Spectators that were not past it could behold her without Desire“. Ann had many suitors, but two became embroiled in a rivalry for her affections. Fellow actor William Mountfort seems to have enjoyed her favours to the detriment of the adventurer Cpt Richard Hill. Hill hatched a plot to abduct the actress and “force himself” upon her. On the 9th December 1692, Hill, Lord Mohun and some armed men encountered Bracegirdle and Mountfort in Howard Street. A scuffle ensued and Hill fatally stabbed Mountfort. At this point Hill seems to have lost his nerve and fled from justice, leaving the distraught Ann with the body of her dead lover.

As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity and the incident seems to have assisted her career and she became known colloquially as the “celebrated virgin” 

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