June 1, 2021

Leo Hollis: The Lost History of Mary Davies (1701)

St Paul’s Cathedral. The West End. The Houses of Parliament. London is one of the great cities of the world and we’re instantly familiar with its famous buildings and neighbourhoods. But rarely do we consider the simple question: ‘who owns it?’

This question is at the heart of a new book by the historian Leo Hollis. His research into the ownership of Britain’s capital took him on a journey deep into the personal history of a remarkable woman called Mary Davies, an heiress of enormous consequence who lived four hundred years ago.

In this episode Leo Hollis guides us back to 1701 and to an important year in Mary’s life and in the life of a city that was discovering its new, modern identity.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Leo Hollis is the author of three books including the international bestseller, Cities are Good for You. His new book, published in May, is called, Inheritance, The Lost History of Mary Davies.

Show notes

Scene One: March 1701, The still incomplete St Paul's cathedral, centrepiece of the huge rebuilding project that began as a result of the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Scene Two: 12-18 June 1701, Hotel Castille, Paris. Mary Davies arrives from Rome, suffering from serious mental illness and accompanied by the Fenwick brothers, whose actions during these few days form the basis of the ensuing court cases. What really did happen?

Scene Three: 13 August 1701. A lawyer for the supposed husband pins a court summons onto the railings of the home of Mrs Tregonwell in Millbank, Mary's mother. Mary is inside but refuses to come out. 

Memento: The only contract that Mary Grosvenor signed, from October 1700. 


Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Leo Hollis

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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