The Savoy

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The Savoy, or more fully The Liberty of the Savoy, was a patch of ground in London, measuring about a hundred yards square and lying between The Strand (a street so named) and the north bank of the River Thames. Somerset House, headquarters of the Navy Board and of the Royal Society, adjoined it to the east.

The Savoy was originally the site of a 13th-century palace. Part of the structure was converted into a hospital for old men in the late fifteenth century, and at this time the area was given a privilege of sanctuary, so that malefactors of various kinds could live there unmolested by the law. (The term 'Liberty' refers to this privilege.) The right of sanctuary was greatly curtailed by Parliament in 1697, but it left a legacy in that people under threat of arrest for debt could still dwell in the Savoy without risk of interference; Jack Aubrey makes full use of this indulgence in Post Captain, and traces of it seem to have survived as late as 1860.

The area contained a 15th-century chapel, which still survives, along with warehouses and small workshops. The [fictional] Grapes or Bunch of Grapes, Mrs. Broad's tavern where Stephen Maturin generally lived when he was in London, was in this quarter. The ground was later occupied by the Savoy Theatre (of Gilbert and Sullivan celebrity) and the Savoy Hotel.


Inwood (Stephen), History of London (1998)

Anon. (Charles Collins?), 'The Precinct', in All the Year Round vol. III no. 56 (12th May 1860)

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