What’s in a name? Elite places of London and their modest beginnings.

What’s in a name?

Elite places of London mentioned in my historical romance novels, and their modest beginnings.

By Suzi Love 

Like many historical romance authors, many of my books are set in and around London in the late Regency era, including my historical erotic romance, The Viscount’s Pleasure House.

Historical romance authors often have characters who live in elite areas, such as Mayfair, Grosvenor Square,

English: Millennium Hotel London Mayfair, Gros...

London Mayfair, Grosvenor Square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and Berkeley, yet all these areas had more lowly, or more dubious, beginnings. Justin, my gorgeous hero, lives in Mayfair, yet he does most of his erotic business at his Pleasure House in one of the less socially esteemed areas of London.

Mayfair, London, is one of the world’s most elite and expensive addresses. But did you know that Mayfair began as a cattle market and was named after the annual May Fair held at what is now the trendy café precinct of Shepherd Market?

Not only did all the elite areas of Mayfair have modest beginnings, but their other claim to fame was for their licentiousness, despite Queen Anne’s attempts to ban it, and became ‘The Place to Go’ for the more outrageous pleasure activities.

Grosvenor Square, London, now has one entire side taken up by the huge, and well-guarded, US embassy. These days, the square is a favorite residential location for the rich and famous. But the Grosvenor family’s selling of the land in the late 1700s so large residences could be built, put an end to the fair always held there and attended by people of all classes. Evicting the fair started the ‘gentrification’ of the area.

The London Docks were originally one of several sets of dirty and dangerous docks in the historic Port of London. Eventually, the docks were removed but the area remained derelict until the London Docklands Development Corporation bought it in 1981 and built luxury hotels, residences for the wealthy, and turned the area into a world-renowned business and  financial centre.

Marylebone, pronounced Mar-lee-bone, was named for the church of St Mary

St Marylebone Parish Church

St Marylebone Parish Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

built near a small river or stream called the Tyburn or Tybourne. Hence St Mary-le-Burn became St Marylebone. The area is still famous for the many doctors who set up rooms in Harley Street, but the area started out as a lowly medieval village which only gained fame when fashionable people began to spread further out than central London.

I’ve only spoken here about London, but similar things happened in cities all around the world.

Have you read, or written, stories set in areas that were considered seedy in past era but are now very expensive and trendy?

New York, of course, springs to mind.

Where else do you know?

The Viscount’s Pleasure House is available at Crimson Romance eBooks, Amazon, iTunes.

The Viscount's Pleasure House




  1. Fascinating, Suzy. Thank you for putting this together!
    -R.T. Wolfe

    • R.T.,
      I love doing posts at our wonderful Ladies in red.

  2. Reading books about historical London and visiting modern London is always a super disconnect. The docks is one such area. It’s so urban renewal and in my mind it’s something so different.

    • Sylvie,
      Isn’t the modern dockland area of London amazing? Especially considering the area was notorious for every sort of vice in earlier centuries. Such a difference.

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