I feel very fortunate to have been invited to take part in the Goldsboro Books Romance in the Court event this Thursday 26th May in London. It’s particularly special as my latest book, House of Shadows, features a man who was famous in his time for being a London hero.
William Craven may not have a name that is well known these days but in his own time he was both very well known and much loved by the populace. Craven was the son of a London merchant, a “fils populis,” to quote one contemporary commentator. When he took the King’s side during the English Civil War the City was both disappointed and angry.
However, after the Restoration of King Charles II, William Craven managed to regain his popularity through a steadfast devotion to the city of his birth. Like his father he was a great philanthropist and continued the Craven family’s charitable giving. As Colonel of the Coldstream Guards he stayed in the city to keep order during both the Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London of 1666. Many nobles deserted London at the first sign of sickness or danger and Craven was given great credit for refusing to flee to his country estates. He was also instrumental in helping to put out the Great Fire through the creation of fire breaks. There is a wonderful anecdote that springs from this time which is that his horse was so highly trained that ever after, if it smelt the scent of smoke it would gallop off in the direction of the fire!
In recognition of Craven’s devotion to the City of London, the populace painted a 50 foot high mural of him on the side of Craven Buildings in Drury Lane (pictures). It depicted him on the famous horse, with his marshal’s baton in one hand and his sword in the other. The mural stood until the early 20th century when the building was demolished but even today, when his deeds are almost forgotten, there are a number of streets in London with the name Craven in them in recognition of his connection to the city. The picture shows Craven Hill near Paddington – in the days when it looked far different!