“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Wednesday 28 February 2018

The London House Where Frankenstein’s Mother Died

Chester Square in Belgravia, just to the south-west of Buckingham Palace, is one of London’s most expensive addresses. Chester Square was built in the early 19th century by the Grosevenor Family and is the sister square (albeit the much less grand sister) to both nearby Belgrave Square and Eaton Square. Chester Square is home to a number of huge multi-floored town houses, all of which are seemingly uniform in decoration, with white frontages adorned with black front doors. Ever since its construction Chester Square has been the home to the rich and famous, with past residents including Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, the poet Matthew Arnold, Mick Jagger, Tony Curtis, Margaret Thatcher, Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber, Nigella Lawson, and more recently Roman Abramovich.

Another notable previous resident of the square is Mary Shelley. Shelley was the famed author Frankenstein, a story that she conceived during her stay with her husband Percy Shelley and his fellow poet Lord Byron at his villa near Lake Geneva during the Year Without a Summer (1816). Apparently she based the novel on a vivid dream, as she explained later:

I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion... He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes. I opened mine in terror. The idea so possessed my mind, that a thrill of fear ran through me.

Shelley’s residency at Chester Square was during the last few years of her life and ended when she succumbed to a brain tumour at the age of 53. Following her death a silk parcel was found in Mary's possessions that was said to contain some of her husband’s ashes along with the remains of his heart - which legend suggests refused to burn when he was cremated in 1822. Mary’s body along with her husband’s incombustible heart left the city of London are now buried in St Peter's Churchyard in Bournemouth.

The houses of Chester Square. 

A plaque recognising Mary Shelley's residence at number 24 Chester Square. 

Pictures, London (February 2018).


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