Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1658-1909 - Sardinia Street (Westminster)

The recusant Weld dynasty descends from Humphrey Weld, a merchant and Lord Mayor of London. Weld’s grandson, also named Humphrey, acquired a piece of land in 1652 where he built the first house in what became known as Duke Street. In 1658, a London plan by Prague-born engraver Wenceslaus Hollar shows Duke Street fully built. The street had an arch at its northern end which provided access to Lincoln’s Inn Fields where, under the reign of James II, a chapel had been erected by Franciscan priests. Following the flight of James, it was destroyed by the mob.

By 1700 the restored building was occupied by the Portuguese embassy. Two decades later, the house to the south of the archway became home to the Sardinian ambassador. His residence was the only entrance to the Sardinian Chapel in Duke Street. Post-Reformation embassies functioned as clandestine’ churches. As members of staff commonly lived in the ambassadorial residence, they were permitted to have in-house chapels and chaplains. Members of the same faith joined the services.

On Easter Sunday 1772 James Boswell and Corsican political refugee Pasquale Paoli worshipped together at the Sardinian Chapel. On various occasions, the arrangement created conflict. In 1780, the Chapel was wrecked during the Gordon riots and rebuild with Government compensation. With the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1791 many of the embassy chapels were coverted into churches, including the Sardinian Chapel which continued to be under the patronage of the King of Sardinia until 1858. Duke Street was renamed Sardinia Street during the late nineteenth century. It was demolished with the construction of Kingsway in 1905 (the Chapel was dismantled in 1909). A new and much shorter Sardinia Street was constructed south of the old street, part of which is taken up by the London School of Economics (LSE).

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