Saturday, December 21, 2013

What's in a Name? - Euston Station

by Grace Elliot
The Duke of Grafton's coat of arms

Do you ever stop to wonder what’s in a name?
Recently my son had such a moment when he travelled through Euston station, London, and asked me, “Why is Euston station called Euston?” This is a perfectly reasonable question but I didn’t know the answer. Not being the sort of person who can forget about such things, I looked into the origins of Euston’s name and in the process unearthed some interesting historical trivia.

Euston Hall circa 1806

The short answer is that Euston station was named after Euston Hall, in Suffolk –but the long answer is far more interesting…

The concourse of the modern day Euston Station.

Euston Station was built in early Victorian times as the main terminus for the London to Birmingham track. The location on the edge of the expanding city was selected in the 1830’s by George and Robert Stephenson. At that time farmland abutted the plot and the principal land owner was the Duke of Grafton, and the new station was named after the Duke’s country estate, Euston Hall…and this is where we take an interesting digression.

The first Duke of Grafton, Henry Charles Fitzroy

The title ‘Duke of Grafton’ was created in 1675 by Charles II for his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. The child's mother was Charles' favourite mistress, Barbara Palmer, with whom he had five children and whose influence was so great that she was known as the ‘uncrowned queen of England’. To understand how Euston Hall came into the possession of Henry Fitzroy, we must taken another digression and consider the history of Euston Hall itself which can be traced  back to the Domesday Book. The manor was mentioned in 1087 as belonging to Bury St Edmunds Abbey. In 1578, Queen Elizabeth I stayed there on a journey to Norwich.

The eleventh Duke of Grafton outside Euston Hall

A little under a hundred years later the estate, in a state of near ruin, was bought by the Earl of Arlington (Secretary of State to the newly restored Charles II) and indeed, the king visited on several occassions. Charles took an interest in all his illegitimate children and in 1672 Charles arranged the marriage of his son Henry Fitzroy, to the heiress daughter of the Earl of Arlington. The young couple eventually married in 1679 (the bride being just 12, but having reached the minimal legal age to marry with consent) and they inherited Euston Hall in 1685.

The temple in the grounds of Euston Park, Suffolk

The Euston estate had a circumference of some thirty to forty miles enclosing various hamlets and villages over which subsequent successive dukes took an almost parental interest. The verdant woodland, flowing stream and rolling fields are here celebrated in a poem, The Farmer’s Boy:

Where noble Grafton spreads his rich domains

Round Euston's water'd vale and sloping plains,

Where woods and groves in solemn grandeur rise,

Where the kite brooding unmolested flies;

The woodcock and the painted pheasant race, 

And skulking foxes destin'd for the chase.

Over the centuries the house  and surrounding park land were rebuilt by various designers and architects including Capability Brown and William Kent. The latter was party to reintroducing the influential Palladian style to Georgian England and landmarks such as the Treasury buildings at Whitehall (demolished in 1830) and the Horse Guards building.

The modern day Euston Station

So…is Euston station deserving of a name so rich with history? I’ll let you be the judge.

Coming soon from Grace Elliot:

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