Desmond D’Urberville is making history!
Desmond D’Urberville became President of the Top Hat Society in a discrete ceremony held at the Lime Tree on London’s Ebury Street; a boutique hotel situated at no’s 135-137, less than a mile from both Buckingham Palace and Harrods; and barely three properties down from no 109 where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart stayed with his family in 1764 and where he composed his first symphony at the age of eight.
This part of Belgravia had been a happy hunting ground for a number of Desmond’s forebears as he discovered during a period of exhaustive Ancestry research. It inspired him to create his own historical connections with the area, a lifetime of achievement worthy of a commemorative blue plaque. This was his secret mission which he carried out nightly Banksyesque style.
His grandmother had lived briefly at no 85, hitherto one of the few properties with no blue plaque attached to its early 19th century facade. She had been left an exquisite diamond and pearl necklace by her great aunt which had once adorned the neck of Menen Asfaw, the consort of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. It had been used as booty when Italian Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia although Desmond’s grandmother was very coy about its origins or the profession of her great aunt.
One of Desmond’s early conundrums was to choose the colour of the plaques.
He noticed that Vita Sackville -West and her husband Harold Nicholson’s at 182 was brown to match Mozart’s next door which had been placed there by the London County Council in 1939 before English Heritage had re-branded to blue or azure as some preferred to call it.
Blue was the colour used for James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, at 22 Ebury Street, theatrical legend Dame Edith Evans at 109. and the Irish novelist George Augustus Moore at 121.
Noel Coward kept a room, plaque-less, at number 111 which his parents had run as a lodging house and FE Smith, the first Earl of Birkenhead, lived at number 42, also without the benefit of blue plaque recognition. Rectifying these heinous oversights became part of Desmond’s mission.
The other dilemma facing Desmond was the spacing of the individual plaques.
A leisurely stroll along the length of Ebury Street, which runs from Grosvenor Gardens to Pimlico Street, can be accomplished in perhaps 18 minutes or so; 38 minutes, say, for the round trip taking in odd numbers 19-231 on the south-east side and returning on the opposite side to view the even numbers 16 - 230. Most of the properties were built between 1815 – 1860 so some architectural gems are available for tourists to enjoy who might be less interested in who occupied the premises.
You might prolong your perambulation by stopping for a coffee at the Belgravia at no 152 or ordering a wedding dress from Le Spose Di Gio at no 81 or purchasing a twentieth century French oil painting from John Adams Fine Art at no 200 or viewing some upmarket lanterns for your conservatory at Marston & Langer at 192 or even by having your hair cut at Motcomb Green at 61.
The point being It would be unbecoming to suggest D’Urbervilles might have lived Cheek by Jowl.
From his primary school days onwards, Desmond had seen himself as upwardly mobile. He loved the challenge of winning. He liked the celebrity status conferred on him by his contemporaries every time he came top of his class, captain of his school football team or top salesman in his first proper job selling Top Hat Schemes for a leading firm of financial advisers.
Success came relatively easily to him, but Ancestry research opened up a unique opportunity to show the world that he was somebody who had a Noble antecedence; that his aristocratic genes were making as much of a contribution to his success as his own energy or good fortune.
It didn’t help his self-esteem when Tess D’Urberville, his second cousin once removed, a TV producer with ITV studios, came up with a novel new task for contestants in “I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here!” in which six deadly insects were placed in the centre of a trampoline and contestants wearing hobnail boots had to bounce up and down until all six were killed. The event was sponsored by Alfred McAlpine who supplied the crane from which ‘celebrities’ were dropped to get the contest started.
There was some surprise when Michael Fish, the ancient BBC meteorologist, anxious to revive his celebrity status, won the contest in a record time of two minutes thirty seconds. As the Guardian Newspaper put it “only Michael Fish could have dealt with a plague of locusts with such authority.”
For Desmond though, It was all too degrading for the family’s name to be associated with such transitory puerile nonsense. Some urgent corrective action was required to restore the good name of the D’Urbervilles.
His blue plaque initiative or BPI was the inspirational result.
After attaching his first blue plaque to the Lime Tree Hotel, he made his way down to no 85 but changed his mind about his grandmother. He thought it would be slightly more effective if Gertrude D’Urberville, the Dowager Duchess of Wessex, was relocated to number 111 where Noel Coward’s parents operated their one time boarding house, thereby killing two birds with one plaque.
Returning home in the early hours after another clandestine session, Desmond D’Urberville looked inside his rucksack and was pleased to see he had only one blue plaque left to position.
Thomas Hardy CM 2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928 Novelist and Poet
Never Set Foot in The Place
He earmarked the Shell Service Station on Ebury Street as the perfect location to complete his BPI.
Decamot inspired by the followed items:
insect, trampoline, crane, Eritrea, top hat, meteorologist, boutique hotel, pearl necklace, president, hunting ground