The adventurous, wealthy and rather mysterious Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days, is noted in the book’s first line as living at “No. 7 Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814”.
It’s from there that he and his delightfully named French valet, Passepartout, set off on their breakneck trip around the world after Fogg, a “doubtful” Londoner who was a member of the Reform Club based nearby in Pall Mall (“and that was all” – his history was something of an unknown), makes a £20,000 bet that he can travel around the world in just 80 days – a bet which sees him travel by everything from trains to elephants and overcome all sorts of obstacles as he attempts the feat.
But back to London and Savile Row in the inner west London area of Mayfair. The Irish-born playwright and MP Richard Brinsley Sheridan did indeed live in Savile Row – but at number 14 rather than at number 7 (and he died in 1816, not 1814 as claimed in the book).
There is a plaque on the townhouse mentionig Sheridan’s residence (but not Fogg’s) which today is occupied by tailors Hardy Amies. Amies himself purchased the property, which was restored in 2009, in 1947, reportedly with the backing of Cary Grant’s ex-wife, actress Virginia Cherril.
For more on Savile Row’s history, see Henry Poole: Founders of Savile Row – The Making of a Legend.
This curiously named street in the heart of London’s St James district traces the origins of its moniker back to the 17th century when the game of “pall mall” (“pell mell” and “paille maille” being among a host of alternative spellings) was played there.
The game, mentioned by Samuel Pepys in his famous diary, involves the use of a mallet and ball similar to that used in modern croquet but, according to some commentators, pall mall was more likely a predecessor of golf than croquet, with players attempting to belt the ball as far as possible along a pitch before putting the ball through a hoop suspended high off the ground.
Pall Mall, which runs parallel to The Mall from St James’ Street in the west to Haymarket in the east with an eastern extension, Pall Mall East, completing the journey from Haymarket into the northern end of Trafalgar Square, became famous in the 19th and early 20th centuries for housing numerous ‘gentlemen’s clubs’. Among those still in business are the Travellers Club, the Athaenaeum Club, the Reform Club, the Army and Navy Club, the Oxford and Cambridge Club, and the Royal Automobile Club.
St James’s Palace sits at the street’s western end and it is of note that nearly all of the southern side of the street is still part of the Crown Estate (the exception being a home Charles II is believed to have given to the actress Nell Gwynne, who apparently sensibly demanded the freehold on the property).
Other buildings along the street include Schomberg House, built for the Duke of Schomberg in the late 17th century (only the facade of which remains), and the Sir Christopher Wren-designed Marlborough House, which is tucked in between Pall Mall and The Mall and sits opposite St James’s Palace. The National Gallery and the Royal Academy also both briefly had homes in Pall Mall.