D’Aubigny Road is a pleasant street to the west of the Lewes Road in Brighton, not far from a large junction known locally as the Vogue Giratory. The streets neighbouring D’Aubigny Road carry ‘good, plain’ (at that time) British names: Round Hill Crescent, Richmond, Princes and Mayo Roads. And tucked away at the eastern end of the estate, the relatively exotic D’Aubigny.
The 1853 plan above makes clear that, when the Round Hill Park Estate was first laid out in 1853, none of the newly-traced roads had names, with the exception of Round Hill Crescent itself. Lennox Road was never built and Ashdown Road, which was built later, is not on the plan.
Gradually the promoters of the new estate, the Conservative Land Society, began to sell plots of land for building. No commercial property was allowed. Houses had to conform to designs laid down by the promoters. The estate was to be genteel.
By 1859, the promoters had hit upon the idea giving the estate ‘class’, by paying their respects to the Dukes of Richmond. Despite having grand houses at Goodwood and Portland Place in London, the 5th Duke of Richmond, who died in 1860, seems to have spent a considerable amount of time in Brighton: as an enthusiastic race horse owner he could often be seen at Brighton Race course; as colonel of the Royal Sussex Light Infantry Militia he was, according to his brother Lord William, “So devoted … to his regiment, that when it was quartered in Brighton … he left a Christmas party at Goodwood in order to dine with his brother officers at mess.” That mess was a rather special one. It was in the Royal Riding School (now the Corn Exchange).
The noble Duke had even more links with Brighton: he was the Grand Provincial Master of Freemasons and in his honour a short-lived Masonic Lodge was founded in Brighton as early as 1824; he frequently stayed at East Lodge in Egremont Place … and his sister, Lady Jane Peel (née Gordon-Lennox) lived in Brighton from 1831 until her death in 1861 and was a very popular benefactor to the town.
To refer merely to ‘the 5th Duke of Richmond’ seems very impersonal. He was Charles Gordon-Lennox, Duke of Richmond and Lennox. Which brings us back to Round Hill Crescent. Athletic Brightonians and visitors will have walked up the ‘cat-creep’ (a steep stairway running from one street to another) between Round Hill Crescent and Wakefield Road.
The promoters of the Round Hill Estate clearly showed on their plan that they intended this to be a road on the west side of the estate. By 1859 the road is marked in the annual directory as ‘Lennox Road, leading from Round-hill crescent to Richmond-road’. No houses were ever built in Lennox Road. The owners of local horses clearly did not relish the thought of their poor beasts attempting the climb or the perilous descent. The road became a cat-creep (stepped footway) … and it lost its name.
So where does d’Aubigny fit in? Well, in addition to being Duke of Richmond, Charles Gordon Lennox was Duke d’Aubigny. How did such a respectable English family come to be part of the French nobility? It was all down to one woman, Charles’s great-great-great-great grandmother, Louise Renée de Penancoët de Keroual, mistress to Charles II (successor to Nell Gwyn … and many, many others).
It all happened roughly like this:
- Louise had been Lady-in-Waiting to Louis XIV’s sister-in-law, Henrietta.
- Henrietta was sister to the Charles Stuart (later Charles II).
- Henrietta was sent to England in 1670 by Louis XIV on a diplomatic mission.
- Charles II had not seen sister Henrietta for nine years.
- He rushed to Dover to meet her.
- He caught sight of Henrietta’s 21-year old lady-in-waiting.
- He lost his heart to the beautiful Frenchwoman.
- Louise was soon installed in Whitehall Palace – with the official title of lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine.
The relationship between Charles and Louise lasted some fifteen years, until Charles’ death.
Charles produced a large number of illegitimate offspring, several of them with Louise. Louise’s first born was a boy, also called Charles. By the time the little lad was three years old, he rejoiced in the name and titles of Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond, Duke of Lennox, Earl of March, Baron Settrington, Earl Darnley and Baron Torbolton, all bestowed on him by his royal father. However, it was not until just one year before his death in 1685 that King Charles persuaded his cousin Louis XIV, to ennoble Louise. She became duchesse d’Aubigny. At the age of 13, young Charles Lennox added the title of Duke d’Aubigny to his armoury.
And so the Round Hill area commemorates close ties with the Gordon-Lennox family and its illustrious female ancestor.
For more information about the Round Hill area, read the excellent Round Hill Reporter