The Savoy-Palace and Hospital
First the mansion of the House of Lancaster, writes L.W. Cowie, then a hospital of the Tudors, the Savoy was once said to be the finest residence in England.
As early as 1190, according to William Fitzstephen, the country between London and Westminster was becoming a ‘populous suburb’ as fine houses were built by noblemen and prelates along the street called ‘La Straunde’ with splendid gardens stretching down to the banks of the Thames. Still more were built in the thirteenth century; and the Strand became an aristocratic thoroughfare, much admired by contemporaries.
The most notable of these houses was the Savoy, which had become a manor and liberty by the later fourteenth century. Among Henry III’s favourites, uncles of his French Queen Eleanor of Savoy, to receive extensive lands in England was Peter of Savoy, the seventh son of Thomas, Count of Savoy.
He came to England in 1241 and, five years later, was granted a riverside stretch of land extending from the present-day Adelphi to the Temple; and here he built the house that took the name of his family. It was not, however, to remain in the possession of the family beyond his lifetime. When he became Count of Savoy in 1263, he left England and, on his death in 1268, bequeathed the house to the hospice of Great St Bernard at Montjoux in Savoy.
Two years later, Queen Eleanor bought it from the hospice to be a residence for her son, Edmund, first Earl of Lancaster and brother of Edward I; the earliest few, brief references to the house occur during its occupation by this family. In 1293 Edmund received permission from Edward I to strengthen and fortify his mansion ‘called the Sauvoye’ with ‘a wall of stone and mortar’. Edmund’s two sons, Thomas and Henry, inherited the house in turn; and in 1330 Henry ordered the muddy track from Westminster to be paved in front of it.