There is a house in Lord North St

Catherine Pepinster reveals an address with a chequered history

Forget the car with the personal number plate, the best address in town, or the Rolex watch. The new status symbol is a history of the street where you live - or, better still, your own house, and written by a Cambridge historian.

Baron Sheppard of Didgemere, better known in the business world as Allan Sheppard, former chief executive of the brewing giant GrandMet, has just commissioned a history of his London town house to document its occupants, their parties, guests and travails during the past 150 years.

The five-storey terraced house in Lord North Street, in Westminster's political heartland, is surrounded by houses with histories of intrigue and power-broking. Harold Wilson lived in the street; other current residents include Jonathan Aitken and the Tory chief whip Alastair Goodlad. Lord Sheppard's next-door neighbour is Eurosceptic MP Teresa Gorman.

The proposal that the Cambridge historian Bunny Smedley should write the history of Lord Sheppard's house was made after the completion of her history of Lord North Street itself, which will be launched at a party on Thursday night at the headquarters of the right-wing think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (based at number 2).

But what will make the story of Lord Sheppard's home an even more gripping read is the combination of political history and showbiz anecdotes about the house. Past occupants include a former society hostess, the Marchioness of Ripon, who entertained the social circle of the Liberal Prime Minister Asquith, and the theatrical impresario Binkie Beaumont, whose soirees brought John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Noel Coward, Terence Rattigan, Cecil Beaton and Marilyn Monroe to the gas-lit street, winding between Smith Square and Millbank.

Census returns, electoral registers, letters and biographies have all helped Ms Smedley carry out her detective work on Lord North Street. Built in 1722, its Georgian houses are small - three or four bedrooms - with no gardens and little space for car parking. Such is the demand, however, that these days they change hands for about pounds 750,000.

Lord North Street's early history was not so salubrious. "Although these houses were built for professionals, they did go downhill from 1830 to the end of the century," said Ms Smedley. "There were sometimes 20 people living in one house, and rather a lot of actresses - the ones where you wonder about the term 'actress'."

If the street's early dramas featured members of the oldest profession, those of the second oldest have coloured its life for most of this century.

It was Harold Wilson who put the street on the map, when he moved there soon after losing the 1970 general election. On his return to power in 1974, his wife Mary refused to move back into Downing Street, and instead much of the premier's work was conducted in Lord North Street rather than at Number 10.

Ms Smedley is completing a PhD at Cambridge Unversity.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas