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Savoy Palace

The Savoy Palace was the grandest nobleman's residence of medieval London, until it was destroyed in the uprising of 1381.

In the middle ages, though there were many other noble palaces within the city walls, the most desirable location for housing the nobility was the Strand, which emerged between the City and the village of Charing (site of Charing Cross) as early as the 12th century. There a nobleman could also have water frontage on the Thames, the great ancient water highway, and be free of the stink and social tumult of the City of London to the east, and its constant threat of fires.

The Savoy Palace fronted the Strand, on the site of the present Savoy Theatre and the Savoy Hotel that memorialize its name into the 21st century. Henry III had granted the precincts of a hospice dedicated to John the Baptist to the queen's uncle, Peter, Count of Savoy, in 1246. The mansion built there later became the home of Prince Edmund, the Earl of Lancaster; his descendants, the Dukes of Lancaster, lived there throughout the next century. In the 14th century, when the Strand was paved as far as the Savoy, it was the vast riverside London residence of John of Gaunt, Richard II's uncle and the nation's power broker. The Savoy was the most magnificent nobleman's mansion in England. It was famous for its owner's magnificent collection of tapestries, jewels and ornaments.

During the peasant uprising headed by Wat Tyler in 1381, the rioters, who blamed John of Gaunt for the introduction of the poll tax that had detonated the revolt, systematically demolished the Savoy and destroyed everything. What could not be smashed or burned was thrown into the river. Jewellery was pulverised with hammers, and it was said that one rioter found by his fellows to have kept a silver goblet for himself was killed for doing so.

But the name has stuck to the piece of ground.