In the first of our new series, we find out about Tring’s association with Nell Gwyn.
Nell first came to the attention of Charles II around 1668 at the Drury Lane Theatre. By 1671 she had two sons by Charles.
Just when, or even if, Nell stayed at Tring is not truly known. What is certain is that in 1669 Charles gave ‘The Manor of Great Tring’ to Henry Guy, a favourite courtier and trusted finance minister. One of Guy’s duties was to oversee regular payments to the royal mistresses, so it seems likely he could have placed her under Guy’s protection at Tring.
Local legend persists that Nell lived in ‘Dunsley House’, on the edge of Tring Park in the area of the Memorial Gardens. This house was described as ‘Commonly called Elinors’ and the north walk from the Mansion to Dunsley House was called ‘The Nell Gwyn Avenue’.
Tring mothers told their children ‘Run round Nell Gwyn’s monument whilst holding your breath, and an orange will fall off the top’. This referred to the obelisk at the centre of the etoile in Tring Park.
Another fragment of Tring folklore claimed Nell waited for Charles and gazed wistfully down London Road from the summer house on the side of the Oddy Hill. If she did, it could not have been the existing summer house, because it was erected 50 years later.
But nothing underpins a true Tringite’s belief that she was indisputedly here.
With huge thanks to Wendy Austin for this edited extract from her book ‘Tring Personalities’, available at Tring Library and Tring Local History Museum.