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LEICESTER HOUSE

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Leicester House was built in the 1630s by Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, on land which had belonged to Henry VIII. In 1717 the Prince of Wales, who became George II in 1727, moved here from his apartments in St James's Palace from which he had been evicted after a quarrel with his father. He also tok over the neighbouring Savile House with which Leicester House was then linked by a covered passage. In 1742 the house was let to Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of the future George III. Prince Frederick died here in 1751, after being hit on the throat by a cricket ball. His widow remained in the house until 1764 when she move to Carlton House; her son, Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland, continued to live there until 1767. The house was leased to the Lancastrian Ashton Lever in 1774. In the following year Lever moved his museum collection of fossils, shells and other objects of natural history from Alkrington Hall, Bury, to Leicester House and in doing so it became one of the first commercial museums in London. The collection remained open to the public until 1788 when it was removed to the rotunda at 3 Blackfriars Road, which up until 1829 was known as Great Surrey Street. In 1791, when the 7th and last Earl of Leicester had died and the heiress upon whom the house had devolved having also died, heavily in debt, the estate was auctioned and, between 1791-2, the house was demolished. Leicester Place was laid out across the site of the forecourt and Lisle Street extends eastwards over the site of the house.

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