Aubrey Fitzrovia was the name I dreamed up for a fictional character created to get me through a module of a degree course on web site authoring.
The first name was inspired by the 17th Century writer John Aubrey, best known as the author of Brief Lives, a collection of biographical sketches, some of wryly amusing, others vituperative and all of dubious accuracy.
He was born in Wiltshire of a family that originally came from the Welsh Marches, a sort of no-man’s land along the border of Wales and England. The area got its name in medieval times when the Marcher lords had specific rights over it. As well as this rural background, much of Aubrey’s life was spent in the country and in 1649 he discovered the megalithic remains at Avebury which he mapped and discussed in his work Monumenta Britannica.
Fitzrovia is the unofficial name for an area of London bounded by Euston Road to the north, Gower Street to the east, Oxford Street to the south and Great Portland Street to the west. Part of it falls in the Borough of Camden, the remainder in the City of Westminster.
The district takes its name from the Fitzroy Tavern at the corner of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street towards the southeast corner of the area. Another local pub, the Newman Arms, features in two George Orwell novels, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’.
Orwell is one of those who either frequented the pubs or lived in the area. The others include the flamboyant homosexual Quentin Crisp, beast-like occultist Aleister Crowley, Welsh artist and writer Nina Hamnett, who was also an expert on sea shanties, painter Augustus John, racing tipster Prince Monolulu and poet Dylan Thomas.
Historically, the prefix Fitz added to a surname hints at illegitimacy, frequently disguising royal or aristocratic antecedents. The word Fitz, which has been in use since Norman times, is derived from the Latin filius meaning ‘son of’. So Fitzroy is the son of the king, Fitzjames the son of King James 11 and FitzClarence the son of the Duke of Clarence.
While Aubrey Fitzrovia clearly relishes rural life, his occasional scathing comments about the low intelligence and high native cunning of the indigenous population in the village where he lives, betray his urban background. But he has more sympathy with the local population than he has with the increasing number of immigrants invading the village of Withit Without and enjoys drinking with the natives, revelling in their rustic charm.