THE HERMIT OF GRUB STREET

Once upon a time, long ago, a very strange man lived a house at the southern end of a long-vanished London street near Cripplegate in the old city wall. His name was Henry Welby and he was known as ‘The Hermit of Grub Street’. It was said that for the last 44 years of his life, he lived there alone and did not see any other human beings apart from an odd little old lady who attended to his needs and obtained books for him to read.

The first half of Henry Welby’s life was very different – he was a wealthy, sociable, much loved country gentleman with an estate in Lincolnshire. But in 1592 his brother tried to murder him – an incident which shocked him so much that he vowed to become a hermit and spend the rest of his days in solitude.

In the latest episode in the Clerkenwell 666fm podcast series I tell the story in some detail and it is a fascinating and mysterious fable. BUT, there is something about that I believe is not true. Through research, dreams and creative meditation, I have devised three alternatives that I believe may reveal the real truths behind the tale.
Listen here and Enjoy.

SPOILER ALERT – I reveal these speculations beneath!

My first speculation is this: Henry Welby’s brother, a known profligate and ne’er-do-well DID in fact murder him, did away with his body and fled to London, to the anonymity of Grub Street (where there were various attractions appealing to a profligate) and there lived out his life in secrecy and comfort.

Secondly, I propose that Henry Welby may have been, like his famous contemporary John Dee, a mage, a magician, ‘The Wizard of Clerkenwell’. At this time, at the end of the 16th century Matthew Hopkins ‘The Witch-Finder General’ was on the rampage, seeking out and executing practitioners of the magic art in the are around Henry’s ancestral home. What better place to hide and to carry on your occult practices in secret than in the anonymous, tolerant environs of Grub Street where books and grimoires could be obtained with ease?

Last, and most dramatically, I suggest that Henry Welby – Mr HW – may have in fact been the mysterious ‘Mr WH’ to whom Shakespeare’s sonnets were dedicated and whose identity has been the source of feverish academic speculation for hundreds of years.

I offer this speculations for your entertainment and delight – in the spirit of the great bard who ran a theatre around the corner from Grub Street and whose work Henry Welby apparently followed with great passion.

Enjoy and let me know what YOU think! xx

Copyright Stephen Coates 2019