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Bishop's Stortford street name set to honour Prince Philip

A road through the heart of Bishop's Stortford's St James' Park development is set to commemorate the late Duke of Edinburgh.

Members of the town council's planning and development committee decided that the street on the 750-home estate should bear the name Mountbatten to honour Prince Philip.

They rejected the alternative of paying tribute to free slave Francis Barber, who was educated in Stortford in the late 18th century and was the valet of lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson.

A portrait by Joshua Reynolds, said to be of Francis Barber (59669398)
A portrait by Joshua Reynolds, said to be of Francis Barber (59669398)

Francis was born into slavery in Jamaica in about 1735 and brought to England in 1750 by a plantation owner whose son was one of Dr Johnson's best friends.

When Johnson's wife died in 1752, Francis joined his household. He was granted freedom by his original owner but stayed with his new master.

In 1767, despite the fact Francis was in his 30s, Johnson sent him to a school in Stortford run by a Mr and Mrs Clapp, paying £300 in fees.

St James Park (59669417)
St James Park (59669417)

The school was at Windhill House, a 17th-century building next to St Michael's Church. It was converted into a monastery for the Catholic church of St Joseph and the English Martyrs in the 19th century and is now home to the town council.

After five years of education, Francis returned to London to become Dr Johnson's secretary. He later married Englishwoman Elizabeth Ball and they had four children. The whole family lived in Johnson's house and, when he died in 1784, the dictionary author left Francis an annuity of £70 and his possessions.

Although both street name options have previously been approved by the committee, Cllr Keith Warnell said: "There are more prominent names you could come up with other than a freed slave."

He said a tribute to the Queen would be appropriate, but such street naming has to be authorised by the Royal Family, which had already permitted Mountbatten to be used.

The Queen and Prince Philip in July 2002 (59669424)
The Queen and Prince Philip in July 2002 (59669424)

Born in Corfu in 1921, Prince Philip was the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice, who was the eldest daughter of Louis Alexander Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, and Princess Victoria of Hesse and the Rhine, granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Before Prince Philip married the Queen in 1947, he became a British subject, renouncing his right to the Greek and Danish thrones and taking his mother's surname, Mountbatten. His father's family name was Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. The Duke of Edinburgh died on April 9, 2021, aged 99.

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