Left: The Bull Ring, above, a pike and below the Royal Latin School
John Sheffield was a tall, slim man of good humour, with a soft heart and some ability as a poet. Some critics have suggested that his character was spoiled by a tendency to meanness. Here’s a story told of the days when Buckingham House was being built:
Mr Winde expended large sums of money as he was raising the Duke’s edifice and the Duke was tardy in paying his builder’s bills. Things became desperate for Mr Winde so he created a strategy. The architect suggested to the Duke that he should ascend to the building’s new roof to examine the surrounding prospect. As soon as the Duke set foot on the roof, his builder threw down the trap-door, locked it, and threw the key down to the ground.
The astonished Duke shrieked, “How am I to get down?” The builder, looking sad, responded, “Pardon me, my Lord Duke, for the act I’m about to commit. I am a distressed man. I have ruined not only myself but my family too in making advances of money for this building, and unless your Grace will relieve me, my intention is to leap down and destroy myself.”
“What is to become of me?” whimpered the Duke.
“You must leap down also, unless you consent to satisfy my wants.”
Immediately, the Duke gave him an order to receive the full amount of his claim whereupon the Builder gave a pre-arranged signal to his man below who came up with the key and set the Duke of Buckingham at liberty.
The Duke of Buckingham lived indolently but in some splendour in his town house, after all he had been Lord Privy Seal early in Queen Anne’s reign and his third wife had brought with her a huge pension. The first Duke died in February 1721 and his body remained at Buckingham House “in magnificent state” until transferred to Westminster Abbey where a sumptuous memorial was built to his memory in King Henry VII’s chapel.