The Berners Street Hoax
The year was 1809. Famed English author, Theodore Hook, made a bet with one of his close friends, the noted architect and writer, Samuel Beazley, that within one week, he could make any house in London the most talked about place in the city. The house he ended up choosing was the home of the widow Mrs Tottenham on 54 Berners Street, London, which was the same street that Earl Stanhope and the Bishop of Carlisle and of Chester, among other wealthy and well-to-do individuals, lived on at that time.
Mrs Tottenham herself was described by newspapers as “a woman of fortune, it isn’t known why Hook chose Mrs Tottenham’s home as no connection between the two is known and Hook himself never explained his selection. It’s entirely possible that it just happened to be a location where the home across the street could be rented and was also in a fairly well-to-do part of town which would help assure Hook’s plan would work.
At around 4 AM on Monday, November 26, Hook picked up Beazley and the two went to a rented room across from the soon-to-be-infamous home at 54 Berners Street. Remember, this was an upscale location just off Oxford Street. This was a part of London where Lords, Ladies and Earls lived. As the two huddled in the pre-dawn darkness, Hook pointed across the street to the large home, which was owned by Mrs Tottenham.