Cromwell House


Built in 1637–8 for the city merchant Richard Sprignell, this Grade 1 listed house was the first in England owned by a Jewish family after the Cromwellian re-admission. It was bought in 1675 by Alvaro da Costa, a Portuguese courtier in the service of Queen Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II. Alvaro’s monogram survives on a marble plaque above a fireplace in the room over the carriage arch.

The da Costas were a large and distinguished family. One cousin, Fernando, was physician to the king, and another cousin was the noted artist, Catherine. They had a large establishment, including butchers, and Daniel Defoe mentions that they had a synagogue in the house. Another distinguished visitor was the French philosopher, Voltaire, who enjoyed theological discussion with Catherine. The da Costas lost a lot of money in the South Seas Bubble, and left the house in 1747.

Photo credit: From the Archive of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution