History of the site
The House of Savoy was the ruling family of Savoy descended from Humbert I, Count of Sabaudia (or "Maurienne"), who became count in 1032. The name Sabaudia evolved into "Savoy" (or "Savoie"). Count Peter (or Piers or Piero) of Savoy (d. 1268) was the maternal uncle of Eleanor of Provence, queen-consort of Henry III of England, and came with her to London.
King Henry made Peter Earl of Richmond and, in 1246, gave him the land between The Strand and the Thames where Peter built the Savoy Palace in 1263. On Peter's death, the Savoy was given to Edmund, 1st Earl of Lancaster, by his mother, Queen Eleanor. Edmund's great-granddaughter, Blanche, inherited the site. Her husband, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, built a magnificent palace that was burned down by Wat Tyler's followers in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. King Richard II was still a child, and his uncle John of Gaunt was the power behind the throne and so a main target of the rebels.
In about 1505 Henry VII planned a great hospital for "pouer, nedie people", leaving money and instructions for it in his will. The hospital was built in the palace ruins and was licensed in 1512. Drawings show that it was a magnificent building, with a dormitory, dining hall and three chapels. Henry VII's hospital lasted for two centuries but suffered from poor management. The sixteenth-century historian John Stow noted that the hospital was being misused by "loiterers, vagabonds and strumpets". In 1702 the hospital was dissolved, and the hospital buildings were used for other purposes. Part of the old palace was used for a military prison in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the old hospital buildings were demolished and new buildings erected.
In 1864 a fire burned everything except the stone walls and the Savoy Chapel, and the property sat empty until Richard D'Oyly Carte bought it in 1880 to build the Savoy Theatre specifically for the production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas that he was producing. The new theatre was built speedily, and accounts noted that it "was situated on a site which, though rich in historical associations, was also rich in the olfactory sense, Mr Rimmel's scent factory being close by as was Burgess's Noted Fish-Sauce Shop."