Nell Gwyn (1650-1687) was one of the first generation of actresses and certainly the most celebrated. Her birthplace is uncertain, but there is a long-standing tradition that she was born in Hereford, in a house in Pipe Well Lane, later named Gwynne Street. Her grandfather, who is said to have come from Hereford, was a churchman who became a canon of Christ Church in Oxford. Her father was an army captain, who probably fought on the Royalist side in the Civil War and left Oxford on the Royalist defeat. He returned – the story goes – to his father’s home town of Hereford, where he became a brewer, and it was here that his daughter Nell was born. She and her sister went to live in London – in Covent Garden – with their mother, both sisters being put to work selling fruit and vegetables from barrows, or possibly serving drinks in a brothel. In 1671 the mother was apparently drowned in the Thames while intoxicated. Meanwhile Nell, with the gift for mimicry and repartee, was chosen to sell oranges – the 17th-century equivalent of ice cream or popcorn – at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, under the management of Thomas Killigrew. Nell Gwyn must have been a very attractive girl, with exquisite legs, a dainty figure, and beautiful reddish-brown hair. Her infectious high spirits, combined with recklessness, generosity, and a ready wit, appealed to a generation reacting to the rigours of puritanism with a determination to escape to enjoy themselves. Selling oranges in the pit, she would have mixed with a relatively smart set of people. She first appeared on stage in 1665, at the age of 15, playing the role of Cydaria in Dryden’s ‘The Indian Emperor’. Samuel Pepys was highly taken with Nell Gwyn and speaks of her in his diaries.