Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 1
Crosby Hall stands in a court on the east side of , leading into , through where there is a thoroughfare leading to through St. Helen's, as represented in the centre Vignette over the plan and views of the vaults of Crosby Hall. This celebrated mansion was built by Sir John Crosby, an eminent citizen and alderman of London, in the time of King Edward the : Sir John was also Mayor of the Staple at Calais; represented the city of London in Parliaments, and was twice warden of the Grocers' Company. Crosby Hall formed but a small portion of the magnificent structure of Crosby Place, by which appellation it was generally known. In its original splendour it must have appeared more like a stately palace, than the town residence of a wealthy British merchant. The principal remains consist of apartments, viz. the hall, the councilroom, and an ante-room, forming sides of a quadrangle. The hall has on the east side beautiful flat-pointed windows, and on the west side, , with another handsome octangular bowed window, whose finely executed roof is made of stone from Caen in Normandy; the hall ceiling is a flat-pointed arch, with longitudinal and transverse beams, highly ornamented, and whose intersections form small flat-pointed arches, with the same number of conical drops, of which the centre is far superior to the rest, but all most exquisitely wrought: the intermediate spaces are simply filled in with stiles and Gothic mouldings on the edges—the whole is oak timber; there is a chimney in good preservation, feet inches wide, and feet high. This noble room is of stone, feet in length, feet in width, and feet in height; the floor was originally paved with stone, chequerways, but is now almost defaced. The council-room has a very rich flat-pointed arched ceiling entirely of oak timber, composed of transverse beams, or principal rafters, highly ornamented with enriched half circles; in the compartments are square sunk pannels, filled in with quatre-foils, making a pleasing contrast between this room and the hall; it measures feet in length and in width. Originally there were small, and larger windows of the same description as those in the hall, but they are at present blocked up; opposite is a very large fireplace, also a small doorway, leading to the ante-room, but in the latter there is nothing worthy of remark, being so much modernised as to leave no trace of its former state. There are some small tiles extremely hard glazed and ornamented with different figures; these appear to have been used for paving other rooms or passages. In noticing this building Strype says,
In the time of the civil wars, Crosby House was made a temporary prison for the royalists. It was afterwards inhabited by Alderman Sir James Langham: in whose time a great fire happening, probably consumed so much of it as rendered it unfit for a domestic habitation. It was some time afterwards taken by a dissenting congregation, and the hall fitted up as a chapel, or meetinghouse, under the name of Crosby Chapel. To these tenants succeeded Messrs. Holmes and Hall, packers, who rent the principal part, and who unfortunately have been compelled to make many alterations, and some spoliations, to adapt it to the purposes of their business. Part of the south wing is converted into private dwellings, and the extensive vaults are let as wine cellars, &c. to different owners.
Sir John Crosby in his will, dated , states, that whereas he had done great and notable cost in building in and upon certain lands and tenements, which he then held of the Prioress and Convent of the House of St. Elynes;
&c. And in the same will he bequeaths such residence to his wife Ann, by the description of
The Duke of Gloucester (afterwards Richard III.) must have had early possession of Crosby Place, after the demise of the founder, there being but years difference in the period of their lives, Sir John Crosby dying in , and Henry VII. after his victory and the death of Richard, ascending the throne in . Crosby Place was doubtless the scene of all his plots and conspiracies against the lives and fortunes of his brother Clarence, the Earls of Rivers, Grey, &c.; and where, in council with Buckingham, Catesby, Lovel, and other ambitious minions, he premeditated the destruction of Lord Hastings, and the bastardizing and subsequent murder of his nephews.
Shakspear, in his historical play of Richard the , notices Crosby Place in the admirable scene between Gloucester and Lady Ann, widow of Prince Edward, whom the former was supposed to have killed, in the presence of Edward IV. and his brother Clarence. After his artful and successful courtship of the Lady, he is made by the Poet to address her in these words:
The commentators on Shakspear notice this house to have been built in , but that is evidently a mistake; the grant from the Prioress of St. Helen's for a term of ninty- years, was made in that year; and it is reasonable to suppose the building of such a structure as Crosby Place must have been, would require at least years to the completion, which was accomplished in . And on the d of May, in the same year, died Henry the ; consequently the Duke of Gloucester directing the Lady Ann to repair to CROSBY PLACE must have been a chronological error of the Poet. That Richard did reside at CROSBY PLACE is certain, but it must have been some years after the demise of Henry, it not being likely Sir John Crosby would build his house for any other inhabitants than himself. It came into the Duke of Gloucester's possession on the decease of Crosby, which took place in . Until within the last years, many fragments of stained glass adorned and beautified several of the windows, but they have been accidentally broken, and given away to the antiquarian visitors who have occasionally investigated the place. Both the bow windows on the south side of the council-room were taken down about years since to form a staircase to the adjoining dwellinghouse, then the residence of Mr. Hall, now in the occupation of Mr. Pasche, merchant. Very small vestiges of its former splendid character distinguish the upper part, and once ornamented roof of the council-chamber: of the oak carvings (represented in the Plate as in each compartment), not the smallest fragment is left; and the ancient windows have given place to large modern sashes, resembling those of a carpenter's workshop. The ancient fireplace, opposite the lower bow window of the council-chamber, must have appeared very grand in its pristine state: within the memory of of the persons at present in the employ of Messrs. Holmes and Hall, vestiges of its having been sumptuously gilt were quite apparent. This part of the building consisted of chambers, the lower and upper, the divisions by the floor being between the bow windows, the Gothic door at the extremity of the northern corner being the entrance into the upper chamber.
The ancient door or gateway, depicted in the exterior of the north-east view, is the present entrance to the cellaring or vaults of the hall, to which you descend by steps, and enter the principal vault, which answers both in length and width to the
|dimensions of the hall. At feet above, level with the pavement, appear recesses, on each side, which originally were intended for windows, and doubtless were so used, as likewise another looking towards Great St. Helen's, but now bricked up. The altitude of these recesses considerably exceeds that of the pavement of Great St. Helen's; these formerly afforded light to the vaults; but that service has given way to the modern improvements of , and is lost in the erection of the public house at the corner of the entrance to St. Helen's from , and the adjoining houses in Great St. Helen's. The old gateway under the grated window, in the same view, is the entrance to the vaulted chambers under the building, and at present is in the occupation of Mr. Moule, wine-merchant, in Great St. Helen's, who has them in use as wine-cellars; a part is however let off, for the same purpose, to Mr. Currall, who keeps the public house the corner of the gateway in .|
At the north-east end of the upper part of the council-chamber is a Gothic door, communicating formerly with other parts of the building, with carved stone door-case, evidently coeval with the building of the room. At the extreme north-west end of the hall is a small Gothic door, that probably might lead to a music-gallery on the north-west side, the door being nearly elevated to half the height of the roof. The ornamented frieze border of the roof of the great hall is composed of various carved devices in wood, representing grotesque heads, white roses (the badge of the royal family of Edward the ), antique shields, and other emblematical devices, totally dissimilar with another.
The late Duke of Norfolk occasionally visited Crosby Hall, and was so much pleased with the roof, that he employed an artist to make correct drawings of the whole, and built his celebrated banquetting-room, at Arundel Castle, Sussex, precisely on the model, of mahogany. In the spring of the year , the whole of the beautiful stone-work pillars and ornamental masonry of the council-room, were taken down by order of the proprietor, Strickland Freeman, Esq. and removed to his seat at Henley upon Thames, to adorn a dairy he was then building; the masons were employed weeks on this occasion, and all the fragments injured in the dilapidation were carefully cemented, and packed safe, previously to removal into the country.
The Plate consisting of the grotesque ornaments which compose the frieze that adorns the ceiling of the great hall, exhibits likewise of the windows with the ornamental carved mouldings and work, with which all the others are similarly adorned. The introduction of the resemblances of Richard III. as represented by the principal tragedians of modern days, Mr. Kemble and Mr. Kean, are inserted as applicable to Richard's residence here; and as the windows were formerly embellished with stained glass, they would necessarily have made a similar appearance with respect to effect with what is now introduced. The stone-worked bracket which surmounts the window, as represented in the Plate, is from of those dilapidated fragments which recently were to be found on the premises, but every succeeding day carries with it visible proof of general loss in these ancient ornaments.