The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
Is situated in , near its junction with ; it was erected on the site of a large mansion, which had been built in the time of Henry the ,
by Thomas Cromwell,
and afterwards earl of Essex. Cromwell's house, which he had thus constructed for a city residence, was subsequently purchased by the drapers, and made their
; till about the period of the great fire, which was here stopt in its progress northward.
The southern front of the present edifice, in , is erected in a plain style, with an ornamental centre, consisting of pilasters of a bad Ionic order, sustaining a frieze charged with festoons of foliage, and circles; the latter, enclosing the crest of the company, alternating with tiaras; the whole is surmounted by an attic, crowned with a pediment, in the tympanum of which is a ram's head between groupes of foliage, the whole finished with a ballustrade. Between the central pilasters is a large arched entrance, the headway being entirely occupied with an alto relievo of the arms of the company. The architecture of this front is, upon the whole, exceedingly poor and mean. The entrance leads through a small porch into a quadrangle surrounded by a cloister, composed of rectangular openings separated by piers, and fronted by an arcade, sustained on pillars of a mongrel order, the capitals composed of a row of acanthus leaves, surmounted by an abacus; sides of the court are occupied by the hall, and various other apartments built over the cloisters of a bright red brick, with various windows enclosed in stone architraves, having, alternately, circular and lintelled heads; the walls are finished with a cantiliver cornice and ballustrade. The southern side of the cloister is covered with a gallery, fronted by a ballustrade.
The hall, properly so called, occupies the eastern side of the quadrangle; the ascent being by an elegant staircase, coved, highly embellished with stucco-work, gilding, &c. and in a niche is a well-executed bust of his late majesty. During the late repairs, this staircase has been furnished with an elegant lamp, suspended from the lanthorn. The stately screen of this magnificent apartment is curiously decorated with carved pillars, pilasters, arches, &c. and the ceiling is divided into numerous compartments, chiefly circular, displaying in the centre a representation of Phaeton in his car, and round him the signs of the zodiac, and various other enrichments. In the wainscotting is a neat recess, with shelves, whereon the company's plate, which, both for quantity and workmanship, is of great value, is occasionally displayed. Over the master's chair is a half-length portrait, on pannel, of Henry Fitz-Alwyn, Fitz-Leofstan, the mayor of London, whom the drapers claim as a member of their own community, in contradiction to Stow, and other writers, who describe him as belonging to the goldsmiths; Mr. Brayley says, this has the traditional merit of being a likeness, yet with very little probabilty, as its execution is, at least, between and centuries too modern for the time in which he lived. Above the master's chair is a semicircular window, with the arms of England, the city, and the company, in stained glass, the execution of which reflects the highest credit on the artist, Mr. Willement. From the ceiling depend elegant large chandeliers, with smaller, at each corner of the room.
The court-room adjoins to the hall, and forms the north side of the quadrangle. This is fitted up with great elegance. On each
|side of the fire place, (which is of white marble) is a full length portrait of his present majesty, in his coronation robes, and the late duke of York, both by sir T. Lawrence, P. R. A. Here, also, is a fine full length portrait of the immortal Nelson, by sir W. Beechy. In this room is a large and interesting picture ascribed to Zuchero, which exhibits a lady with light coloured hair, in a laced ruff, and a close black habit, richly decorated; in her left hand a small book; her right hand on the head of a little boy, apparently between and years of age, arrayed in a reddish coloured vest, of a closely wrought pattern, and holding a flower: both are standing in a matted room, and on a table near them is a glass with flowers. This painting was cleaned and copied by Spiridione Roma, and has been engraved by Bartolozzi. It is said to represent Mary, queen of Scots, and James her son, (afterwards king of England) but if this be the fact, the figure of the prince could not have been painted from the life,|
From this room was formerly a long gallery, leading to the ladies chamber, where balls were formerly held: but this gallery has, since the last repairs, been converted into a suite of apartments, in of which are full-length portraits of William III, and George I, II, and III; the latter painted by N. Dance, from a personal sitting. In the ladies' chamber, above the mantel-piece, is a large painting by sir Godfrey Kneller, of the benevolent sir Robert Clayton, lord mayor in ; he is pourtrayed in his official robes, seated near a table, on which is a mace, and leaning against it, the city sword: this picture is finely executed. On either side of the fire-place are full-length portraits of Henry Smith, esq. a late clerk of the company, in his robes, and Jesse Gibson, esq. late surveyor, both executed by T. C. Thompson.
On the opposite side of the apartment are good portraits of J. Smith, esq. a clerk of the company, and father of the above-named gentleman; sir William Boreman, an officer of the board of green cloth in the reigns of Charles I. and II, who endowed a free-school at Greenwich; and Mr. Henry Dixon, of Enfield, a former master; who bequeathed lands for apprenticing boys, and rewarding them at the expiration of their servitude.
Another fine picture in this room represents sir Joseph Sheldon, by Gerard Voest, lord mayor in , sitting in his official robes.
There is also a portrait of Mr. Hardwick, formerly clerk of the company; and a small portrait of Mr. Thomas Bagshaw, who died in , having been beadle to the company years, and was thus honoured by the court of assistants for his faithful services.
The windows overlook the private garden, in the middle of which is a small basin of water, with a fountain and statue. The larger garden which adjoins to this, is constantly opened to the public in fair weather, from morning till sun-set, excepting on Saturdays, Sundays, and the company's festival days. This is a pleasant and extensive plot of ground, neatly laid out with gravelled walks, a grass-plot, flowering shrubs, lime trees, &c. and a circular piece of water, with a statue and fountain. Beneath the ladies chamber is the record room, which is constructed with stone and iron, and made fire-proof, for the more effectual security of the company's archives, books, plate, &c. A new and elegant staircase, leading from the clerks office to the hall, has been made during the late alterations.
On the east side of was formerly the residence of that eminent citizen, sir Thomas Gresham. It was built with brick and timber, and fronted .
By his will he appointed lecturers in divinity, astronomy, music, and geometry, and readers in civil law, physic, and rhetoric, each with a salary of a year, payable out of the rent issuing out of the royal exchange. This house was the place where the professors had their apartments, and where the lectures were to be read; which were begun in . This arose in a great degree from the institution of the royal society, the meetings of which were, for a considerable time, held here.
The origin of that respectable body was from the meeting of a few illustrious persons at the lodgings of doctor Wilkins, afterward bishop of Chester, and others worthy of record, doctor Seth Ward, afterward bishop of Salisbury, Mr. Boyle, sir William Petty, and the doctors Wallis, Goddard, Willis, and Bathurst, sir Christopher Wren, and a few more. In , they assembled in Gresham college, by permission of the professors of the foundation of sir Thomas Gresham; and on the restoration were incorporated by royal charter. A most instructive and well-founded museum was established here in , by Henry Colwall, consisting of natural and artificial curiosities, collected with great care and judgment. The society had then an advantage never possessed at any other time, the assistance of the great Mr. Boyle, the most accomplished, the most learned, and most religious virtuoso, who pointed out the proper objects of their collection, and gave them the most finished instructions for procuring them from every quarter of the globe. At that period them were, m both the Indies, persons capable of understanding, and pursuing with success, the plan laid down for them
|at home. It was the good fortune of the museum to have, co-existent with its formation, a philosopher for its curator, fully qualified to describe its various articles. Doctor Nehemiah Grew not only described, but illustrated every subject which required them, with the most learned and pertinent remarks. He published his Museum Regalis Societatis in , and dedicated it to the founder, Mr. Colwall, at the expense of whom the plates were engraven. By singular chance, Gresham college escaped the flames in ; but very little of the original house remained: it having been mostly rebuilt in , possibly after the original design: the arcades being adapted for the reception of the numbers of commercial and other followers of so universal a merchant as sir Thomas Gresham.|
On the site of the college and alms-houses, founded by sir Thomas Gresham in , was erected
 For other notices concerning this picture, see Gent. Mag. Vol. XLVIII. pp. 585,643; and Vol. XLIX. pp. 188. 231. Another objection has been made to the genuineness of this picture, on account of the hair being light coloured, while, on the contrary, in most of the known portraits of the queen, her hair is dark or black: yet this objection is rendered nugatory by a passage in Haynes's State Papers (p. 511.) which speaking of Mary, when a prisoner at Tutbury, says, She is a goodly personage; hath an alluring grace, a pretty Scottish speech, a searching wit and great mildness. Her hair of itself is black: but Mr. Knolls told me, that she wears hair of sundry colours. since it is certain, as several writers have observed, that his unfortunate mother never saw her son after he was a twelve-month old.
 About the year 1711, the society removed from hence to Crane-court in Fleet-street.