The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3

Allen, Thomas

1827

Blackwell Hall.

On the south side of chapel was an edifice of much note, both from the antiquity of its foundation, and from the use to which it has been appropriated for centuries. Stow, who attributes its erection to the age posterior to the conquest, says that it was

builded upon vaults of Caen stone,

and that of

olde time

it belonged to the family of the Basings,

which was in this realm a name of great antiquity and renowne;

and several of whom were sheriffs of London from the time of king John to the reign of Edward the . From this family it was called

Basinges Haugh,

or

Hall,

and it gave name to the surrounding ward, now corruptly called Bassishaw ward. The arms of the Basings,

a gerond of

twelve

pointes, golde and azure,

were

abundantlie placed in sundry partes of that house, even in the stone-worke, but more especially in the walles of the hall, which carried a continuall painting of them, on every side so close together as

one

escutcheon could be placed by another.

In the of Edward III. Basing's hall was the dwelling of Thomas Bakewell; and in the year of Richard II. it was purchased by the city under the appellation of Bakewellhall, (together with gardens, messuage, shops, and other appurtenances in the adjoining parishes of St. Michael and St. Lawrence), for the sum of Immediately afterwards, the buildings were converted into a store-house and market-place for the weekly sale of every kind of woollen cloth, broad and narrow, that should be brought into London; and it was ordered that no woollen cloth should be sold elsewhere, under pain of forfeiture, unless it had been lodged, harboured, and discharged, at the common market in this hall. That ordinance was confirmed by an act of common council made in the year of Henry VIII.; and heavy penalties were at the same time ordered to be levied upon every citizen who should suffer any person whatsoever

to buy or sell any manner of woollen cloths, harboured or lodged, contrary to the said ordinance, within his shop, chamber, or other place within his house, unless the said cloths were

first

brought to Blackwell-hall, and there bought and sold.

The penalties were double for a offence, and the offence was punished by disfranchisement.

After the establishment of by Edward the , the monies derived from the pitching and housing of cloth

106

it this hall were applied towards the support of that charity, and the sole management of the warehouses were vested in its governors. These warehouses obtained the names of the Devonshire, the Gloucestershire, the Worcestershire, the Kentish, the Medley, the Spanish, and the Blanket-halls, from the different kinds of cloth, to the reception of which they were respectively appropriated; but from the alterations which have taken place in the mode of conducting the woollen trade during the last centuries, they were but little used.

The ancient mansion of the Basings having become ruinous, was pulled down about the year , and anew hall was erected upon its site within a twelvemonth afterwards, at an expense of towards which was contributed by Richard May, merchant-taylor. That edifice was mostly destroyed by the great fire of . After that calamity it was rebuilt about the year ; it was an extensive pile, inclosing quadrangular courts, and having spacious entrances by arched gateways, from Guildhall-yard, , and . The archways and lower parts of the wall next were of stone, and doubtless formed part of the more ancient building. The principal entrance, in Guildhall-yard, was ornamented by columns of the Doric order, sustaining an entablature and open pediment: in the latter were sculptures of the royal arms, and under the arch below the arms of the city. Some apartments on the south side were fitted up for the use of the commissioners of the land tax; but the whole building in and , along with the chapel, being in a state of considerable dilapidation, was taken down. The courts of King's Bench and Common Pleas, and various buildings, were erected on the sites.

The flooring of the chapel was not disturbed, but was merely built over by the court of King's Bench, which is the court nearest to the part of the hall on the building now to be described. This court, with the Common Pleas, is comprised in the large unsightly structure, situate on the east side of yard. The principal front shews a centre and lateral division, made in height into stories. Upon the ground floor is a lintelled entrance flanked by antee, between ill proportioned niches in the centre division; the story has windows, of which are blank, the centre alone being glazed. The elevation is finished with a cornice and pediment; the lateral divisions have arched entrances in the lower stories, and windows in the upper; the elevation finishes with a cornice, and blocking course; the south front has arched windows in the lower story, and others corresponding with the western front; in the upper the elevation is finished with a cornice and blocking course. The back front which abuts, on a small court, between this building and the Court of Commissioners, is built of brick, in the plainest dwelling-house style; the northern corner abuts

107

against houses. The principal entrance leads into a hall or vestibule, possessing no great pretensions to architectural character; the ceiling is pannelled, and in its walls are constructed various entrances for counsel, attorneys, and spectators, to the different parts of the courts.

The northern court belongs to the King's Bench; it is a large oblong square room, much too lofty for its area; the walls are destitute of ornament; the ceiling is pannelled, the greater portion occupied by a large lanthorn, which has also a pannelled roof. The greater portion of the court is occupied by a gallery, calculated to contain several spectators. The judge sits opposite the gallery, under a heavy oak canopy, surmounted by the royal arms, and in front of him are the seats for the counsel; but the court is so very high, and so ill constructed for the purposes of hearing, that the gallery intended for the accommodation of the public is entirely useless; indeed the persons seated in the court hear with difficulty what passes.

The Court of Common Pleas on the south side of the vestibule, is a copy of that just described; in consequence of the serious inconvenience occasioned by the privation of hearing, a temporary waggon-headed canopy has been erected above the judge and the counsel's seats, covered as well as the walls below it with red cloth, by which means the different speakers may be heard more distinctly than before. With a view of aiding the hearing several of the portraits of the judges, which were formerly in the great hall, have been affixed to the walls of the courts; viz:--In the King's Bench, the portraits of sir T. Fryden, knt.; sir J. Kelyng, knt., sir M. Hale, knt., sir E. Thurland, knt., sir W. Ellis, knt., sir R. Atkyn, knt., sir J. Vaughan, knt., sir F. North, knt., sir J. Archer, knt., sir T. Littleton, knt.; those in the Common Pleasare sir E. Turner, knt., sir S. Brown, knt., sir T. Tyrrel, knt., sir H. Wyndham, knt., sir W. Morton, knt., sir W. Windham, knt., air E. Atkyns, knt., sir C. Turnor, knt. The evil is evidently in the great surface of naked wall, and the undue height of the roof, and it is not likely to be remedied until a new construction of the courts takes place. The architect of this building was Mr. Montague, the city surveyor. On the south side of this building a street is formed, leading from unto .

On the right of this street, opposite the courts, is a pile of brick buildings, devoted to various purposes. The from is the Court of Requests; it has no pretensions to ornament, and therefore may be passed over. The next is a large house, containing the offices attached to the management of the Bridge-house Estate. The last, which has a frontin Guildhall-yard, is styled the Irish Chamber, The whole groupe of buildings which arose on the demolition of the ancient structures, are

108

perhaps the meanest assemblage of public buildings in the metropolis: the courts of law, it is hoped, will before long give way to another structure better adapted to the purposes for which they were erected. When that period arrives, it is to be hoped that a better taste will give a more correct facade to the principal front than the deformity now occupying that situation, which so far from forming an appropriate elevation for a building destined for the courts in England, is scarcely handsomer than a parish workhouse.

 
 
Footnotes:

[] Ibid, p. 227.

[] Ibid.

[] This building is in the ward of Cheap.

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 Title Page
 Dedication
 CHAPTER I: The site, extent, buildings, population, commerce, and a view of the progressive increase of London
 CHAPTER II: List of the parishes and churches in London, with their incumbents, &c
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of Aldersgate Ward
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of Aldgate Ward
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of Bassishaw Ward
CHAPTER VI: History and Topography of Billingsgate Ward
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of Bishopsgate Ward, Without and Within
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of Bread-street Ward
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of Bridge Ward Within
CHAPTER X: History and Topography of Broad-street Ward
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of Candlewick Ward
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of Castle Baynard Ward
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of Cheap Ward
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of Coleman-street Ward
CHAPTER XV: History and Topography of Cordwainer's-street Ward
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of Cornhill Ward
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Ward Within
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Yard Without
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topography of Dowgate Yard
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of Farringdom Ward Within
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of Farringdon Ward Without
CHAPTER XXII: History and Topography of Langbourn Ward
CHAPTER XXIII: History and Topography of Lime-street Ward
CHAPTER XXIV: History and Topogrpahy of Portsoken Ward
CHAPTER XXV: History and Topography of Queenhithe Ward
CHAPTER XXVI: History and Topography of Tower Ward
CHAPTER XXVII: History and Topography of Vintry Ward
CHAPTER XXVIII: History and Topography of Wallbrook Ward