Survey of London: Volume 15, All Hallows, Barking-By-The-Tower, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1934.
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III.—SEETHING LANE (EAST SIDE)
(A) PROPERTY OF SIR ROBERT KNOLLYS
In a position south of Sir John Alleyn's property was a holding belonging to Knollys' Inn on the other side of the street, and connected to it by the bridge mentioned later (see p. 16). It was purchased in 1379 by Sir Robert Knollys and Constance his wife from Thomas of Ireland, skinner, and Matilda his wife, and is described as a vacant plot of land acquired from Robert Hatfeld. (fn. 1) Its southern boundary was a tenement belonging to the Crutched Friars, which agrees with the description of Hatfeld's property when he and Roger Wynchcombe bought it from Thomas Perle in 1366, (fn. 2) and also when the latter purchased it from Roger and Christina Smert in 1347. (fn. 3) Knollys left this property to the College of Holy Trinity, Pontefract (see p. 17), and the site was granted at the dissolution of the Chantries in 1549 to Henry Stapleton, gentleman, where it is described as "two messuages with shops in the several tenures of Peter Mewtes, Kt., and Robert Hemmyng. (fn. 4) In 1556 the latter quitclaimed the property to John Harman, cooper, and Agnes his wife. (fn. 5).
(B) 33–36 SEETHING LANE AND CATHERINE COURT
General description and date of structure
Catherine Court was an example of the style of domestic-office architecture once so common in the City but of which so few examples are now left. It was the direct outcome of the building regulations compiled by Sir Christopher Wren and his associates for controlling the reconstruction of the City of London after the Great Fire. It was erected between the years 1720 and 1725, as indicated in the historical description which follows, was entered by a footway from Seething Lane and comprised eight single-fronted houses and two double-fronted houses in the court itself and two singlefronted houses on either side of the passageway from the lane. At the eastern end of the court there was another footway leading on to Tower Hill. Iron gates formerly closed the entrances to the court from either end.
The general plan of the area (Plate 7) shows the first-floor plan of the houses on the north side of the court. Numbers 1 to 3 and 6 to 10 in the court, and 33 to 36 in Seething Lane all showed a single room with an entrance passage from the street in the front, and a single room at the back of rather narrower width to allow room for the staircase. The double-fronted house numbered 5 in the court was only one room deep. The elevations were in red brick, with slightly projecting flat horizontal brick bands, four courses deep, to mark the levels of the floors, that of the attic being further emphasized by a projecting moulded brick cornice and parapet. The windows were spaced two, three, three, with two in the attic, and were long and narrow in proportion, with four lights divided by wooden glazing bars in both upper and lower sashes. The ground-floor windows in numbers 2, 3, 6, 9 and 10 were altered in character by being widened at a date subsequent to the building. The entrance doorways from the court (Plates 8 and 9) to the single-fronted houses were all alike in character, and arranged either singly or in pairs as dictated by the plan. They were constructed in stone, and the door openings were flanked by three-quarter pilasters rusticated with heavy square blocks. The pilasters had moulded bases and Ionic capitals, and were surmounted by a flat cornice, frieze and moulded architrave of ordinary 18th-century character. The doors were generally eight-panelled, with alternating oblong and square panels. That to number 2 appeared to have been rehung upside down, and two upper panels had been inserted at some later date in place of the usual fanlight, while the photograph (Plate 16) shows that the original door to number 6 had been replaced at some period in the 19th century by a six-panel door, a variation not shown on the elevation (Plate 9), in which the draughtsman has followed the original design. Of the pleasant features of these north and south elevations the fanlights were not the least interesting with their varying character and design ranged above the eight-panelled doors.
The two pairs of doorways to Seething Lane were more massive in character, with four columns (two to each door) and architrave, frieze and cornice of the Roman Doric order. The eight-panel doors were similar to these in the court, and that to No. 36 also appeared to have been rehung. Many of the original sash-windows had disappeared with the passage of time.
There were considerable variations in the design of the door-knockers, of which examples are given in Plates numbered 19 and 20, while between the pairs of houses, alternating with the chimney stacks, were lead rain-water heads, ornamented with figures in relief, and down pipes contemporary with the building of the court.
Internally, the houses were panelled from floor to ceiling with typical 18th-century deal painted panelling in two heights, with the normal moulded cornice and moulded rail separating the dado from the upper panels. In the majority of the houses the stairs were set in the wider space at the end of the narrow entrance passage, and ascended in three pairs of dog-legged flights to the attic storey. The moulded balusters which supported the moulded handrails stood two or three on each step with a moulded string stopped against the square newel-posts, each step being marked by charming carved brackets, types of which are shown on Plates 22 and 27, while the general character of these staircases can be judged from the detailed drawing of the one at No. 4 (Plate 25), which was the double-fronted house at the eastern or Tower Hill end of the court, and the drawings (Plates 28 and 29) of those in Nos. 5 and 6.
No. 4, which was the largest and most important house in the court, was double-fronted with a wider entrance hall, and with the principal staircase set forward nearer the entrance door. The general character of the brickwork was the same as the rest of the court, but the floors were slightly higher, and the horizontal brick bands and main cornice in consequence do not align. (See elevation, Plate 8.) There were five windows to the first and second floors, but the whole of the original sash windows had been replaced, mostly by casements, which impaired the proportions and appearance of the elevation. The entrance doorway was marked by a projecting porch with architrave, frieze and cornice, supported by two columns of the Corinthian order, with similar pilasters against the wall. The columns stood upon square stone blocks. (See Plates 12, 13 and 14.)
No. 5 differed from the rest in being only one room deep in plan, and the main stair was therefore even nearer to the front entrance. Apparently there was at one time an open yard or garden in the rear, which at some later date was enclosed and thrown into the premises of No. 20 Trinity Square. This house had an inscription tablet and date 1725.
A lead cistern, with a front ornamented with two eared panels, was retained in No. 4. In the centre of each panel was a roundel ornamented with rope ornament. In one panel appeared the date 1725, and in the other the letters O/B C which may have been the initials of Benjamin Collier, whose name appears in the rate-books for the year 1726. Other features of interest included the angle fireplace (Plate 30) with its plain beaded surround and moulded shelf, with delicate bead festoons in relief.
At either end of the court leading on to Seething Lane and Tower Hill were fine iron gates surmounted by ornamental ironwork. The gate at the entrance from Tower Hill became dilapidated and was restored as illustrated in Plate 68. The original ornamental ironwork above the gate was preserved on a ledge at the side of the entrance footway at that end, while the original appearance of the gate can be seen in a water-colour drawing, dated about 1880, now in the collection of the Guildhall Library.
Condition of repair
Catherine Court, the site of which is now covered by the offices of the Port of London Authority, ran west and east between Seething Lane and Trinity Square. When the area was being cleared an important survey was made by the London County Council, recording the buildings as they then existed, and differentiating their date. The portion of the plan reproduced on Plate 7 includes Catherine Court, part of Seething Lane (east side) northwards to the parish boundary, Muscovy Court and the frontage on Trinity Square. The parish boundary is not shown on the plan, but its position can be easily followed by referring to Plate 6. Muscovy Court (see p. 6) had been entirely rebuilt, as far as it lay within the parish, the only old house (No. 1) being in St. Olave's. It will be noticed that some portions of Nos. 10 and 11 Trinity Square are referred to a period earlier than the 18th century.
We have no evidence of the ownership of the site of Catherine Court in medieval times. There is, however, a possibility that it may be identical with an estate of John Howland whose Inquisitio Post Mortem was held in 1570. (fn. 6) His property is described as consisting of a court, twelve tenements, and fourteen stables, a cellar and a garden, which were formerly seven tenements, and the interesting fact is further given that it had belonged to "the monastery of St. Mary extra Bishopsgate." The property of St. Mary Spital in Seething Lane is mentioned in an entry in the Hustings Rolls of 1366 (fn. 7) as the southern boundary of a tenement sold by Thomas Perle to Roger Wynchcombe and Robert Hatfield, but this must not be confused with the land further north which passed through the same hands and ultimately went to Sir Robert Knollys (vide ante). The distance cannot have been very great but a house of the Briklesworth family and another belonging to Crutched Friars intervened.
It is known definitely, however, that the court itself, which must have been completed, according to the tablet on No. 5, in 1725, occupied the site of an earlier one known as Green Arbour Court, the story of which can be traced in the rate-books as far back as the year 1683, the earliest date of the parish records. Although we are here concerned only with the buildings which were actually in existence in the year 1894, it may be of interest to note that in 1683 the names of thirty-nine occupiers of Green Arbour Court are given, some of whom seem to have lived in Black Dog Alley, which evidently communicated with the court. The last year in which any entries appear in the poor-rate lists is 1719, when there are twenty-nine names. Generally speaking, the houses appear to have been of a low rateable value, and towards the end very few of the occupiers seem to have paid rates at all, though things were better further back and in 1705 four of the occupants paid as much as £5. That the court was in existence still earlier is proved by its appearance in a Lay Subsidy Roll for the year 1674–5. (fn. 8) The date of its construction, however, must remain for the present a matter of conjecture.
In the case of Catherine Court itself, the first year in which the names of any occupiers appear in the rate-books is 1724, when five names are given in the following order: John Da Costa, Henry Bully, Benjamin Collier, Robinson Knight and John Blackwood. It is not easy to say with certainty which houses they occupied, but John Da Costa may have been at No. 6. By 1728 there are eight names in all, but identification is still difficult since one house at either end appears to be missing. The names are John Hewingham, George Elger, James Grant, John Cook, William Dobson, Walter Vane, Lewis de Bland, Robinson Knight. In 1738, however, the books are more definite and the names given are as follows: William Dobson (34), Mary Gruchoe (34), Isaac Joseph (34), Raphael La Coeur & Coy. (34), also for the house late Thos. Moore, Mary Hewitt (30), William Stears (50), Stephen Abbott (34), Abraham Corteso (34), John Simpson junr. (40). This gives ten houses in all, Simpson apparently being in No. 1 and Dobson in No. 10. In the year 1800 (beyond which this Survey is not generally concerned) the ten names are: No. 10, Thomas Wilson (23); No. 9, Maria Strahan (23); No. 8, John Crosier (23); No. 7, John Inverarity (23); No. 6, James Frome (23); No. 5, William Cotton (19); No. 4, Charles Stephenson (35); No. 3, Henry Romer (24); No. 2, Nathan Solomon (24); No. 1, John Hewetson (35). The house numbers are not supplied in the records but the figures in brackets are the amounts of the rates the occupiers paid.
Comparing these results with the general plan (Plate 7), it will be seen that Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 were on the south side of the court and that the numbering started from the Seething Lane end. No. 4 was a double-fronted house, and much the best in the court, which helps to identify it in the rate-books by its larger rateable value. It was evidently the house occupied by Charles Stephenson (35) in 1800, and by William Stears (50) in 1738. The lay-out of the court included the two pairs of houses north and south of the western entrance in Seething Lane. One other list of occupiers may be of interest, though it is indefinite as regards the houses at either end. It is that given in Boyle's Court Guide for 1797. It reads No. 13, Thos. Fothergill; No. 10, Thos. Wilson; No. 9, W. F. Beaumont; No. 8, John Crosier; No. 7, John Inverarity; No. 6, William Coghlin; No. 5, William Cotton; No. 4, Joseph Marryat; No. 3, Alexander Towers; and No. 2, John and Richard Hewetson. From some later deeds we learn that John Crosier (see also p. 85), who lived at No. 8, was not only an occupier but owner of the court. This is confirmed by the will of Elizabeth Crosier, late of Green Lanes, Dalston, which was dated 16th July, 1816. She died 25th December, 1822, and her will was proved 14th June, 1823, at the Consistory Court of Carlisle. She owned Catherine Court, and under her will the property became sub-divided into six parts. The later history of the court need not concern us, but the whole property eventually passed into the ownership of the Port of London Authority. The name Catherine Court appears as Katherine Court in New Remarks of London, collected by the Company of Parish Clerks (1732). (fn. 9)