Survey of London: Volume 4, Chelsea, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1913.
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LVIII.—CROSBY HALL (re-erected).
Ground landlord, leaseholders, etc
The ground landlord is the London County Council, in whom the fabric of the Hall is vested. The present leaseholders are The University and City Association of London, Limited.
General description and historical notes.
In 1908 the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China bought, for the purpose of building new offices, the site in Bishopsgate on which stood the Great Hall of Crosby Place, the mansion built by Sir John Crosby in 1466. Great efforts were made to preserve the building on its City site, but in spite of a wide response from many quarters, these efforts were unavailing. As the result of various negotiations with the object of preserving the fabric of the Hall, the Bank of India, at considerable expense, caused the architectural features to be taken down, numbered and stored, and later handed over the stones, timber, etc., of the building to the London County Council. The Council in its turn entered into an agreement with the University and City Association of London, Limited, by which the Association agreed to re-erect the Hall on a site in Danvers Street, on ground to be leased to them by the Council. The various parts of the fabric had been carefully numbered and stored after their removal from Bishopsgate, and the whole was re-erected and incorporated in an otherwise new building, as far as possible in facsimile of the original Hall, in 1909–10. The work was completed in the summer of 1910.
To appreciate the precise amount of original work which the present building contains, it is necessary to state the condition of the Hall in Bishopsgate. The 15th-century oak roof was practically intact, and was divided into eight bays by the principal arched trusses, which rested on the old carved stone corbels. A further compartment to the south, over the original gallery and screen which had disappeared, had been modernised. The main roof had never extended so far, and whatever the ancient treatment of this southern roof had been, it was at the time of demolition quite obscured. The south wall, too, was modern, and an archway into Crosby Square had been formed under the timbers of the old gallery, some of which were found in situ, but very much perished. There was a double two-light window on the west side of the gallery, which was, however, much restored. The east wall of the gallery was modern.
The north wall of the building also dated from recent times, so that beside the roof itself, the original structure was confined to the lateral walls (west and east) and to the brick vaulted undercroft below. The east wall possessed a pair of two-light windows to each by of the roof, but these were only complete on the inside, having been altogether defaced, and in some cases hacked away where it adjoined new buildings, on the exterior. None of the original ashlar facing was in a condition to be re-used. In this wall there existed the 15th-century fireplace.
The west wall possessed four pairs of two-light windows in its southern bays, also the great oriel or bay window with its stone vault, which occupied two more bays; and two pairs of blind windows on that part of the wall which abutted on the north-west wing. Below these was the original door into this wing, and outside the double "postern" door, from which the wing was entered from the courtyard. The mullions and transoms of the oriel had been to a certain extent restored, but otherwise the old work was in the main complete, excepting the ashlar facing, which had all been replaced by Bath or Caen stone.
In re-building, brickwork was used to replace the rubble core of the old walls, and this was faced with Portland stone to replace the modern ashlar, which was much decayed. The original stone windows, doors and fireplace, and corbels for roof were carefully re-set in their proper positions and the external faces of the windows in the east wall, which, as noted above, had been obliterated, were re-instated. Wherever repairs were required these were carried out with portions of the original Reigate stone, which were found here and there in the building. The oriel window was put together, and the stone vault, with its central boss bearing the helm and crest of Sir John Crosby, was re-fitted with the original pieces. The walls were plastered inside as before, the south wall being left temporarily covered above the gallery, to communicate with the proposed additional buildings, as it did no doubt of old with the southern wing of Crosby Place. A new double window on the east side of the gallery, and a new door beneath it on the west, were inserted to replace these missing features, for the original existence of which there is good evidence.
The whole of the internal part of the oak roof, which is a unique piece of 15th-century design, was re-fitted after it had been cleansed of the many coats of modern paint. It was fixed to new constructional timbers, concealed above, which carry the new tiled roof. This has necessitated a slight accentuation of the pitch of the roof. The only departure from the original Hall internally is the use of an oak floor; it was formerly of Purbeck stone, but this had long ago disappeared.
The old louvre or opening in the roof is in its proper place, but the lantern was missing and has been replaced by the present design in oak. The dormer windows, too, are merely a conjectural restoration of the lights to the little room over the gallery. The gallery itself is, of course, new, but it is in the proper position and the ceiling over it has been carried out in the old manner. It now awaits a restoration of the original screens.
The substructure below the floor line does not pretend to copy the old vault, which, being of brick, could not be removed. The height of the floor above the ground is not very different from that which must have obtained at first in Bishopsgate, but as the ground had risen considerably in modern times, a stone terrace has been put against the Hall in Chelsea to restore the proportions with which we were familiarised in the City. It is intended to complete the quadrangle with buildings of which the reerected Hall will form the eastern range, as it did originally in Crosby Place.
A full account of the buildings in Bishopsgate, together with a Bibliography of works on Crosby Hall, will be found in the Survey Committee's Monograph on Crosby Place, 1908.
In the Council's ms. collection are:—
General view of Hall (photograph).
Oriel window (exterior) (photograph).
(fn. 1) Roof (photograph).
(fn. 1) Detail of roof (photograph).
(fn. 1) Fireplace (photograph).
Postern door (photograph).
Two small details of roof (photograph).