A historical site about early London coffee houses and taverns and will also link to my current pub history site and also the London street directory
Crosby Hall Palace of Richard III.
Crosby Hall, before the recent alterations, 1820
As we proceed down Bishopsgate Street we come upon some very important places. At Crosby Hall, now one of the best restaurants in the City, we are in the old palace of that much-abused monarch King Richard III.
Very many, indeed the majority of people imbibe their opinions of this last of the Plantagenet kings from the well-known play of Shakespeare, without giving heed to the fact that in writing this play the Swan of Avon was paying court to Queen Elizabeth, whose grandfather defeated Richard at Bosworth, and seized his throne.
It was, of course, the " immortal William's " cue to pile on the agony to the Crookback of King Dick ; and endeavour to make a divine angel of his conqueror, which he most certainly was very far from being.
That Richard Duke of Gloucester did very wrong; committed many grievous sins; there is no doubt. As the late Charles Mathews, when enacting chorus in Planche's Burlesque of "' Medea " at the Haymarket Theatre, some years ago, used to sing —
" He stuck him right through.
'Twas a wrong thing to dn ;
But kings, you know, dont stick at trifles.''
Although Shakespeare in his play tells us that Richard with his own hand slew the old King Henry VI, and gave him a message to take to the powers below, yet history does not quite confirm him.
He knew perfectly well the insatiable appetite of "Gloriana" for flattery, even when indirectly given ; and in blackening the character of the vanquished monarch, he thought to give to that of his victor, who was her grandfather, additional brightness, which was supposed to descend upon her.'
At Crosby Hall you can dine well and moderately, as to cost, in the same old Banqueting Hall, where sweet Anne of Warwick has often feasted, or in the Throne Room upstairs, where the crook-backed King received the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London ; and if we arc to take our history from playwrights, the author of "Jane Shore" teaches us that the Duke told Lord Hastings not to give him any " Ifs and ands," and ordered him straightway to the Tower and execution.
It was also from Crosby Hall that King Richard sent word to the Bishop of Ely that he would pay him a visit at his palace in Holborn to sample his strawberries.
Crosby Hall, before the recent alterations, 1820.
Crosby Place, as it was called, is one of the most interesting buildings in the City of London. It was originally built between the years 1466 and 1471 by Sir John Crosby, a wealthy grocer and woolstapler, who, with eleven other doughty citizens, was knighted for his gallant defence of the City against an assault by Faulconbridge the Bastard.
Sir John took the ground from the Prioress of St. Helen's Convent — which then stood on the adjoining land now occupied by St. Helen's Place — at a rental of £11 6s. 8d. a year, a price that, considering it had a frontage to Bishopsgate Street of 110 feet., and the garden extended over what is now Crosby Square, and almost as far back as St. Mary Axe, was not a very exorbitant one.
He succeeded in erecting what was then called " ye highest and fairest house in ye Citie," but died very shortly after its completion in 1475, and was buried in the neighbouring church of St. Helen, where his monument is now to be seen. In the year following his death, the widowed Lady Crosby sold the house to Richard, then Duke of Gloucester.
Crosby Place was not only the fairest merchant's palace in the City, but was, and is now, after all its vicissitudes^ the most perfect and complete specimen of Gothic domestic architecture of that period in London.
It was in the Council Chamber at Crosby Place that Lord Mayor Sir Thomas Billesden and a deputation of the citizens of London waited upon Richard and offered him the crown. Shakespeare lays this scene, no doubt correctly, at Crosby Place, and mentions the place several times in his play.
In 1501 Sir Bartholomew Reade, Lord Mayor, possessed Crosby Place, and made it his Mansion House; and in 1516 it was the residence and Mansion House of Sir John Best, Lord Mayor. The year 1517 witnessed the Lombard riots; and May 1st was the last occasion that the Maypole was ever erected in Cornhill. Several of those taken into custody for rioting were confined at Crosby prior to removal to Lambeth Palace.
Crosby Place now passed into the possession of Henry VIIIs Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, and the banqueting hall was the scene of a grand feast given by the Chancellor to his mighty but ungrateful king. In I523 Sir Thomas sold the place to Antonio Bonvici, who, on the dissolution of the Convent of St. Helen's by Henry, purchased the freehold from the king for £207 18s. 4d. In 1549 it was forfeited by Bonvici on his leaving the kingdom. The unjust, but liberal, Henry granted it then to Daryce of Chate, who restored it to Bonvici in Mary's reign, in 1553. Bonvici seems to have sold it three years after to Alderman Bond, and he disposed of it to Sir John Spencer, Lord Mayor, who entertained Queen Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh, Spenser the poet, Sydney Grenville, Drake, and Hawkins at a grand banquet.
Both Shakespeare and Ben Jonson were guests, at one time and another, of Sir John Spencer during his occupation of Crosby Place. In 1609 the Dowager Countess of Pembroke resided there as tenant. Spencer, Earl of Northampton, whose father had married Sir John Spencer's daughter, became possessed of Crosby by inheritance through his mother in 1630.
In the Great Fire of 1666 the portion of Crosby Place that stood on the ground now occupied by Crosby Square fell a victim to the devouring flames, but the great banqueting hall, council chamber, and the portions now standing were saved.
After the fire a great change took place in the fortunes of this building, and in 1672 it was converted into a Nonconformist meeting-house, under the Indulgence Act of Parliament. A floor was put in the banqueting hall, on a level with the present gallery overlooking the hall, which had in old times been used as an orchestra. In 1674 the dwelling-house of the minister adjoining the hall was again a victim to the flames and burned down, the grand old hall having a second narrow escape. The church remained there until 1769, when the congregation removed to Maze Pond.
In 1700 a very notable change took place. The hall was occupied by the merchant adventurers trading to the East Indies, afterwards the Honourable East India Company, who only left it to take possession of their new premises in Leadenhall Street. Crosby Hall may therefore be considered as the cradle of our Indian Empire, and as such should ever be regarded with interest and respect by all British subjects. When the new East India House was completed, Crosby Place again became a meeting-house, and it continued so until October 1st, 1769, when the Rev. Richard Jones preached his last sermon prior to removing to a new chapel at Maze Pond.
In 1848 the Rev. C. Mackenzie, of St. Benet Church, Fenchurch Street, afterwards assisted by the Rev. R. Whittington, of St. Peter's, Cornhill, established at Crosby Hall the first metropolitan evening classes for young men, one of which was for debates and discussions. It was, in fact, an elocution class. Many young men attended this class who have since attained celebrity, among whom may be mentioned Sir Edward Clarke, Q.C., Sir Henry Irving, and many others.
In 1860 or thereabouts the classes were removed to Sussex Hall, in Leadenhall Street, and became the City of London College, now in White Street, Moorfields. So do great things grow out of small beginnings, and the good work of these two clergymen has prospered and grown, effecting much benefit to numbers of young men, who availed themselves of the opportunities afforded them of completing their education — opportunities that were not so plentiful in those days as they are at present.
When the classes removed from Crosby Hall, the whole place was converted into a storage for wines by Messrs. H. R. Williams & Co., and was no longer used for either meetings or lectures.
It was eventually sold by Messrs. Williams to Messrs. Frederick Gordon & Co., and under the carefully-prepared plans of Messrs. F. and H. Francis, the architects, the elaborate and successful restorations have been carried out.
As a building of historic interest, Crosby Hall should be visited by everyone. Probably there is no building in the City, with the single exception of the Tower — which, by the way, is outside of the City limits — that has equal interests attached to it.
As a restaurant it is at the present day unsurpassed. What reflections can be indulged in by anyone when dining in either the banqueting hall or throne room ! What a host of characters and scenes can be conjured up, ranging from the hump-backed Richard to the old pioneers of the East India Company !
The decoration of the hall is in perfect keeping with its original use and style, with nothing meretricious to offend the taste of the most fastidious. The walls of what was the Council Chamber and is now the bar are decorated with beautiful pictures, illustrating several of the most noteworthy events that have taken place within
the precincts of Crosby Place.
The street directories for 1832 and 1842 look like this would be the Crosby Hall chambers in 1842, late the Old City Hall in 1832 at about 25 Bishopsgate within
Lots of references are made to two sources on the
Edward Callows, Old London Taverns &
John Timbs, Club life of London Volume 2