Notes on early illustrations of Brooke House
During the course of the demolition and subsequent excavations constant use was made of
early drawings and engravings showing Brooke House as it appeared before the building
of the Georgian east front. These must now be described.
There are three eighteenth-century representations of the house, viz.:—a small engraving by Chatelain showing a view of the house from the south-east, and dated 1750; a
somewhat larger engraving by J. P. Malcolm, showing the south front and dated 1797;
and an anonymous undated drawing in the London Museum, made before the erection
of the Georgian block, but apparently after 1750 (Plate 12).
The Chatelain engraving shows, in the foreground, projecting forward to the road
boundary, a two-storeyed wing of which no traces remained at the time of the excavations.
It had two round-headed windows facing the road on each floor, and, on the south side, a
central projection flanked by pilasters over which the entablature, crowned in the centre
by a crude pediment, broke forward. Between the pilasters was an arched entrance. On
either side of the central feature was a single round-headed window on each storey. The
angles of the building seem to have had projecting quoins, but it is not clear whether
the walls were crowned with an eaves cornice (which appears to have been the case at the
northern end of the side facing the road) or a parapet, as appears on the south elevation.
A curious balcony, with a balustrade but no obvious means of support, is shown, half
covered in, half open, above the entrance on the south side.
Beyond this projecting building, to the left, it is possible to make out the chimneys of
the south range; above the roof, an octagonal turret rises from behind. To the right is
what appears to have been a high block with, at the farther end, another wing ending
in a double gable projecting out towards the road. The enclave between the two projections is shown occupied by various small single-storeyed blocks, from amongst which
rises a second turret or tower, round or octangular in plan.
Malcolm's view of the south front shows the three projecting chimneys at the west end,
and the half-gable of the Georgian block rising out of the roof of the south range at its
eastern end. The south wall of the projecting wing depicted in the foreground of the
Chatelain engraving is here shown as a continuation, remodelled in the 'Gothick' taste, of
the south front of the main house, which was not the case. The east wall appears roughly
the same as in the Chatelain engraving, except that the windows of the upper storey are
shown with square heads. Between the projecting wing (which is roofed separately) and
the angle of the south range and the Georgian block the octagonal tower, seen rising above
the wing in the Chatelain engraving, is shown with its south face in the plane of the south
front below, a point which casts further doubts on Malcolm's accuracy, since, as we shall
see, excavation showed the tower to have been in the plane, not of the south front of the
projecting block, but of the main south front.
A close examination of Chatelain's representation of the eastern range of buildings
occupying the position of the later Georgian block shows that he, too, is not altogether to
be trusted. Immediately to the right of the south-east projecting wing is what, at first
glance, appears to be a large archway in the wall of the eastern range. Careful inspection,
however, reveals that the feature, as shown, is structurally impossible. What appears to
be a pitched roof finishes round the edge of the intrados of the supposed arch, on which a
chimney stack appears to be balanced precariously. It seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that we have here the engraver's misinterpretation of a picturesque sketch by
Chatelain, and that what appears at first to be an arch should, in fact, be some object
rounded at the top and standing in front of the eastern range.
The mystery is perhaps partially resolved by reference to the anonymous drawing at
the London Museum, in which the feature in question is shown quite clearly as a truncated
octagonal tower capped by a dome. Nevertheless the drawing is not entirely above suspicion, since two chimneys shown in the left background of the Chatelain engraving have
been turned into gables, which is demonstrably a careless mistake. Even so it is unlikely
that the greatest difference between this and the Chatelain engraving—the omission of the
high wall and roof of the east range—is due either to carelessness or to the unfinished state
of the drawing. A more plausible explanation is that it was made shortly after the east
range had been demolished to make way for the Georgian block.