An attempt to restore the original building

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English Heritage

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Ernest Godman

Year published

1901

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11-15

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'An attempt to restore the original building', Survey of London Monograph 3: Old Palace, Bromley-by-Bow (1901), pp. 11-15. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=117254 Date accessed: 18 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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AN ATTEMPT TO RESTORE THE ORIGINAL BUILDING.

On plate 37 an attempt has been made to reconstruct the external view of the Palace with its adjoining buildings according to the original design. In determining the positions and forms of the various features advantage has been taken of the numerous discoveries made at the time of the demolition; door and window frames and posts which still remained in position are shown on the plans, others were built up and their positions defined only by the filling of later brickwork; while in some cases the evidence rests only on accidental discoveries of the original work rescued in more or less fragmentary form from these built-up openings and other parts of the structure.

Comparison also has been made with contemporary buildings in the neighbourhood: Charlton House, near Greenwich, Kent, which is a reputed John Thorpe design, has many points of resemblance to the Palace; Kirby Castle, Bethnal Green, which was also a design of John Thorpe; the early 17th century mansion now known as the 'Workmen's Home,' 217 Bow Road; Bromley House, the manor house of the upper manor of Bromley; and Aston Hall, near Birmingham.

Plan of Old Palace

The plan, as restored below, contained many features of interest; and although a comparatively small building, the setting out and decoration of the rooms was dignified.


[Plan]

Hall

The hall was one storey in height, & all traces of the screen, if there ever had been one, had vanished in the subsequent alteration and remodelling; the fireplaces and almost all the panelling being also replaced at that period. At k was an arcade of moulded oak posts and arches almost complete, leading to the garden and the smaller stairs. One of the arched openings, illustrated here, is preserved in the South Kensington Museum.


[Details of arcade]

Staircase; Doorways

The great staircase, situated at the south end of the building was also intact. It was constructed round a square well hole, the handrails, balusters, newels, and other parts being entirely of oak, elaborately moulded, and of large dimensions. Details of the various parts are given on plate 35. Many of the internal doorways still retained the original moulded solid oak frames, the mouldings on the side posts ending with carved stops about two feet from the floor. In almost every case these mouldings and stops were varied in design, that shown on plate 12 being one of the simplest.

State room

It is scarcely necessary to do more than refer to the description of the state room already published, (fn. 1) also the numerous photographs & drawings on plates 9-21 of this book, illustrating the fireplace with its carving and arms of James I.; the ceiling with the modelled ornaments, ribs, panels of heroes, and the Royal Arms; and the panelling with carved pilasters and frieze. This room has been re-erected complete in the south hall of the South Kensington Museum, with the exception of the moulded oak door frames on either side of the fireplace, and the 18th century pine chimney-piece inserted in the original opening. Along the frieze at the top of this was carved the inscription from Proverbs xv., v. 17:

BETTER IS A DINNER OF HERBS WHERE LOVE IS

Fireplaces

The original woodwork of the other fire-places had been replaced by carved and moulded chimney-pieces of later dates, chiefly of the time of the 18th century alterations. The most elaborate of these was in the room over the State room. It was of pine with carved swags and pilasters, and as late as 1873 still retained a large medallion in the centre with carved heads of James I. and his wife Anne of Denmark, surrounded by a wreath of holly leaves. Behind this was discovered the original carved stone fireplace, with coloured and gilt frieze.

Several other similar stone fireplaces still remained in various parts of the Palace, one of them being illustrated on plate 12.

External Towers

That the towers were originally built higher is proved by the fact that, while the timber framing of the main roofs was intact, the pyramidal roofs on the towers, and the ceilings immediately below them, were formed almost entirely of fragments of the oak mullioned windows and beams, some moulded, of the earliest date, and evidently placed there from other parts of the building. The lead cupolas on top are conjectural, but are of a form quite common at the period, and similar to those at Charlton House.

Windows

The windows are restored mainly from the evidence of the original openings, mostly built up in the 18th century alterations, assisted by reference to those at Aston Hall and Charlton House. That shown on plate 18 is restored from the various portions found in the roofs, walls, and blocked-up window-openings of the house, and now preserved in South Kensington Museum.

There were two kinds of windows—those with large moulded oak frames, which are assumed to have been placed on the principal front, the east, and those composed entirely of moulded bricks. These latter were evidently on the north and west sides of the building; one long low window, five lights wide, still remained, although blocked up, in the north wall and gave light to the 'Kitchen,' or the north end of the Hall, as it is assumed to have originally been. There were also evidences of similar windows in other parts of this and the west wall.

Numbers of moulded bricks, ovolo-moulded mullions, and others, forming parts of cornices and string courses, were found built into the original window openings; while in one of these (on the garden front of the North-west room on ground floor) was found the fragment of 15th century carved Purbeck marble, already described. (fn. 2)

Chimney stacks

The chimneys were of various sizes and shapes, and in almost all cases had been rebuilt from the roof upwards. Only in one instance at the south end of the house, as shown in the sketch, was the original moulded brick plinth left. Plans of some others are given on plate 4.


[View of roof showing chimney stacks]

External decoration of brickwork

The decoration on the face of the brickwork shown in plate 36 was discovered plastered over, behind the oak panelling on the South face of the chimney stack at the end of the State room at a height of about 15 feet from the ground level. The body of the chimney stack was of red bricks, on these diapers of a blue-grey colour had been painted to the pattern shown, and the joints lined with white. There were also remains of cement quoins at the corners of the stack.

The use of cement quoins instead of stone was apparently common at this period in districts where stone was not easily obtainable, and there is a notable example still left in the neighbourhood—Eastbury House, Barking, about five miles distant, built in 1572-1573. This is constructed entirely of red bricks, all the windows, gables, doorways, mouldings and other external features which in the first case were constructed of moulded brickwork, being cemented over to represent stone.

It was also a usual custom to diaper the external faces of the walls, using black or vitrified bricks for the purpose; but it would perhaps be difficult to find a contemporary example of painted diapers.

It is difficult to understand the reason for the decoration in such a position, the chimney stack, so far as could be seen, never having been on an outside wall of the house, unless we suppose that it may have formed part of an earlier, and possibly smaller, building, which was incorporated with the Palace. There were, however, so far as one could see, no other features in the building that could justify such an assumption.

Outbuildings and domestic offices

The timber framed buildings in the foreground were traditionally the outbuildings containing the servants' and retainers' dwellings, offices, and outbuildings attached to the Palace; and have already been fully described. (fn. 3) In this case tradition is helped by the following facts:

1. The nearness of these buildings to the Palace. That they were of the same date is proved by the fact of oak framed windows being discovered in the walls of the 'Seven Stars' public-house, with mouldings identical with those in the Palace, described above.

2. The door in the north tower of the Palace, communicating with these buildings, and the windows in the north wall overlooking them.

3. The position of the underground passage.

4. The small amount of accommodation for servants in the Palace, compared with the size of the building, and the scale of the internal planning.

The oak framing was very massive, and although covered over on the outside with weather boarding in the 18th century, & plastered inside, was in perfect condition at the time of the demolition of the 'Seven Stars,' the corner building, in 1895. The timber was framed as shown in the drawing; and the upper storey overhung the lower on the north side. The greater part of these outbuildings still remain, and face the High Street.

Footnotes

1 'Survey of Bromley-by-Bow,' pp. 33-40.
2 'Survey of Bromley-by-Bow,' p. 36.
3 Survey of Bromley-by-Bow, pp. 41,42.