I. HISTORICAL ACCOUNT
THE GREAT FIRE OF 1666
The heralds of the kings of England formed a part of the household establishment from the reign of Edward I or earlier and from that of Henry V at
least functioned in some measure as a corporation. Their first formal charter
of incorporation was, however, given them by Richard III on 2 March
1484, (fn. 1) who at the same time granted them their first permanent home, the
ancient house of Coldharbour in the City of London by the river on the
site now occupied by 89 Upper Thames Street. A history of Coldharbour
is given in C. L. Kingsford's 'Historical Notes on Mediaeval London Houses'
in the London Topographical Record, vol. x (1916), pp. 94–100. It was an
important house, the residence at different times of Sir John de Pulteney,
four times mayor of London in the fourteenth century and builder of the
hall at Penshurst; of William de Montagu, Earl of Salisbury, about 1340;
of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, between 1347 and 1361; of Alice
Perrers, Edward III's mistress, who built a tower there; of John Holland,
Earl of Huntingdon, who entertained Richard II there in 1397; of Henry IV
who was living there in 1400; of Henry V as Prince of Wales; of John
Holland, Duke of Exeter, and others. In 1480, a very few years before its
grant to the heralds, the King's sister, Margaret of Burgundy, was lodged
there during her visit to England. We can therefore judge that its grant to
the heralds was a high mark of royal favour. Here, as was afterwards
recalled regretfully, 'every king of arms had his place several for his own
library'. (fn. 2)
They had held it little more than a year, however, when their benefactor,
King Richard, lost his throne, and his successor Henry VII cancelled both
the heralds' incorporation and the grant of Coldharbour, which he gave to
his mother Margaret Beaufort for life.
From 1485 for seventy years the heralds were unincorporate and homeless,
meeting from time to time for their chapters and partitions of fees either
where their official duties brought them together as at Greenwich, Hampton
Court, Windsor, Richmond, or in the house of one of their number, such
as that of Christopher Barker, Richmond Herald in 1528 and 1529, (fn. 3) in that
of Thomas Hawley, Clarenceux, in the Barbican in 1549 and 1553, (fn. 4) and
regularly in that of Sir Gilbert Dethick, Garter, between 1554 and 1564. (fn. 5)
In 1562 and 1563 they met more than once in Embroiderers' Hall in the
parish of St Peter Cheap. (fn. 6) Sir George Buc in A discourse, or treatise of the
third Universitie of England (fn. 7) says that the heralds were removed from Coldharbour 'to our Ladies of Roncivall, near Charing crosse', but Anstis is
probably right in thinking this based merely on some reference to their
holding a chapter or partition at this ancient hospital.
On 18 July 1555 King Philip and Queen Mary gave the heralds a new charter
reincorporating them and granting them the house called Derby Place in
the parishes of St Benet and St Peter in the way leading from the south door
of St Paul's Cathedral to Paul's Wharf, that they might keep safe their
records and rolls and all things touching their faculty. (fn. 8) This house, according
to Stow, (fn. 9) was built by Thomas Stanley, who married Margaret the mother
of Henry VII in 1482 and was created Earl of Derby in 1485. His son
George, Lord Strange, died there in 1503. Edward Stanley, third Earl of
Derby, surrendered it to the Crown and in exchange was granted by
Edward VI on 24 January 1553 lands in Huyton, Lancashire, called St
Leonard's lands, adjoining his park at Knowsley, and certain other lands
which had belonged to Burscough Priory. (fn. 10)
Derby Place was at this time (1552–3) occupied by Sir Richard Sackville,
who evidently remained for some time as the heralds' tenant, since at a
chapter held at Garter's House on 10 April 1561 they agreed that he should
be given a quittance in the name of the whole office for the receipt of money
due to them for the house. (fn. 11) Weever says that it had come to Sackville by
mortgage, 'for which mortgage, Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolke, out
of his affection to the office of armes, satisfied the said Sir Richard; who
thereupon past it over to Q. Mary, and at the instant request of the said
Duke, she by her Charter granted it' to the heralds. (fn. 12) The mortgage story
is not supported by the other evidence, however, of which the natural interpretation is that Sackville was Lord Derby's tenant and continued as the
tenant of the Crown and then of the heralds until the expiration or surrender
of his lease. That the Duke of Norfolk was instrumental in securing the
grant to the heralds is, however, likely enough and is confirmed by Buc's
statement that 'At the length they obtained by the favour and mediation
of the most illustrious princes of the house of Norffolke, Marshals of
England, to be placed in Derby Place: and for the more secure enjoying
thereof (because an honorable Gentleman had gotten about that time an
estate in it) Queene Mary gave it to the Heralds by her Charter Royall, as
I have been informed. In this house these Heraulds have severall lodgings
and a common Library and place to keepe their Records, and Bookes of
Armory.' (fn. 13)
Stephen Martin Leake, Garter (d. 1773), says that though Queen Mary
has the praise of giving Derby House to the heralds, this was first designed
and procured by King Edward VI 'as appears by the Charter itself'. (fn. 14)
Although all that in fact appears there is that Edward, as already stated,
acquired Derby Place, Leake's statement is confirmed by Robert Glover,
Somerset Herald (d. 1588), who left a note in his own handwriting, which
states definitely that King Edward VI, being informed of the heralds' impoverishment through the discontinuance of their employment on embassies,
purposed if God had spared his life to have remedied it, 'who not only
assigned to this Society of Kings, Heralds and Pursuivants of Arms, the
house they now enjoy for the preservation of their records with a charter of
sundry freedoms, privileges and immunities in the Commonwealth, but also
intended himself to have granted those Letters of Incorporation which after
were performed by his sister Queen Mary and to have increased their stipends
in lieu of the said board wages lost'. That the King favoured the heralds is
shown by his letters patent of 4 June 1549 confirming their ancient exemption
from taxation in relation to the subsidy lately granted him by Parliament. (fn. 15)
One thing appears certain, that Edward's intention owed nothing to the
mediation of the Duke of Norfolk, who throughout his reign was a prisoner
under sentence of death. Another claimant to having secured the royal gift
of Derby Place was Sir Gilbert Dethick, Garter (d. 1584), when he complained that in spite of this he had been allotted only four chambers out of
twenty-five there. (fn. 16)
At the same chapter of 10 April 1561 when the heralds agreed on a receipt
to Sir Richard Sackville for what he had owed them upon Derby Place, they
agreed further that there should be a day appointed for the view of the said
house in what state and reparation the same is, and for the better view
thereof they agreed to take with them a mason, a carpenter and a plumber
at the costs and charges of the whole office. (fn. 17) However, we have no evidence
that they were in occupation before 20 February 1565 when (as they recorded
three years later) they held a chapter at Derby Place 'now called the House
of Office of Arms'. (fn. 18) On 16 May 1565 (fn. 19) they made a Partition at 'the House
of the Office of Arms' and thereafter such entries follow regularly. The
name given to the house varies a little, however. In May 1566 (fn. 20) it is 'our
Colledge of Armes' and in January 1567 (fn. 21) 'our house of the College of the
office of arms'.
There exists an agreement between the heralds allocating the rooms in
Derby Place, which by internal evidence must have been made not earlier
than 20 April 1564, possibly not much before 25 January 1565, and not later
than 19 April 1565. (fn. 22) By this:
Garter is to have his quarters on condition of surrendering the two foremost rooms
next adjoining the hall to the Earl Marshal when he shall repair to the house on any
urgent cause. (fn. 23) Clarenceux has two great chambers on the south side of the house (fn. 24)
over those appointed for the Earl Marshal with a cellar for his necessaries. Norroy
has the two uppermost lodgings in the north side of the house over the gate with
the study thereto belonging and a cellar (fn. 25) under the stairs of the same lodgings.
Somerset, 'now being oldest herald', is to have the chamber at the end of the hall
over the old pantry, with the apartments which he now enjoyeth. Richmond,
now second herald, is to have the room next adjoining this, nearer the street and
somewhat above. Lancaster, now third herald, will have the room which lately
was the old pantry at the nether end of the hall and over the cellar appointed to
Clarenceux. Chester, now fourth herald, will have the room which is the first
chamber and next to the court of the said house of the two uppermost lodgings
there adjoining to the kitchen. Windsor 'now elect herald', will have the next
room equal with this, on the same floor, towards the street side, and York 'now
elect herald' will have the room next over and above Chester's. The room equal
with York's on the same floor and towards the street is to be shared by Rouge
Cross and Portcullis, 'now the two eldest pursuivants', and the room next the
ground towards the court and under Chester's by the two youngest pursuivants
which hereafter shall be. The stairs with the appurtenances, the stairs with the
great bay window going into the great chamber and the chambers going up to
the hall over that are to be taken down and new altered as shall be thought good.
From this alone it would be possible to form some idea of the plan and
nature of the building, but it can in fact be amplified from two other sources,
very different from one another, one a poem, the other a rough ground plan.
The poem, by Nicholas Roscarrocke, is prefixed to the Workes of Armorie
by John Bossewell, which appeared in 1572, and the first part of it must
allude to the heralds' new home, though in somewhat exalted terms.
A Court ther stands twixt heaven & erth, al gorgeous to behold
Of royal state, in second spheare a hugie building olde,
Portcolized & bard with bolts, of gold resplendant bright,
Of glistering gemmes, through Pallas power, bedazeling eche mans sight
That no man may com in except he have the perfit skil,
Of Herehautes Art, and climbed hath, Parnassus sacred hill.
Within this stately court, like number roomes are founde,
like number flags, like number Armes, as Realmes upon the ground.
About the walls (more wonderous work, then framed by mortal hand)
Eche Herehauts lively counterfet, in seemely sort doth stand.
Within these severd roomes, through wals, ibuilt of Christal cleare
Eche thing that longs to Herehauts Art, doth perfectly appeare.
There leger bookes, of auncient gestes, ywrit by Pallas hand,
there campinges, mornings, musterings, there pedegrees do stand.
There cumbats fierce, there summons bold, there triumphs passing brave
Of crowning kings, of dubbing kinghts, the orders ther they have,
Both single coates, and martialed of eche renowmed wight,
With visitacions, which allottes to ech desert his right.
Reversed coates (not hidden there) bewray disloyall deedes,
Caparisons ther fixed hang, and bardings strong of steedes.
With armors fully furnished, and gauntlets unredemd,
Suche uncouth sights, eche office holdes, as cannot be estemde.
At upper ende of al this court, as severd from the rest,
with flaunting Penon standes a house, as famous as the best,
where portraied are the English Armes, from which dependeth brave,
A golden garter in the whiche, a golden George they have.
The particulars of the house and its furniture alike are vague, but we at
least gather that Garter had lodgings separate from the rest, at the upper end
of the courtyard, with a flag flying over them, and that the gate was guarded
by a portcullis.
The ground plan—unhappily of the roughest—is preserved among Anstis'
papers in the British Museum (fn. 26) and consists of a pen drawing on a single
sheet of paper entitled 'Scheme of the College before the Fire of London'.
Its proportions do not represent the whole site as rebuilt and little more can
be inferred from it than that Derby House formed three sides of a quadrangle,
entered by a gateway in the west range on St Benet's Hill and that the hall
formed part of the western half of the south range (the opposite side to that
of the rebuilt College) with its screen and screens passage centrally placed
in the range and entered by a porch, all at the eastern or lower end of the
hall. The east and west wings, the length of which is probably shown too
short, enclosed a garden and there seems to have been a passage in the east
range communicating with St Peter's Hill. Garter's lodgings are shown in
the south-west angle with the Library between them and the entrance. The
remaining part of the west wing, that is, its northern section, is occupied by
Clarenceux and Norroy. The part of the south range east of the hall, as far
as St Peter's Hill, as well as a small part of the east range, is hatched and
labelled 'Lodgings' and evidently comprises the quarters of the heralds and
pursuivants. The east range north of the passage is unmarked, except at its
At some date between 1608 and 1616 a series of shields appears to have
been carved or painted on the outside of the building, for a manuscript now
in the National Library of Scotland (fn. 27) has tricks of the arms of five commissioners for the office of Earl Marshal (fn. 28) between those dates entitled: 'These
must be placed betwene the pillars, as they are here figured the one against
the other', together with those of the then three kings of arms, Camden, Segar
and St George, headed: 'These 3 must be placed in the pedestalle as they are
here figured', while a further series of tricks of the arms attributed to the kingdoms of the Heptarchy is headed 'The Armes that must be placed in the Arche'.
That the quarters and their allocation did not give entire satisfaction is
shown by a paper among Camden's collections, (fn. 29) probably written about
1599 (fn. 30) by Ralph Brooke, York Herald, as follows:
Clarentiaux had 2 Chambers apointed Harvie (fn. 31) and those Mr Garter keapes.
Harvie bestowed 50l.
Norrey, for a lodging [inserted]
saith that he had the rooms he enjoyeth by the Duke of Norfolk's appointment after
He knoweth that a petition was made to the Duke for those chambers because the
trampling was such over his hed. Mr Clarentiaux is contented so he may be conveniently lodged.
That his lodging is owt of reparacions.
lodged as his predecessor and contented.
contented with his lodging. Before Sommersett.
complaineth he can not enjoy his lodging, because a widowe dwelleth in yt.
A stable built, so noysome that the water cometh into yt very much annoyed with
Richmond a lodging [inserted]
His lodging is porter's lodge
Blewmantel Portcullis [crossed out]
No. A roome by the porters lodg
Portcullis [and] Rugecross, None. Blewmantel [crossed out]
The roomes according to the names irremoveable.
The surprising arrangement which left Portcullis and Rouge Croix without
any rooms at all lasted for thirty years after this, for at a chapter on
8 September 1624 (fn. 32) complaint was made by Philip Holland, Portcullis, and
John Bradshaw, Rouge Croix,
That they were unprovided of lodgings in the office of arms, by reason that
formerly such rooms as belonged to those officers (without the consent of the
Company or parties to whom they did properly belong) were converted and
added to the lodgings of Chester and Windsor. Now forasmuch as this day it
appeared that two rooms over the general and common kitchen built by Robert
Treswell when he was Somerset herald [1597–1624] fell after the surrendering of
his place to the use and disposing of the Company. So concluded that Henry St
George, Richmond, should have those 2 rooms over the kitchen, and his successors,
and the rooms of Richmond should go the upper to Portcullis as the senior and the
nether to Rouge Croix. Further agreed that Mr Richmond should at his pleasure
(if otherwise the rooms were not surrendered to him by Mr Philpott now Somerset)
possess himself of them by taking some neighbours with him and breaking his way
into the said rooms through the walls on the stairs leading to Chester's rooms or
It should be recorded that on 31 March 1617 (fn. 33) James I, one of the few
sovereigns who have been benefactors of the heralds, on the advice of the
Privy Council, granted £15 a year to be paid to Garter and the junior
herald for the time being, of which £5 was to be paid to the Register as his
salary and the remaining £10 to be spent by the consent of the whole office
on diverse reparations to be done from time to time in and about the house
and office of arms. (fn. 34)
The heralds must have made considerable alterations to Derby House at
various times. Mention has already been made of plans involving changes
to the stairs into the Great Chamber, the great bay window and rooms
adjoining. Also, at the chapter of 8 September 1624 it was stated that Robert
Treswell, when he was Somerset Herald, built two rooms over 'the general
and common kitchen'. There is preserved at the College a contract dated
1 June 1623 under which John Ramsey, joiner of the parish of St Peter,
Paul's Wharf, undertakes to wainscot the hall of Derby House after the
manner of the wainscot in the Embroiderers' Hall (where we have seen the
heralds met in 1562 and 1563), 'with faire pillasters, pedestalls and capitalls
with faire benches and a lardge freeze with plaine scotcheons and scrolles...
and such dores at the screene and in all pointes the whole worke to be done
in such manner or better then as it is in the said Embroderers' hall'. The price
was to be 3s. 6d. a square yard.
There is also a contract for retiling the roofs 'from the hall west and
northwards', dated 9 July 1630, made with John Chevesley, bricklayer of
the parish of St Nicholas [? Olave] in Bread Street, with a further provision
for maintenance of the same roofs to 'be kept windetite and watertite for
the space of one and twentie yeares', for a yearly payment of five shillings
to be paid on the feast of St John Baptist. In December of the same year
payment was made to Thomas Goode for plumber's work.