This section is from the "An Architectural And Historical Account Of Crosby Place, London" book, by Edward L. Blackburn. Also see Amazon: An Architectural And Historical Account Of Crosby Place, London.
It can hardly be attempted, at this time, to fix correctly the appearance of this range, or the use's to which the apartments in it were appropriated. The remains strengthen the idea, that it had a corresponding general elevation to the opposite side, and the same internal arrangement of two stories.* The height and level of the window, before noticed, point out nearly the situation of the floor of the upper rooms, which, apparently, did not exceed two feet above the window head. This would make the height of the lower room here, about fourteen feet; a proportion nearly the same, relatively speaking, as that of the lower room in the opposite building. Indications of a bay or oriel, similar to that of the north range, also occur; though it would here seem to have formed a staircase turret, from the fact that, at about its probable situation, the two or three last steps of a stone staircase leading to the vaults, underneath Mr. Colley's house, were discovered during some late alterations there. The bottom step was within a small arched door-way, opening in the north wall of the vault. It may be conjectured that this staircase led from the rooms on the upper floor to the court-yard and foregate, and, downwards, to the cellars.
* Similar to those of the Windows of the north range, though less rich.
* Two stories in height, seems to have been a limit seldom exceeded in domestic buildings. Buckler says (Eltham Palace, p. 49) that, " in buildings of great or small extent, this judicious rule was strictly followed".
On the east of the south range, the south end of the hall abutted, having, as before noticed, the entrance to it immediately facing the foregate. The arrangement of this entrance was similar to that at Eltham, Penshurst, and the majority of examples; the door-way opening upon a passage, enclosed from the lower end of the hall, by a screen, through which access to the hall was obtained by one or more doors of communication.* From this passage, also, doors led to the butteries, which, at Crosby Place, appear to have adjoined it on the south, forming a portion of the west side of the inner court. The communication with the ground-floor rooms on the south of the fore-court, was, possibly, from this passage ; the ancient appearance of which has been much altered, although the entrance to the inner court is still through it. In most examples a direct thoroughfare is preserved across this passage ; and the same method was, I imagine, formerly adopted here, notwithstanding that a modern house now closes its eastern end. The foundation of a wall, as before remarked, extends to the east, under the front of the modern house above spoken of, in continuation of the south boundary of the hall; and this was, no doubt, the north wall of the northern side of the inner court, as an area for light to the vault under the hall appears at about 15 feet from it to the north; establishing the fact, that no erection could have stood within that distance of it formerly. This was noticed in canvassing the likelihood of a court on the east side of the hall, together with the existence of other contiguous areas lighting the vaults from that direction. The probability is, that a direct thoroughfare was maintained across the passage to an arched gateway, which opened at the end of it into the inner court, in its north-western angle.* This was, it may be inferred, the arrangement, even admitting the existence of a court immediately on the east of the hall, for the direct thoroughfare would still have been retained, and the entrance to the south court still in nearly the same situation. Any thing, however, like uniformity in the disposition of the entrances to the several courts is not observable until, comparatively, a late period, when it became more usual to place them in the centre of the sides. At Crosby Place the earlier practice was evidently followed, as regards the situation of the fore-gate and the back-gate, both of which occupy an angle of their respective courts.
* Mr. Hallam, in his " History of the Middle Ages," in reference to the general plan and appearance of early English residences, says, that, "the usual arrangement consisted of an entrance-passage, running through the house, with a hall on one side, a parlour beyond, and one or two chambers above; and, on the opposite side, a kitchen, a pantry, and other offices;" and I have a . note, but cannot recall to mind from what authority, that "the bisection of the ground plot by an entrance-passage, was almost universal, and a proof of antiquity".
The hall was, at Crosby Place, as in most other instances, the main feature of the edifice; indeed, it often gave name to the whole structure,* and great cost and labour seem to have been bestowed upon it. Its west front exhibits a handsome range of six windows, with a finely proportioned semi-octangular Oriel or Bay-window. The southernmost of the range, or that over the entrance is, in fact, a double window, the pier, which separates each of the others, being here worked or moulded into a bold mullion. The windows have the description of arch prevalent, tempo. Edward IV., with a label or hood-mould returned square across the piers, and are divided by a centre mullion, into two lights each, with a peculiar extension of the outline of the cusps, which include more than the usual portions of a circle. Each face of the oriel has lights of a similar general character, but continued down to the level of the plinth, which formerly surrounded the court on all its sides. The extra height is crossed by transoms, crested with an embattled ornament, dividing the window horizontally into three spaces, each containing two arch-headed lights. The outer bead of the lights returns and mitres throughout each division. The label which surmounts the arch on each face of the oriel, is of the same description, and ranges with those over the other windows of the hall, springing from the upper table or shelving of buttresses, which ornament the angles of the octagon. These buttresses are of three stages, each face of which is panelled, and are the only ones apparent throughout the present remains. A plain parapet finishes the elevation, with the addition, round the oriel, of a frieze below the lower moulding. The original door-way opening on the passage behind the screen, is destroyed, and a modern entrance to Crosby Square substituted. The east side of the hall now shows eight windows, the oriel being here omitted; nor is there any appearance of a repetition of the double window, at the south end, though it probably existed. Time has been busy upon this part; and much of it is now of brick, the repair of different periods. The contrivance for the ascent of the flue or chimney of the hall fire-place, in this front, must have been curious. Its direct ascent would have obstructed light from the windows, and to obviate this, perhaps, the substance at a certain height below them shelved or tabled, until it would rise without interfering with them.
*¢ The greater number of the earlier examples have the entrances in the angles of a court. The quadrangles of Eltham Palace, Haddon Hall and Berkeley Castle, are all entered by gateways thus situated.
* Witness the number of mansions which pass under this name. "The phrase, a ' Hall House,' as descriptive of the manorial residence, is still current among the peasantry of the north of England." Mitford's Principles of Design in Architecture.