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 may be a matter of some difficulty, at this time, to fix correctly the situation of this alley, owing to the many alterations which this part of St. Helen's has undergone; but a supposition may be hazarded, with some show of probability, that the passage now leading through the house, No. 6, Great St. Helen's, is the site of it. In Horwood's map of London, published in 1799, this passage is shewn as leading directly to the north-east angle of the present square, above noticed as being the point to which the boundary-line on that side inclined, where formerly a gate opened, at the back of the houses forming its eastern side.*
From the back or east gate it is probable the original site returned nearly at right angles to the west, about 43 feet, and then extended due south, this being the evident direction of the whole boundary-line on the east, and returning to the west, included the garden at the back of the house, now occupied by Mr. Salomon Harrison* says, the present square was formed upon the gardens of Crosby Place; but it may be questioned how far, or whether at all, the latter extended before the north front of the houses now erected on its south side. The garden first mentioned was undoubtedly a portion of them in 1689, in which year William Bonde, one of the sons of Alderman Bonde, who, with his brother, was proprietor of Crosby Place, under the will of his father, purchased of William Harrington, merchant tailor of London, a house in the close of St. Helen, with "a garden, garden-plot and orchard," then in the occupation of his brother, Nicholas Bonde, and a tenement in the occupation of one Vaparlse; which garden and orchard is described in the deed of sale as "lying between the garden, late called Crosbie's garden, belonging to Crosbie's Place,* on the west part, and the garden plot or orchard, with the said tenement on the east part." The garden or orchard thus purchased, I take it, was the ground on which the East India Company's Baggage-warehouse now stands, abutting on Mr. Salomon's garden, the original and present eastern limit of the property. In the time of Sir John Spencer, Knt., the piece of ground thus referred to continued to be a portion of the estate, and is probably the spot on which he afterwards "builded a most large warehouse".
* The Foregate, as it is called in the old deeds of the premises, evidently stood at the present entrance to Crosby Square. It is referred to in several of them as standing in that situation.
* This belfry, or bell-house, was detached from the church. Several instances occur of these isolated bell-towers or campaniles, as belonging to our old churches, more particularly where a conventual and parochial church were conjoined. St. Helen's appears to have been one among the number. The present belfry is comparatively modern.
* In the grant to Crosby, the right of way down this lane is described as leading from the back gate to the church of St Andrew, Cornhill. This must refer to the church at the top of St. Mary-Axe, to which point Cornhill must have in former times extended. This church is dedicated to St. Andrew, and is the only one to that saint near at hand.
* This gate was used, within memory, as a means of access to the square in that direction.
* History of London.
* Then occupied by his mother, the widow Bonde.
At the south-east corner of Mr. Salomon's garden, the line would seem to have continued to the south-west, nearly to the present Helmet Court, and from thence returned in an irregular course to the Foregate, excluding the houses in the range of the street. One of these houses now belongs to the estate, and is first made mention of in the deed of sale from the Bondes to Sir John Spencer, as the tenement to "the south of the Foregate towards Leadenhall." The others, I am inclined to think, were also, at some period, part of the property, as when Germayn Cyoll, or Cioll, second in possession after Bonvisi, sold Crosby Place and its appurtenances to William Bonde, in 1566, four tenements were reserved for the use of his wife Ciceley, one of which she occupied until her death, in 1608 or 1609, and notices in her will as her "dwelling-house in Bishopsgate Street." These four tenements were, most likely, on the south of the Fore-gate; and, although two of them appear to have been purchased of the executors of the Widow Cioll, by Lord Compton,* about 1615; they seem to have been afterwards alienated.
In this outline of the property great irregularity is observable, a circumstance to be accounted for, perhaps, by supposing that at that time valuable and established property must otherwise have been interfered with; and which might, with greater probability, have been the case as regards those parts which abutted on the Priory grounds. However this may have been, it is pretty clear that the above was, as correctly as can now be ascertained, the site on which Sir John Crosby* commenced the erection of that building, which then took, and has since borne his name.
Of the character of this building we have no cotemporary information. Stow says, "it was built of stone and timber, very large and beautiful, and the highest at that time in London;" and this would appear to be the earliest descriptive notice of it. In the absence, therefore, of any other data, we must, in endeavouring to affix its early character, be content with such evidence as the existing remains afford; to which may, perhaps, be added, the brief descriptions contained in the old deeds and grants of the premises, to its after possessors; and inferences drawn from the general practice of the period in which it was built.
* Sir Wm. Compton, Knt. Lord Compton, married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir John Spencer, and thus became possessed of Crosby Place.
* He was knighted by Edward IV., May 21st. 1470.