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.
The description of house which, about the middle of the 15th century began to gain preference, was the quadrangular, the earlier instances of which seldom exceeded a single court.* Under this appearance, they may be considered as a first attempt to combine security with domestic comfort, a qualification in which the former irregular piles, built principally for defence, were sadly deficient. In the later periods, and probably nearer to the age of Crosby Place, the double-courted mansion * became to be used, particularly where any grandeur of appearance was desired; indeed, in houses either of extended or moderate capacity, this seems, after its first introduction, on account of the greater convenience its arrangement afforded, to have been, in the absence of preventive circumstances, the most approved plan. Indications of the double court are very eyident at Crosby Place; a quadrangle is still visible next Bishopsgate Street, having the hall for its eastern, and a building, containing two stories, for its northern boundary. On the south, the plinth of a range of building still rises about two feet above the present level of the ground, while an old wall, running up at the back of the houses in the line of the street, appears to have enclosed the court on the west; its southern termination abutting on the Foregate. On the south-east of this, the outer, was formerly an inner court, of which, however, only three sides can now be traced. Vaults, under the modern houses in Crosby Square, extending to the south in a line with the hall, about 130 feet, point out the direction and situation of the buildings which anciently formed its west side. Its eastern was formed by a corresponding range, abutting on the back or east gate. Two sides of a quadrangle are thus established ; the position of its third or northern being pointed out by an old stone wall, under the front part of the house in the north-east corner of the square, now occupied by Mr. Capper, extending to the east, at right angles, from the south end of the hall. It may be here remarked, that it does not now appear that any court ever existed on the east of the hall, a feature observable in almost every instance; and it has been before queried, in identifying the probable extent of the ground in this direction, whether the line extended eastward, affording the required space for it, or whether it followed the direction apparent at present. Admitting the latter, Crosby Place would have been almost a solitary exception to the general custom of the time. In most of the early double quadrangular mansions, the hall was placed in the line of division between the two courts. It occurs, in this situation, at Eltham, Dartington and others. The hail, also, with the chapel and gatehouse, separates the inner and outer quadrangles of Wingfield Manor-house. Here, under the above admission, the hall would have formed the east side of the first court.
It might, however, be imagined that a corresponding range of building to that projecting at right angles to the west, at the north end of the hall, also projected from the east, enclosing and forming the north side of a court on the east of the hall, which may have extended to the alley leading into the close, in which the tenement, abutting on the larder-house of Antonio Bonvisi, stood; which alley, as before noticed, is likely to have been a continuation of that under the house, No. 6, Great St. Helen's. In this case, the north-east boundary of the supposed court would have been an extension of that line, which, even now, forms the eastern limit of the property.
* Cotele House, Cornwall, is an example of this plan, * Partington, about A. D. 1430 ; Wingfield, A.D. 1440; and Eltham, A. D. 1482, are all examples of this character.
To return; we may notice that there is no appearance of a fourth or southern side to the inner court; it was, most likely, only a wall, separating it from the gardens, which, I am inclined to think, were continued on the west of the western range - this space was unbuilt upon until within the last fifteen or twenty years; and was used, up to that period, as gardens or yards to the houses on that side of the present square, and those in Bishopsgate Street. Another point is, that an old window still remains in a portion of the south wall of the range forming the south of the outer court, looking out upon this spot. Light has also been obtained for the vaults of the south range from this direction; and a cellar yet exists, under the surface, at the back of the house held by Messrs. Barton, in Bishopsgate Street, of a similar description to those in other parts, but unattached, though, no doubt, a portion of the original building.
There is at Crosby Place, a singular variation in the arrangement of the two courts, which, differing from the more general custom are placed, the one a little to the south-east of the other. I do not at the moment recollect a similar example;* but it may be remarked, that our ancestors do not appear to have followed, implicitly, any one given disposition, to the exclusion of what might, under particular circumstances, have been deemed desirable on the score of convenience. We seldom perceive, in their erections, that attention to uniformity, as regards either elevation or plan, which modern Architects consider so necessary; and which is, in our times, too frequently indulged in, to the destruction of that picturesque effect so often observable in the absence of it Instances occur of the adoption of a plan resembling the Roman H,* and, under peculiar limitations, many varieties are discernable-thus far for any deviation from the more usual forms apparent here.
* The nearest, in point of plan, which I can adduce, occurs in an old house, called the "Abbey House," formerly a portion of Lesnes Abbey, near Plumstead, Kent.