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 alterations in the interior of this once splendid hall, occasioned by the different uses to which it has been in more modern times applied, leaves much to be inferred as to its probable appearance in early times. Its ancient roof and lateral enclosures are the most perfect portions. Its northern and southern extremities have disappeared, and its height is now intersected by two modern floors; while the present entrance is by means of an opening, made about nineteen feet above the original level of the floor; cutting away the lower part of one of the side windows* against the oriel. It is to be regretted that circumstances should have arisen to render this desecration (if the term may be used) of the building necessary to the convenience of its later occupiers. When divested of these encroachments upon its distribution, the effect of its purity and correctness of proportion (which can now only be appreciated or viewed, and then not with the exactitude required, through the medium of a drawing) can hardly have been excelled. *ąThe rich flowing line of its arched roof, and the care with which every necessary horizontal one has been broken and diversified to keep the aspiring character of the style, cannot be sufficiently commended; while, by the student in architecture, its principles and component parts cannot be too. often studied, not only as an instance of a peculiar variation from the more general roofs of its age, but as a specimen on account of such variation, more applicable to modern uses, and more in accordance with modern ideas; the reconcilement of which with ancient peculiarities so often puzzles the modern Architect when adopting this style. The variation here more particularly alluded to, is the union of the earlier forms with an attempt to obtain the comfort of the flat ceiling, which was generally used in rooms of smaller dimensions. The length of the roof, as it now appears, shows the original extent of the hall, which was 54 feet long by 27 feet wide, and 40 feet high, to the point of the highest arch. At its southern end was a screen rising the whole height of the room, similar corbels to those between the lateral windows being repeated at the same level between corresponding arched openings, and receiving the drop-lines of the smaller pendants of the roof. Behind this screen was the passage from which, as before noticed, the hall was entered, above which was, in most halls of the period, the Minstrel's Gallery, though in many instances this space was enclosed entirely from the hall, and appropriated as a chamber. To which of these uses the space here was applied, or whether the two were occasionally combined, as was often the case, it is now no longer possible to decide; the breadth between where it is evident the screen was situated, and where the south end of the hall abutted on the buildings of the inner court, is barely 12 feel, hardly sufficient for a room or chamber; while the double window noticed in the description of the exterior, bearing the same character as the other windows, would almost lead to the opinion of the existence of some opening through which it could be seen from the hall,* which is only likely to hare been the case under the idea of this space having been used for the former purpose. At the opposite or north end of the hall was also a wall, which, to-gether with its decorations, and all trace of the method adopted to finish the roof against it, has long disappeared; a portion of its foundation in the vault beneath only remaining. The extreme length of the roof, as before stated, is 54 feet, divided into eight spaces or bays by elliptical arches, which spring from a cornice above the side windows, the springing-lines being continued down to corbels placed at the level of the rise of the window heads. From these main arches smaller or intermediate ones drop upon spherical octangular pendants, which also receive similar arches, ornamenting three longitudinal main ribs, that separate the roof transversely into four principal divisions, disposed, by the intersection of smaller longitudinal and cross ribs, into four square spaces each, which are filled in with narrow styles and panels crosswise to the length of the hall. The mouldings of the main ribs consist of two beads and a large hollow, and two smaller hollows and fillets. Those of the smaller ribs are similar, with the exception of the lower hollow, which is omitted, and a bead substituted, the extremity being a cluster of three beads. All the hollows are studded with pateras and knots of foliage, and all the intersections and angles are enriched in the same manner. The whole of the hanging arches have their spandrils pierced with trefoil-headed tracery, and the pendants upon which they rest have, in their several faces, similarly pierced niches. It is singular, that in the middle bay of the ceiling, notwithstanding the existence of a fireplace below, are indications of a louvre, a feature observable more generally in the earlier and larger halls, when the custom was to warm the apartment by a fire, placed against the "Rere-dosse," in the middle of the floor, the smoke from which escaped through the louvre opening, for which purpose it was first introduced. Fire-places occur, comparatively early, in halls of less size. That of Cotele House, Cornwall, has one; and there are other examples. The introduction of the two in Crosby Hall it is difficult to account for. A louvre used for its original purpose is, I think* very questionable. There is no appearance of a hearth in the paving, which retains its original arrangement- nor does the ancient roof-framing now show any provision for it. Mr. Carlos * holds to the opinion, that it was a feature in the ancient edifice, and says, "that its aperture is now closed by the same piece of wood-work which originally formed its roof." In this case the erection of a turret on the roof, by Alderman Bond, may possibly refer to some repair of the louvre, which had become decayed at the time he purchased. Its present appearance may, perhaps, be referred to Sir John Spencer. The fire-place is situated at the north end of the hall, and was formerly included in the space for the high table: it exactly resembles that in the great Dining-parlour, and is recessed 3 feet 7 inches, consequently must have had an external projection, the wall in which it is placed being 3 feet 1 inch. The opening is 7 feet 8 inches by 5 feet 6 inches, to the point of the arch the mouldings increasing its exterior dimensions to J 0 feet 6 inches by 6 feet 10 inches.
* These windows, as well as those of the oriel, were formerly splendidly enriched with " roiall glasse," of which not a vestige now remains.
* It may be conjectured that the floor of the counting-house, formed at the south-end of the modern middle floor, is the original one of the Minstrel's Gallery, and shows the ancient division at this point; it is 18 inches above the more modern one, and about 14 feet from the ancient level of the hall. The manner in which the timbers are placed is evidently very ancient.