Friday, 13 April 2012

Prince Henry’s room – Inner temple gateway (No. 17, Fleet Street)

(1) (2)

The inner temple gateway is one of few medieval buildings surviving on the busy medieval thoroughfare of Fleet Street which linked the city of London to Westminster. Most were lost due to damage during the great fire and subsequent redevelopment. Prince Henry’s room was originally built in 1610 although much of what can be seen heavily restored from the 1905 restoration. It was restored due to the discovery in 1900 that the nineteenth century facade (2) was obscuring the original seventeenth century half-timbered front (1). In picture (2) just above the parapet one can just make out the two roofs which appear to be gables in (1) but look more hipped in (2), most likely restored afterwards. This shows to the extent that a facade was just stuck on the front of the seventeenth century building. The old facade apart from the oriel windows was preserved under thick layers of paint which covered the whole front. The facade was restored to its original form with the reconstruction of the oriel windows giving it its 1610 appearance. The ground floor was altered in the mid eighteenth century including the arch surrounding the gateway. In 1905 during the restoration the whole building was moved back to widen fleet street. 

It was tavern known by the name of the ‘prince’s arms’ after its claim that prince Henry of Wales who was the eldest son of King James I had a room on the 1st floor set aside for him as a council chamber. However, this theory is dispelled as records state that the building was built as a tavern and it used the name two years before the prince was born. 

In 1975 the first floor 'Prince Henry's room' was acquired by the Samuel Pepys club as a museum in which they display memorabilia of his life. Samuel Pepys was born on fleet street and lived in the local area for a number of years. The inside of the building on the first floor has some fascinating Jacobean panelling and plastering, the museum displaying the Samuel Pepys Exhibition conveniently allows one to look inside the interior of the building. The panelling around the room is original seventeen century Jacobean work. The ceiling (which can be glimpsed from the image above ©)  is described as the 'best remaining Jacobean-enriched plaster ceilings in London'. The timer framing is also of note with the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner describing it as 'the best pieces of half-timber work in London'.    

If you want to learn more about Samuel Pepys visit this website:
Other medieval houses 
If you want to learn more about the history of Fleet street and its development why not take a walking tour by visiting:  

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