An urban view — 03 April 2018

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past, they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

I must have passed this building a dozen times, and if was not for reading Fiona Rule’s, Oldest House in London I would have continued along Cloth Fair unaware that here was the oldest house in London.

CLOTH FAIR derives its name from an annual fair held in the churchyard of St. Bartholomew the Great, itself the oldest church, by far, in the City, originally as an Augustine Priory in founded in 1123.

Constructed between 1597 and 1614 the late Tudor building of 41-42 Cloth Fair was built on land that became available after the dissolution of the monasteries.

Eleven houses with a courtyard were built on the square in Launder’s Green, so named because it had originally been the site of the priory’s laundry.

The large priory wall had been retained and this would save the small development just over 50-years later as the Great Fire of London consumed almost all of the City, stopping in Giltspur Street only 300 yards away.

The centuries rolled by until 1929 when 41-42 Cloth Fair was earmarked for demolition, part of a slum clearance programme brought about on the grounds of public health.

In a fortuitous turn of events architects, Paul Paget and John Seely restored the property and used it as their home and architectural practice until 1978.

The building having miraculously survived the Blitz, which had destroyed 2,884 building in the City, then withstood two decades as offices becoming rather dilapidated.

Its fortunes changed in 1995 when it was renovated with help from English Heritage, The Royal Commission of Historic Monuments and the City of London Corporation, becoming a family home that it remains to this day.

The ground floor (formerly the Eagle & Child alehouse) hasn’t retained its original purpose, but the first and second floors with rectangular timber bays and leaded glass mullions, topped with pediment crowns are evidence to this building’s historic life. Now Grade II Listed it is a private dwelling once again all be it with skeletons buried under the foundations from the days when the churchyard of St. Bartholomew the Great was adjacent.

Unsurprisingly in 2000 it was honoured with The City of London Heritage Award and can claim to have had among its visitors, John and Charles Wesley, founders of  Methodism, Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

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