Lost Greenwich (4) Crowley House
Apologies for the terrible quality of the pics in this post. My already battered copy of Hasted is a) too big and b) too poorly to go in the scanner, so I had to take photos instead…
IanVisits had a piece yesterday on a commemoration of the Nine Regicides – the guys who, on the Restoration, suddenly found themselves on the wrong side, and were forced to regret their involvement with the King’s death in the most painful way possible – hanging, drawing and quartering. Funnily enough I was reading about Our Very Own Greenwich Regicide only a couple of days ago, so it seems sort of appropriate to write about him today.
So – Crowley House – another of Greenwich’s fabulous (and lost) grand houses. This one sat pretty much where the power station is now, and, fond as I am of the power station, I mourn that this wonderful old mansion is gone. Not that it was actually demolished for the power station; I am at a loss to know exactly why it was pulled down in 1854 other that it apparently wasn’t considered worth the sum of its parts. Sadly it never seems to have been much loved, being passed around like the proverbial hot potato from the very start.
If you’d like an idea of what this sumptuous 17th Century pile looked like, there’s a painting in the maritime museum’s collection - it certainly seems to have been quite a singular sort of building – an odd cross between Jacobean splendour, seaside kitsch and Strawberry Hill goth. Just behind it you can see the turrent of Trinity Alsmhouses, and, on the walkway Greenwich Pensioners take a stroll.
The building was begun by a City merchant, Andrew Cogan, in 1647, and he managed to finish the carcass and some of the ceilings. Unfortunately he happened to be an ardent Royalist, so he wasn’t on the popular list during the Cromwell years. He’d already spent £2837 on the house and The Kings Head on the dock (not to be confused with the Kings Arms in King William Walk) but by 1651 he scarpered off to Holland, leaving his daughters to try to get the house and the pub put back in their name. No such luck.
MP Gregory Clement was Parliamentarian, and given a reduced rent of £15 if he promised to spend some cash on the place, but it appears that all he did was pinch stuff from Greenwich Palace. A couple of palace stoves, the arms of Henry VIII and ‘a representation of Our Savious at the Well’ that he’d swiped were found just before the house was demolished. BTW I don’t think the ‘arms’ is the same as the one on the vicarage in Park Vista as that one dates back to Henry VII.
And yes, Clement is Greenwich’s Very Own Regicide. Whatever the story that he was expelled from Parliament for misconduct with a female servant at Greenwich, men didn’t get executed for a bit of saucy behaviour even in the 17th century (or Sam Pepys’s diary would have been very dull.) As soon as the second Charles was restored to the throne, Clement tried to hide but was captured anyway. Found guilty, he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Charing Cross on 17 October 1660 – the anniversary that the Roundhead Association is commemorating on Sunday.
But back to Greenwich and Crowley’s house. It was rather fabulous by all accounts. Hasted tells us that it formed a parallellogram, including a central court, with pillasters supported above the basement by carved head consoles and paved with Spanish tiles. The entrance hall was paved with black and white marble, which reminds me of the Queen’s House, and in the ceiling of the morning room was a laurel leaf – a little reminder of its first owner – part of Andrew Cogan’s family crest.
The staircase was especially fine- lots of ballustrading and carved foliage, all lit from a central lantern in a cupola. Here’s a rubbish picture of it:
The house changed hands several times, including a George Bowerman, who supplied ballast for the King’s ships out of the pits at Maze Hill, until Sir Ambrose Crowley, ‘the great ironmaster of Newcastle’ bought it and made some big additions to the place. Crowley was such a big cheese that he was allowed to pay his giant workforce of anchor makers (ever wondered what that giant anchor outside the Cutty Sark pub is for…?) in his own personal coinage. He died worth £300,000.
The house, though, wasn’t so happily situated. It eventually passed into the hands of the Millington Family who had it for just under fifty years, then demolished it and sold the materials off. I don’t know why. In 1861 Greenwich Hospital bought it and passed it on to Trinity Hospital next door. Even they didn’t keep it long; it became Greenwich Power Station in 1902.
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