Reblogged from A Medieval potpourri


Thomas Cromwell c.1532.  Minature attibuted to  Hans Holbein the Younger. Oil on panel. Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Following on from my earlier post on Perkin Warbeck and his burial at Austin Friars where I touched upon Thomas Cromwell’s house in the Austin Friars precinct I was happy to come across this excellent article covering the in-depth history of that house by Dr Nick Holder at the University of Exeter.

I won’t attempt to  go into the somewhat complex history of Cromwell in this post as it can be found well covered elsewhere.  Suffice it to say that Cromwell was yet another man of wealth and great power once held in high esteem by Henry VIII,  only to fall out of favour, destroyed and his sumptuous property passed on to the crown.

The Augustinian friary owned 10 tenements in or around the south west corner of their precinct.  Three of these tenements were built around 1510 by Prior Edmund Bellard and a draper,  William Calley.  The idea was to generate rental income for the friary and for Calley, who contributed £40, to receive commemorative masses after his death.  A win win situation for both.  Cromwell begun renting one of these tenements around 1523 and it is known he sent a letter to his wife Elizabeth there in 1525.    In the diagram below you can see the three tenements marked 1, 2 and 3 with number 3 being the Cromwell residence marked with a red circle.


So far so good.  The rent for this nearly new built house was about £4 per annum.  It was built to high specifications with the luxury of fireplaces in nearly every room, a kitchen and buttery wing with a separate larder,  (and perhaps a cellar below) yards with a privy and woodshed …… well lit with large windows with stone and brick mullions’.  Furthermore  the house had 14 rooms arranged over three stories with in addition at least one cellar and some garret rooms in the roof.   The house was arranged in three wings with the main wing and the kitchen wing separated by a narrow entrance hall and a hall set further back behind the main yard. The ground floor parlour was an impressive room carpeted with a long table and a screen.


Thomas Cromwell’s first house in Austin Friars based upon a 17th century survey. This was the house Cromwell lived in with his wife Elizabeth, daughters Anne and Grace and son Gregory.

So far still good.  In 1532 his status had risen rapidly and with it obviously his wealth.   He had plan, big plans and  begun to ‘expand’ his ownership of further properties on the precinct obtaining a 99 year lease in June of that year for the property he was renting eventually purchasing it from the friary for £200 in 1534.   He also  begun to consolidate and enlarge his portfolio, purchasing another property called The Swanne that fronted onto Throgmorton Street that had also been owned by the friary but lay just outside the precinct.  Further plots were duly purchased that added to the street frontage.

To continue reading click here.

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