The house of Sir Paul Pindar in Bishopsgate Street Without was built in 1599–1600. It was a jettied timber-frame building, with an impressive street façade of three and a half storeys. The term 'jettied' means that each storey projects over the one beneath, a feature that was common in English timber houses from 1300. The house was much deeper than it was wide, with the main part to the rear.
We do not know how the whole house was arranged, but it is likely that there was a shop or warehouse on the ground floor. When the façade was saved from demolition in 1890, the ground-floor section, by then part of The Sir Paul Pindar public house, was not preserved.
Above the upper window were chimneys and roof gables, probably with smaller rooms for servants. Behind the main part of the house were gardens and outbuildings, including a garden lodge several storeys high.
Windows and glazing
The façade is dominated by the full-height windows. These include semi-circular or 'carell' windows which had been used in royal and aristocratic buildings since the 1530s and were still very fashionable by the time this house was built in the 1590s. By this date large glazed windows were common in English cities and Pindar would have had a choice of glass for his windows: imported clear glass or English glass, which was greenish in colour.
Pindar followed the standard London practice of using a pre-assembled timber frame, which was quicker and cheaper than stone or brick. The oak timbers of the façade were cut to size and assembled in the carpenters's yard. They were then carefully marked and disassembled for transport to the building site (some of these marks are still visible, scratched into the timber surface). The timbers were then joined using mortise and tenon joints. Some of the original wooden pegs that secured these joints can still be seen on the window frames.
The decorative panels are made from solid plain-sawn knotty English oak boards about 7.5 cm thick. They were carved and then nailed into the oak framework. In some places the nails have been pulled and bent by the natural shrinkage of the panels.
The façade is covered with elaborate carved decoration, particularly on the main vertical posts on each storey, which include grotesque brackets that appear to support the jettied floor, and on the panels between them.
Large panels with Renaissance strapwork and masks were a new fashion in Elizabethan London houses. The designs were probably copied from workshop pattern books based on prints imported from the Netherlands. The central panel on the first floor is carved with the coat of arms of the Ciy of London, and the central panel on the second floor is carved with a thistle. This was probably a badge of loyalty to the new king, James I (reigned 1603–25), who was also James VI of Scotland. This suggests that this part of the façadewas not completed until after James's succession in 1603.
Behind the projecting first-floor window was a large reception room with fine moulded plaster ceilings, an elaborate chimneypiece and oak panelling. The caption to an 1810 engraving of the room describes it as follows:
'East view of a room of the first floor of Sir Paul Pindar’s Bishopsgate Street. Internal specimen of the decorated style in the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth 1600.
The chimneypiece from the floor to the upper part of the tablets of hunting the stag is of stone the upper part, the ceiling and the cornice are of plaster, all the rest are of wood.'
By Nick Humphrey, 2009
The V&A would like to thank the Guildhall Library for permission to use images.