If you don’t know it’s there you may well walk past it, or you could cast a glance in its direction and think that for some reason the building you are seeing looks out of place. The fact is, it’s not so much out of place as out of time. Take a walk down a small street called Cloth Fair in the area of Farringdon and you will walk past a house straight from the streets of Old London Town. The building that occupies 41-42 Cloth Fair was built somewhere between 1597 and 1614 and it is the only residential building to have survived the devastation of the Great Fire of 1666. The building was spared from the ravages of the flames because it was in past shielded by the large priory walls, though it was the only house out of a street of eleven such buildings to survive. The houses were all situated around a communal courtyard, forming a square which was known locally as the Square in Launder’s Green.
A Lucky Escape
The building itself was almost demolished in 1929 as part of the city authorities review to clean up the city, as it had been left derelict and over the years, abandoned and unoccupied. The main brick and wood structure had started to fail, rendering the building unstable and posing a possible danger to the public. Thankfully someone in authority had enough foresight to realise the value of the building to the nation as a whole and make moves to save the building, so now it is subject to a preservation order and maintained by the Landmark Trust, ensuring that this remarkable piece of history will be around for future generations to enjoy.
A House With Character
There is more to this building that meets the eye, as just as with many old buildings it has developed a character of its own. There are unique, personalised touches within the building such as marks in the stone or brick made by former occupants, and a couple of relatively modern visitors to the house have also made their mark. There are leaded windows in the property that bear the signatures of a number of very distinguished visitors that were made using a diamond tipped pen. Included are the Queen Mother and Sir Winston Churchill.
The care and consideration that has gone into the restoration and preservation of the house has won awards, as the restoration has been true to the original build, and has not been restored to what someone thought ‘appropriate’. It is the original timbers and bricks that make this building a wonderful part of the heritage of the City of London.
Visitors to the house at 41-42 Cloth Fair should note that if they feel slightly unnerved when they approach the building, or get the sense that they are in company it could be down to the spirits that belong to the skeletal remains that are rumoured to be buried within the foundations of the building.