How To Spend The Night In The King's Wardrobe

M@
By M@ Last edited 11 months ago
How To Spend The Night In The King's Wardrobe

If you've ever explored the network of alleys and narrow streets between Blackfriars and St Paul's, you might have stumbled across Narnian references to a wardrobe. The church of St Andrew by the Wardrobe is the most obvious, along with neighbouring Wardrobe Terrace. Just north of these you'll find Wardrobe Place, a compact courtyard.

The curious name dates back to the medieval period, when the royal Wardrobe moved from the Tower to this area in 1381. Rather than an item of mahogany bedroom furniture, the Wardrobe was more like a department of the royal household, charged with overseeing the King's robes, armour and garments. It also served as a treasure store. As attested by a plaque in Wardrobe Place, however, the whole facility burned down in the Great Fire of London. In the 18th and 19th century, the enclave formed part of Doctors' Commons, a sort of additional 'inn of court' for lawyer types. It was still considered part of the Commons into the 20th century. Newspaper adverts of this time enquiring "Do You Suffer From Wind" implore flatulent Londoners to pay a visit to Dr CK Cameron, of Number 1 Wardrobe Place.

Today, Wardrobe Place is a tranquil, little visited spot that doesn't smell remotely of farts. It is a courtyard to nowhere, surrounded by terraces of various antiquity and canopied by a semi-mature plane tree. There are several reasons why you might visit. Architecture fans will admire the Georgian terrace on the western side of the court, among the oldest surviving buildings in the City, and erected not long after the Great Fire. Meanwhile, those seeking accommodation in the Square Mile will find serviced apartments.

The court holds a further secret, off limits to casual visitors. One of the Georgian buildings, number 2, contains a pair of 17th century wall paintings applied straight onto the chimney breasts. These were only discovered in the 1980s, and were recently boarded up, awaiting conservation. Such art is extremely rare outside of grand country mansions, and probably unique in the Square Mile.

Peruse these photos to learn more of the courtyard's secrets. With thanks to BridgeStreet Global Hospitality for the tour.

Wardrobe Place.
Wardrobe Place.
dsc_00062.jpg
Number 2 Wardrobe Place.
Number 2 Wardrobe Place.
The basement of number 2 contains a strong room with iron bars and a sturdy door. It's purpose is unknown.
The basement of number 2 contains a strong room with iron bars and a sturdy door. It's purpose is unknown.
Number 2 Wardrobe Place contains a pair of rooms whose chimney breasts have been covered up. Behind lie 17th century frescos awaiting preservation.
Number 2 Wardrobe Place contains a pair of rooms whose chimney breasts have been covered up. Behind lie 17th century frescos awaiting preservation.
A ghost sign at the far end of Wardrobe Place.
A ghost sign at the far end of Wardrobe Place.
dsc_0029.jpg
St Andrew by the Wardrobe, as glimpsed from the Wardrobe Place serviced apartments.
St Andrew by the Wardrobe, as glimpsed from the Wardrobe Place serviced apartments.
Looking down on Wardrobe Place.
Looking down on Wardrobe Place.
Inside one of the serviced apartments.
Inside one of the serviced apartments.

Last Updated 01 November 2016

MC

Lovely - I used to attend St Andrews by the Wardrobe for their Indian Christian services on occasion.

Slight correction - Doctors' Commons has nothing to do with medical doctors. The Doctors are Doctors of Law - this was an inn of court for the (now defunct) advocates and proctors who were the equivalent of barristers and solicitors but in civil (not common) law courts. They dissolved once the distinction between common and civil law courts collapsed.

I first heard the word in David Copperfield (David is a Proctor and the Doctors' Commons are described in a poor light) and looked into it!

Peter Twist

It's worth seeking out this curious hidden corner of the City of London and then exploring the secret alleyways and courtyards all around. Thank you to M@ and Londonist for bringing it to our attention.