What Is Prince Henry's Room?

What Is Prince Henry's Room?
Photo: Matt Brown

Among the journalistic history and law court grandeur of the western end of Fleet Street, one sign sticks out from the rest; Prince Henry's Room. It's a name that raises curiosity akin to that of the King's Wardrobe.

The sign can be see on the side of the beautiful 17 Fleet Street, a building which acts as a pedestrian gateway into Inner Temple, but the room it refers to is upstairs on the first floor.

There's been a building on the site since the 12th century when it belonged to the Knights Templar, and there's been a tavern on the site since 1540. It was rebuilt in 1610, still functioning as a tavern, and was apparently given the name The Prince's Arms to coincide with James I's son Prince Henry being given the title Prince of Wales that same year.

The badge of the Prince of Wales

It's sometimes claimed that the Prince made use of the room as a council chamber, citing the feathered crest that is carved into the outside of the building. Others claim that the prince himself never had anything to do with the building personally. It's worth noting that he died just two years later, so any association he did have with the tavern was short-lived.

By 1661, it was known as the Fountain Inn, mentioned in the diaries of Samuel Pepys as such.

It's one of the buildings that survived the Great Fire of London, and today it's owned by the City of London, and is Grade II* listed.

Despite the prominent sign on Fleet Street, it's all a big tease; Prince Henry's Room is not open to the public any more — although in the past, it acted as a museum, housing an exhibition about Samuel Pepys. Those who have been inside describe it as having oak panelling and a Jacobean plaster ceiling — that feathered crest can also be seen within the ceiling.

You'll have to make do with admiring that beautiful façade from the outside. It's the original, 17th century façade, rediscovered buried under layers of paint in 1900. Medieval London has a photo of what the building looked like before this restoration.

Last Updated 05 October 2017