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Prince Henry's Room

Prince Henry's Room in Fleet Street is one of the few houses in London which survive today from before the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The room contains the Samuel Pepys exhibition, a collection originally compiled by the trustees of Pepys House at Brampton, Huntingdon, and purchased by the Corporation in 1985.

Prince Henry's Room is at 17 Fleet Street, London EC4.
How to get there / visitor information
About the building
Samuel Pepys exhibition

The room will be closed to the public pending future refurbishment with effect from Friday 28 October 2005. It is envisaged that it will re-open Summer 2006.

Prince Henry's Room exterior History
The history of the site can be traced back to the 12th century when it formed part of the property granted to the Knights Templar, which in 1312 passed to the Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

Fleet Street was probably lined with small buildings at an early date and Hospitallers' records show that at the beginning of the 16th century tenants included the landlord of an inn called The Hand which was on the site of the eastern half of No 17.

The Order of St John was dissolved in 1540. In 1610 the owner of the property decided to rebuild. The new building became a tavern, known for the next thirty years as the Prince's Arms . In 1671 the property was sold to James Sotheby in whose family the freehold remained until it was purchased by the London County Council in 1900.

The house changed its name to the Fountain during the 17th century and from 1795 to 1816 the front part of the house was occupied by a well-known exhibition, Mrs Salmon's Waxworks, while the tavern business continued in the back part of the premises.

Several mythical stories have attached themselves to the site. When the London County Council took over the building, a signboard across the front declared that it was "formerly the palace of Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey" but evidence of the rebuilding in 1610 refutes this claim.

A more persistent story states that the house was built for the Council of the Duchy of Cornwall and that the room on the first floor was set apart for its use after Prince Henry became Prince of Wales in 1610. This would explain the three feathers motif on the facade and why the inn was called The Prince's Arms . However, records clearly show that the house was erected as a tavern and that the name was in use two years before Prince Henry was born.

The building
In 1900 it was discovered that there was a false front on the building incorporating eight carved panels. Behind this was the original 17th century half-timbered front, shorn of its bay windows but entirely preserved by the thick layers of paint which covered the whole front. The facade now appears in its original form.

the East Crypt Inside the building the main feature of interest is the large room on the first floor. Originally panelled in oak, only the portion on the west side of the room now remains. The remaining panelling and the chimney piece are Georgian and of pine.

The great treasure of the house is the ceiling, one of the best remaining Jacobian enriched plaster ceilings in London. In the centre of the design are the Prince of Wales feathers, and the letters PH in a star-shaped border.

There are two stained glass windows in the room - both 20th century. The right-hand window is the 'Royal' window, designed to commemorate the supposed association of the chamber with the Duchy of Cornwall. The other window illustrates the connection of the room with the London County Council, the City of London and the Society of the Inner Temple.

Prince Henry's Room was transferred to the Corporation of London in 1969 from the Greater London Council.

The Samuel Pepys exhibition
Prince Henry's Room stained glass window Samuel Pepys was born not far from Prince Henry's Room, in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, on February 23, 1633. He was baptised in nearby St Bride's Church and went to school at St Paul's, near to the cathedral. For most of his working life he lived in Seething Lane, by Tower Hill. He was Secretary to the Admirality, Master of the Clothworkers Company, a Master of Trinity House, Vice-President and Christ's Hospital and an MP. Pepys' shorthand diary covering just over nine years is the fullest and liveliest account of London life ever written. It contains descriptions of the Plague (1665) and the Great Fire (1666).

Opened in 1975, the exhibition contains contemporary items, prints and paintings depicting the diarist and the London in which he lived.

The exhibition was initiated by Frederick Cleary, a member of the City's Court of Common Council , then Treasurer of the Samuel Pepys Club, and a Trustee of Pepys House. The Samuel Pepys Club was formed in May 1903 with a membership at that time limited to 70, the age of Samuel Pepys when he died.

How to get there

Prince Henry's Room is at 17 Fleet Street, London EC4.

Although it is located in a private office building, the room itself is open to the public, free of charge, Monday - Friday, 11.00am - 2.00pm.

  The nearest tube station is Blackfriars.

For more information tel 020 7936 2710.

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