Above: Coldharbour seen on the panorama by Visscher 1616. It is clear that it was a very large mansion.
“Upper Thames Street”
Coldharbour was a medieval mansion that stood on the north bank of the River Thames just east of the site of the present Cannon Street Station. Part of its site is now occupied by Watermark House. The name of the ancient houses was also spelt ‘Cold Harbour’. The building was situated between Upper Thames Street (then a narrow riverside lane) and the Thames. It was one of several noblemen’s mansions standing along the street.
The house was first mentioned in the reign of Edward II, then belonging to the knight Sir John Abel. In 1334 it was bought by the merchant draper Sir John de Pulteney, who was four times Lord Mayor of London during the 1330s. He owned it until 1348 and it became known as Poultney’s Inn (the surname is spelt variously as Pultney, Poultney and Pountney). In 1348 John Pultney let Coldharbour to Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, for one rose at Midsummer to be given to him and his heirs for all services. At the end of the fourteenth century, it belonged to John Holland, second Duke of Exeter, a half-brother of King Richard II, whom he entertained in the house.
In 1410, King Henry IV granted it to his son, the future King Henry V. Richard III gave Coldharbour to the College of Arms, of which he was patron, for storing records and to provide living space. Henry VII took the possession of the building away from the College and gave it to his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. The house later became the property of the Earls of Shrewsbury, and its name was changed to Shrewsbury House.
In 1536 Tunstall, Bishop of Durham, was turned out of his official house in the Strand, by Henry VIII, and the Bishop was given instead part of the Manor of Coldharbour. In 1593 the large private house was taken down and tenements were built on the site. Coldharbour was a privileged place and not subject to the jurisdiction of the City.
During the 17th century it had an evil reputation as the resort of low characters and was known as the ‘Devil’s Sanctuary’. It was made over to the City Corporation in 1609. Coldharbour was destroyed by the Great Fire of London on Sunday 2 September 1666. A later building of the same name, constructed on the same site, was used as the Hall of the Watermen’s Company until 1778.
The word ‘Coldharbour’ is also the name of a road in Camberwell as well as being the name of a short street on the east side of the Isle of Dogs. None of these names are thought to be related to each other.
Quite why the building in Upper Thames Street was called Coldharbour is not known. According to Blanch – a well known Victorian historian of Camberwell – the name “Coldharbour is taken to have originally signified a place of entertainment for travellers and drovers, who only required rest and fodder for their horses and cattle, as distinguished from the warm lodging and provisions of an inn.”
Above: Agas Map c1561 also showing Coldharbour and a sailing ship moored nearby.
Ship (Timber barge)
The ship moored at a wharf just west of Coldharbour is a timber barge, with timber, lying horizontally, in the barge. It is the only vessel shown moored at the riverside on the whole of the Agas map.
Above: Plaque to the Watermens’ Hall, set into the riverside walkway.
Watermen and Lightermen’s Hall
The earliest Act of Parliament for regulating watermen, wherry-men and bargemen received Royal Assent from King Henry VIII in 1514.
The original Watermen’s Hall was in a building called Coldharbour. The building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The Watermen rebuilt Coldharbour in 1677 and used it as their hall. It was rebuilt again in 1719. The company moved in 1778 from Upper Thames Street to the site that still they still occupy in St Mary at Hill (Street).
A plaque on the walkway in front of Watermark House was unveiled in November 2014, placed there to record the original site of their hall as part of the Watermen’s celebrations in their 500th year (1514-2014) of existence.
Above: Looking west at Watermark Place with Cannon Street Station in the background.
The new development by Fletcher Priest Architects Ltd was completed in 2010. The 12-storey office block provides 538,000 square feet (50,000 square m) of flexible office space. The basement used part of the old foundations of Mondial House on whose site it was erected.
The building, in glass, steel and timber, stands beside the Thames on the east side of Cannon Street Station. It was designed to offer an historic link between the maritime trading past of the Thames and the modern buildings of today’s City of London. It is likely that the architect was shown the Agas map, with the timber barge moored at this same point on the Thames, because the offices have large timbers on the exterior and further large timbers set onto the walkway to act as seating.