6. Leicester's Building
Robert Dudley spared no expense in creating private apartments to impress the queen, taking advantage of more readily available glass to pioneer the use of large windows to create bright interiors. The result was Leicester’s Building - an acclaimed example of Elizabethan architecture, and a style that was widely copied all over England.
The top floor and the South West extension were late additions. The extension may have been required to act as a stabilising buttress to the rapidly constructed main building. In any case, it provided a second and more exclusive private staircase for the queen, although it was originally assumed to be for dressing rooms or closets.
The difficulty in interpreting these remains is illustrated by the historian Edward Hadarezer Knowles who, in his 1872 hand-book for visitors, describes a top row of windows as ‘lighting a secret room, very low and without fireplace or doors’. In fact, this is a void space created by a false ceiling to preserve consistent room heights, while externally the row of windows continues the aesthetic lines of the adjacent buildings. For the same aesthetic purposes, the impression of windows was continued in stone walls even where a window opening was not possible. Examples of these ‘blind windows’ are evident on the end wall of the private staircase, and the turrets of Leicester’s Gatehouse.
Leicester’s Building and Gatehouse share other common architectural features, for example, the upper string courses are covered by lead flashing, but the ground level moulded plinths, which would receive the most rain water, have no such protection. The downpipes for Leicester’s Building even discharge above these mouldings.