The four-story Nonsuch House on London Bridge, completed in 1579, is the earliest documented prefabricated building. It was originally constructed in the Netherlands, taken apart and shipped to London in pieces in 1578, where it was reassembled. Each timber was marked so that it could be reconstructed correctly. It was reassembled in the manner later typical of that of an American barn or prefab housing. The name Nonsuch may have referred to Henry VIII's now vanished Nonsuch Palace outside London; it meant there was "none such" anywhere else — that it was an unequalled paragon of its kind.
Nonsuch House was reconstructed on the bridge using joiners' techniques alone, without any carpenter's nails, mason's mortar, or smith's iron. Only wooden pegs were used in the construction. Its archway straddled the bridge. The house was in the centre of the bridge with its principal front facing towards the Southwark end, the principal approach to the city of London from the south. Occupying the place of an entrance to the city, it was elaborately carved with ornate decorations on its east and west Dutch stepped gables, which protruded beyond the sides of the bridge. The house was about twenty-seven feet wide with a floor space in the middle of twenty usable feet.
Nonsuch House had two fronts to the River Thames with large columns, windows, and outside carvings. The square towers at each of its four corners were crowned with onion domes. The gilded vanes on top of these domes could be seen from all parts of the city, as they stood clear above the surrounding structures of the bridge. The house had two sundials on top on the south side. On one of them was painted the adage: Time and tide stay for no man.
London Bridge, like many large medieval bridges, bore houses and shops along both sides of its length. London Bridge was a great attraction for London, and the Nonsuch House was a notable feature from the sixteenth century until it was torn down in the eighteenth century. Nonsuch House was partially attached to many of the other smaller wooden buildings adjacent on the bridge. The southern front was not connected to any other buildings and it was open for about fifty-six feet in front. The front was ornamented with many transom casement windows.
- Anzovin, Steven (2000). Famous First Facts. H. W. Wilson Company. p. 14 item 1191. ISBN 0-8242-0958-3. "The first prefabricated building is considered to be Nonsuch House."
- Picard, Liza (2004). Elizabeth's London. Macmillan. pp. 44–47. ISBN 0-312-32565-7.
- Knight, Charles (1851). London. H. G. Bohn. p. 81.
- "Nonsuch House". Retrieved 2008-09-12.