Come with me to discover Hackney’s oldest home, Sutton House. We’ll meet Tudor grandees, Victorian school teachers, Union leaders and squatters. Afterwards we’ll take tea in a Breakers Yard.
Who Built Sutton House?
Hackney: beloved by urban hipsters now, but back in Tudor times it was a delightful village favoured by the well-connected for their country retreats. Sir Ralph Sadleir was one of those men. Fans of Wolf Hall will know him better as Rafe Sadler, secretary to Thomas Cromwell. Ralph, Rafe, call him what you will, built a large house known as Bryk Place.
Who else lived here?
The story of Sutton House mirrors the history of Hackney. After Ralph came a succession of captains, merchants and Hugenots. Then around the turn of the 18th century Hackney became a popular place for the smaller type of boarding school, which is what Sutton House became. At one point a church institute took up residence and then the National Trust bought the house in 1938. Transformation into a restored and polished house took time. First of all it was let out , most notably to the ASTMS Union under the leadership of Clive Jenkins. After the Union left, squatters moved in until the National Trust decided to restore the house to its former glory.
What will I find at Sutton House?
Linenfold paneling oozes expense. Wood is carved to resemble the folds of linen. Sutton House has a room lined with stuff. Only two other buildings in the London area have linenfold paneling dating back to the sixteenth century, the others are Westminster Abbey and Hampton Court. Rafe was obviously doing alright for himself. It is easy to imagine Rafe and Cromwell chatting to each other in this room.
Elsewhere you will find a genteel Georgian sitting room, a Tudor Kitchen, a tiny church in the cellar and, of course, a Tudor Kitchen. So far, so National Trust. What I have never seen in any other National Trust property is a squatters bedroom. Dating from the same era as when I was a student it looks very much like several student bedrooms of my acquaintance, with a bed on the floor and LP’s scattered over the place.
Tell me about the Breakers Yard!
Outside in the garden where you would usually find well manicured flower beds at National Trust property, here you find a triple decker caravan. At some point the garden became home to a car breaking yard. This heritage is remembers with tyre sandpits, a bus greenhouse and the afore mentioned caravan. It is a fantastic place to let children play and free to enter.
Visiting Sutton House
- 2 -4 Homerton High Street, E9 6JQ
- Open: Weekends 12noon – 5pm
- Tours: Wednesday – Friday: 3pm Pre-booking essential.
- Admission: £8 or £10 for a tour.
- National Trust members go free (but must pay £2 for a tour)
- Getting there: Hackney Overground is a short walk, lots of buses head to Hackney, my favourite is the 38
In the countryside the National Trust is synonymous with grand houses, in London it has some quirkiest places to visit. Take a look at 575 Wandsworth Road, fully festooned with fine fretwork and a National Trust property.
London has a wealth of historic houses to visit, check out my post all about them for inspiration.