diamond geezer

 Monday, February 20, 2023

Official name: Sutton House and Breaker's Yard
Location: Homerton High Street, Hackney E9 6JQ [map]
n.b. not in Sutton
Open: 11-3pm Wed, Fri; 11-4.30pm Sun
Tours: 11am & 2pm Wed, Fri; 1pm & 3.30pm Sun
Admission: £8.50
Website: nationaltrust.org.uk/london/sutton-house-and-breakers-yard
Socials: [Facebook] [Twitter] [Instagram]
Four word summary: East London's oldest home
Time to allow: no more than an hour

Some of us are lucky enough to have a National Trust property within walking distance, perhaps in the most unlikely part of town. But Hackney wasn't always edgy and urban, in Tudor times it was a sweet country village just close enough to London for courtiers and the well-to-do to make it their home. One such aristo was Ralph Sadleir, a knight in the court of Henry VIII, who built a three storey brick house in meadows by the Hackney Brook. The river's gone, traffic clogs the bend in the road out front and a massive late-Blair academy looms opposite. But the mini-manor is somehow still there, now five centuries adrift, and opens three days a week for interior scrutiny.

You no longer enter Sutton House through the front door, which just shows how long it's been since I last went. Instead you enter through the yard up the side, of which more later, supposedly attracted by a chalkboard on the terrace. I tried the unsigned door on the rear porch which appeared to be locked, so was about to give up and leave when a volunteer emerged and told me I'd been turning the handle the wrong way. I mention this in case you too are unduly discouraged, and also in case someone at the NT is reading in which case your exterior wayfinding isn't as good as you think it is.

Visitors can either roam round independently or go on a tour, which isn't as strict as the arrangements on page 197 of this year's National Trust Handbook would have you believe. I suspect the pre-booked tours are the better experience because the guides have many layers of history to explain, but I opted for the solo wander.

There are two 'blimey' rooms, one downstairs and one up (although that's blimey on a Hackney scale, this is hardly Hampton Court). The downstairs blinder is the Linenfold Parlour, a fully-wood-panelled room with a roarable stone hearth. All the timber panels have been rippled to resemble hanging cloth, which in those days was a proper luxury statement, and some can be removed enabling you to see the painted version underneath. Elsewhere on the ground floor is a Tudor kitchen which smells like every other National Trust kitchen - a fake tang of musty spice - and a cosier Georgian Parlour. A number of the rooms here represent just one period in the house's complex history so walking around is a bit like time travel.

The upstairs blimey is the Great Chamber, another woody-walled blinder. The panels here are original even if the furniture isn't, with the light switches and the war memorial falling in the latter category. That's because for 40 years the building was used by St John's church as somewhere they called The Institute... and in its time it's also been a spinster's hideaway, a solicitors, a boarding school and two separate houses. The room nextdoor is naturally the Little Chamber and boasts the house's most Instagrammable panel/hearth combo, again amazingly mid 16th century.

The anachronism in the Victorian Study is a garderobe with possibly the house's most dubious claim, that Henry VIII maybe used the toilet here. It would have to have been during his less portly phase else he'd never have squeezed in. Elsewhere is a larger Gallery, an odd airy space whose original function still isn't understood. At present they're making a big fuss of a few scraps of restored wallpaper, which at first glance looked faded, floral and distinctly unimpressive but were actually painstaking restored by a conservator over several weeks last summer, such is the Trust's devotion to minutiae.

You can also explore further down and further up. The cellar is usually on-limits and so is a basement chapel where parishioners from St-John-at-Hackney sometimes worshipped. The attic is more of a surprise, kitted out as a Squatters bedroom to reflect the period in the 1980s when the National Trust took their eye off the ball and a group of agitators moved in. As well as graffiti and a scrappy bed on pallets, the joy is eyeballing such period props as a one-bar electric fire, a ghetto blaster and a pair of chunky headphones with a DIN plug. Without their plucky local campaign Sutton House could all too easily have become luxury flats.

There is a central courtyard with fabulous brickwork. There is a tearoom although I think it was closed, either that or terribly badly advertised. There is a Wenlock Barn, which I think is where events happens and weddings are celebrated. And there is a slave trade backstory, because that would be hard to avoid when one of the house's owners was a 17th century silk merchant working for the East India Company. The National Trust addresses the issue via a fabric artwork by the fireplace and an 8-page colour booklet you can pick up on the adjacent table. This is packed with background detail and reassuringly non-judgmental, because you can't just rip out the trompe l'oeil staircase if you don't like how it was paid for.

Which brings us back to Breakers Yard, the chief way in and out, which was part of the original Tudor garden and more recently a scrapyard. Last year it was reimagined as a Jarmanesque garden, admittedly with smaller pebbles than Dungeness but with a greater number of upcycled vans. One of the key influences here is the concept of Queer Botany, "an ecocritical project that studies and affirms connections between queerness and nature", hence the beds include sapphic violets, sea pinks, asters ("arguably queer and non-binary") and the inevitable lavender. The concept's either inspired or sheer bolx, but at least it makes for a pleasant place to linger (and anyone can get this far without paying).

Sutton House has just reopened after its winter break and is an excellent reminder that sometimes the extraordinary hides in plain sight. If you're lucky enough to have a local National Trust property it deserves a second look, or maybe even a first.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24  May24  Jun24  Jul24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
London's waymarked walks
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Jul24  Jun24  May24
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards