Walking London: Homerton and Hackney

Sutton House, the oldest house in Hackney. (Se...

Sutton House, the oldest house in Hackney. (September 2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently  we went to Hackney via Homerton. Yes, the East End of London and discovered a real gem of a Tudor House, and Georgian streets (conservation areas it turned out) and old houses rather disguised by not the best of shop-fronts .

It is really amazing to see this building on Homerton Road which, as you approach, is full of modern council flats, schools and so-on including warehouses and other business buildings, and then suddenly, there is a Tudor House facing you. A large (brick) Tudor house!

Sutton House is a National Trust owned Tudor house surviving in the heart of East London. It was built in 1535 by prominent courtier of Henry VIII, Sir Ralph Sadler, Sutton House retains much of the atmosphere of a Tudor home despite some alterations by later occupants, including a succession of merchants, Huguenot silk-weavers, and squatters…!

We didn’t manage to go in as it was actually closed, but noted when it was open, and also noted that at weekends there were markets that we could go to also.

We were actually going to pick up my husband’s bike from a shop which had resprayed it as the factory colour wasn’t to his liking. And as we continued walking down Homerton Road we saw Georgian row houses and cobbled side streets. The remnants of the original village of Homerton obviously.

Coming near to the centre we found a church with a walled garden which was the graveyard originally, as shown below.

The Walled Garden

Plan of Walled Garden

And even though the church seems old, just look at what was next door – a church tower from the original church from the 13th century and originally owned by the Knights Templar – the organisation that was originally set up to nurse soldiers in the Crusades but then seemed to acquire a lot of wealth and power as well as lands, and then fell foul of the Kings and Popes of Europe and was thus disbanded.

Wikipedia has the following details about Homerton:

The hamlet of Homerton (Humberton or Hummerton, named for the farm of a woman named Hunburh) developed for about a half-mile along the road on the north side of the now buried and lost Hackney Brook, within the vale formed by the brook. This led from the hamlet of Clopton, passing near the church of St Augustine at Hackney, then across the marshes and the crossing points of both the River Lea, and its tributary, Hackney Brook.

Homerton became a desirable suburb of London in the Tudor period, with many estates and grand houses being formed from the former Templar lands (Knights Templar of St. John of Jerusalem). The village was divided between Upper and Lower Homerton, with the later extending towards the marshes and the house at Hackney Wick. Upper Homerton was divided from the village of Hackney by the width of the rectory manor’s Church Field, and a path led to the churchyard. In 1538, this estate, including other fields lying along the brook, passed to the Tudor diplomat Sir Ralph Sadler.. This land formed part of his endowment of the Hospital of King James in Charterhouse, who continued to own the property until the 20th century.

Of interest to our American colleagues is the fact that at the Unitarian Gravel Pit Meeting House, the moral and political philosopher Richard Price, known for his support of the American Revolution, became morning preacher in 1770, while continuing his afternoon sermons at Newington Green Unitarian Church, on the green where he lived. Those who attended his sermons in Homerton included American politicians such as John Adams, who later became the second president of the United States, and his wife Abigail

The coming of the railways and the building of the fever hospital drove many of the wealthier residents away. The tightly packed Victorian streets provided homes for the clerks and employees of the new purpose built factories (like Berger Paints) being built in the area. From 1937 onwards, the London County Council built mass housing, sweeping away the worst of the slums, but also eliminating many older buildings containing shops on Homerton High Street, effectively destroying it as a commercial area.

Homerton is close by Hackney (and part of the London Borough of Hackney) as we have said above and Hackney has an even earlier known history as the Roman road, Ermine Street, forms the western edge of the borough. Most of the land was covered with open oak and hazel woodlands, with marshland around the rivers and streams that crossed the area. Hackney lay within the Catuvellauni tribal territory. The eastern boundary of the borough is marked by the River Lea. This was an ancient boundary between pre-Roman tribes, and in the Roman era, was tidal up to Hackney Wick.

Just for interest I took this photo of the outside of an old Irish pub – now semi-derelict but still it should be conserved I think! But why the elephant in the centre of the top panel I can’t say as that was not the pub’s name…

Old Irish Pub

Perhaps the best thing of modern Hackney is the Hackney Empire where many notable acts are performed. We  booked our seats for a great event the premiere of the ‘Songs of Migration’ by Hugh Masekela –South African trumpeter and composer. The show, they said, would be like an extravagant jazz gig with music and song from across Africa. It was a standing ovation for many minutes on its completion and it did fulfil all our expectations and more. But, for us there was a flaw. Much of the dialogue and the songs were in various languages and very few were in English. As a result we had to guess much of the action. We would really have appreciated a crib sheet with the main ideas of each song so that we could follow the story better. That said, we did enjoy the music and were not the only ones judging from the following review: http://msethnicminorityuk.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/songs-of-migration-at-hackney-empire.html. If you get a chance to go to see this show – do!

1 thought on “Walking London: Homerton and Hackney

  1. Pingback: London and Living – even the Tudors liked it! « tiggerrenewing

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