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Hackney's Oldest Home


Original Tudor Rooms
Guided Tours
Events and Activities
A busy corner street in Hackney, just like dozens of others, is not where you'd normally expect to find a National Trust property. Nevertheless, that's exactly where Sutton House stands. It's the oldest residential building in the borough, and one of the most complete Tudor homes left in the capital.
It was built in 1535 by Henry VIII, for a loyal courtier of his. Since then the house has seen all sorts of people come and go; merchants, sea captains and silk-weavers all called it home. Later on came the Victorian schoolmistresses and Edwardian priests. In World War II the building acted as a fire warden centre. Watchers would keep a vigil on the roof, looking out across London for the first signs of a blaze.
For a time in the 80s, Sutton House was taken over by squatters, who turned the place into an unlikely performance venue. It was called Blue House, and it hosted countless concerts and parties. The group were eventually evicted, but the memory of their presence wasn't eradicated completely. The National Trust left a decorated, art-filled wall untouched. Its striking murals help preserve this peculiar time in the building's history.
Thanks to a bit of Georgian building work, the front of Sutton House looks newer than it actually is. Inside, however, things have barely changed. The original Tudor wooden panelling still runs from floor to ceiling, and the stone fireplaces still bear their intricate carvings. There's a 16th century kitchen, with objects to touch and smell. It gives a sense of how a real Tudor family would have lived their lives.

The Linenfold Parlour
Photo avail
A small exhibition in the cellars gives a potted history of old brick buildings. This is one of East London's oldest, but it's actually not typical of the period; the red-coloured bricks weren't very popular at the time. For more information, keep an eye out for the National Trust's regular guided tours.
Occasionally, Sutton House moonlights as a television and film set. Its interiors have appeared as a backdrop in more than one historical documentary. In 2007 a programme about paranormal activity searched the house for ghosts, but their findings were inconclusive.
A regular programme of events keeps the house's rooms feeling lively and lived-in. The annual schedule includes a grotto at Christmas and an egg hunt at Easter. There are frequent family activities, and special days for the over 55s too. Storytellers and artists run performances and workshops. There are classes for fencing and dancing, and a gallery of contemporary art. Anyone with a heavy wallet can spend money in the cafe, bookshop or National Trust shop, happy in the knowledge that all proceeds go towards the upkeep of the building.
It's probably fair to say that Sutton House is a bigger part of the community now than it ever was in Tudor times.
Visitor Information
Sutton House is open Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4.30pm (from noon on Saturday and Sunday). Entry costs around £3 for adults, £1 child. Homerton High Street, Hackney, E9 6JQ. Tel: 020 8986 2264

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