This post was kindly written by Kelly Spring, a Committee Member of the Friends of the IHR and a PhD Candidate at the University of Manchester.
During the long, warm days of July, our thoughts at the IHR turn to the annual Friends’ outing. In years past, the Friends of the Institute have ventured to William Morris’s house in Walthamstow and Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath. This year, on Monday, 6 July, we travelled to Hackney to explore Sutton House and St Augustine’s Tower.
Sir Ralph Sadleir, a courtier to Henry VIII and man whom our guide described as “the servant of the servant of the King,” built the house in 1535, and it stands as a visible reminder of Tudor architecture, albeit with some modifications and additions from later owners. Occupants of the house have ranged from merchants to, in the 1980s, squatters, all of whom have left an indelible mark on the house, inside and out.
Outing participants were treated to a tour of the house by medieval historian and archaeologist Dr Nick Holder, of Regent’s University of London. Nick began the tour outside the house to give everyone an overview of the history and architecture of the building. He then led us through the four floors, including the basement. The house boasts an impressive array of rooms, including the oak-panelled parlour and great hall. Throughout the tour of the house, Nick provided Friends with in-depth information about each room’s original use and its architectural attributes. He even pulled up floorboards and allowed us to peak behind panels to see sixteenth century building materials and design.
After viewing the house, Friends were invited to take lunch at Sutton House’s garden café, where we ate some excellent homemade soup followed by tea and Victoria sponge. While the first tour group had their meal, Nick took a second group of Friends around the house, and repeated his extensive tour of the premises. Following a quick cup of tea and slice of cake, Nick took the groups for an inside view of St Augustine’s Tower in the St John’s Church Gardens, just a short stroll from Sutton House.
St Augustine’s Tower was erected in the early sixteenth century as part of the building of the Hackney parish church, St Augustine’s, which replaced an earlier thirteenth century church on the same spot. Today, the tower is all that remains of the church. Boasting a Grade I listing, it is the oldest building in Hackney. The clock in the tower was installed around the early 1600s and remains in working order to this day. Normally closed, except on the last Sunday of each month, Friends were treated to a private tour of the tower’s floors, allowing visitors to view the clock works, ring the bell, and get a bird’s-eye view of London from atop the building.
While many returned home after the tour of the tower, others continued socialising over coffee and pastries at the Turkish café in the gardens adjacent to the tower. Everyone agreed that it was a fantastic day out.
Other excellent Friend’s events are planned for this autumn, including the Annual General Meeting which will be held on Monday, 19 October. This year, we are fortunate to have Professor Nigel Saul of Royal Holloway University of London, who will deliver the Annual Friends’ Lecture following the AGM. He will be speaking on Magna Carta. For further details about upcoming Friends’ events, or on how to become a Friend of the IHR, please visit the Institute’s website (http://www.history.ac.uk/support-us/friends) or speak to Mark Lawmon in the Development Office by phone (020 7862 8791) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
All photos © James Dixon, unless otherwise noted.