About Bruce Castle
Located in Tottenham, an area of North London that rarely troubles tourists (unless they’re football fans), Bruce Castle is an impressive and somewhat mysterious manor house that dates back to the 16th century. It has historic connections to Robert the Bruce, who had holdings in England, including this Tottenham estate, before becoming the King of Scotland in 1306.
Bruce Castle History
Robert the Bruce, the outlaw King of Scotland, is more readily associated with Bannockburn’s battle ravaged countryside than Tottenham High Road in North London. But, incongruous though it may seem, this impressive 16th house castle owes its name to the very same de Bruce clan. In the 13th century the Bruce family owned a third of the Tottenham estate and, though Robert was forced to relinquish his English holdings when he became King of Scotland, the Bruce name persisted.
The Tudor mansion that now occupies the site was constructed a couple of centuries after Robert the Bruce led Scotland to independence. But elements of its design quickly became mysterious. Indeed, the purpose of the original house, dominated by a handsome cylindrical red brick tower, baffled the 2nd Baron Coleraine, it’s then owner, in the late 17th century: ‘in respect of its great antiquity more than conveniency, I keep the old brick tower in good repair, although I am not able to discover the founder thereof’.
It’s now thought that the tower was conceived as a ‘hawks mews’; a building in which birds were reared for falconry, a popular upper-class amusement at the time. But it’s fair to say that Bruce Castle’s architectural history remains somewhat mysterious. Over the next couple of centuries, the property moved between a series of owners, including Henry Hare, 2nd Baron Coleraine, who remodelled the house between 1682 and 1684. It was Henry Hare, a keen historian, who named the property ‘Bruce Castle’.
Bruce Castle today
After a brief period as a progressive boarding school that shunned corporal punishment (a rare thing in the 19th century), Bruce Castle was purchased by the Tottenham Local Board in 1892, at which point its grounds were converted into the area’s first public park. Then, in 1906, the building became Tottenham Museum, a role it has maintained ever since.
Today, Bruce Castle Museum offers a fascinating archive of local history and a good reason to take a trip up the Victoria Line.
Getting to Bruce Castle
The museum, which is free to enter, is a 15-minute walk from Seven Sisters Underground Station. The tube journey from central London (Oxford Circus) to Seven Sisters on the Victoria Line takes no more than 20 minutes.
Alternatively, the overground deposits you far closer. Take the train from Liverpool Street and you can cut a more scenic swathe through East London and arrive at Bruce Castle Station, which is a short 5-minute stroll from the museum.