About Sutton House
Situated in Homerton, Hackney, well off the central London tourist trail, Sutton House is worthy of far more attention than it tends to get. A rare red brick Tudor mansion constructed for Thomas Cromwell’s secretary Ralph Sandler (portrayed by Thomas Brodie-Sangster in the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, in case the name rings a bell), this oft-neglected architectural landmark has been beautifully restored by the National Trust.
Sutton House history
Sir Ralph Sadler, for whom Sutton House was built, was a prodigious member of Thomas Cromwell’s household and King Henry VII’s court. Sadler quickly gained Cromwell’s trust – and the attention of the King – becoming a gentleman of the privy chamber in 1536 (aged 29) before rising to the position of Secretary of State in 1540.
A handsome mansion was built for Sandler in Hackney, where he was born, in 1535. It was strikingly innovative in its use of red brick, a new and ostentatiously expensive material at the time. Consequently, Sadler’s impressive new house became known as ‘Bryck Place’.
The name Sutton House came later, the result of a misattribution to Thomas Sutton, founder of Charterhouse School, who owned a neighbouring property.
The house has seen many transformations over the centuries. Having played host to a succession of merchants and Huegnot silk weavers, it become the site of a school in the 19th century, before being used as a Men’s Institute during the First World War, a watch point for wardens in World War Two, a Trade Union office in the 60s and 70s and squat in the 80s. At its lowest ebb it was saved from dereliction by a local charity.
Sutton House today
We can be grateful that after drifting towards dereliction in the latter part of the last century, Sutton House was saved and ultimately restored by the National Trust. It now stands as a truly impressive survival story and one of London’s last remaining Tudor houses.
It may be noted for its Tudor architecture but, on first sight, Sutton House hides its 16th century roots behind a misleading Georgian frontage (added in the mid-18th century).
Once you’re inside, it’s clear what stunning restoration job the Trust has done. Different rooms are decorated to represent different periods, so a stroll through the house offers a fascinating journey through the building’s varied history, from the grand oak panelled Lindenfold Parlour to an 80s squatters’ room decked out with rather less ornate features.
Getting to Sutton House
It’s fair to say that Homerton isn’t a magnet for tourists, so it’s no surprise to find that Sutton House is rarely heaving with visitors. But we think it’s worth the journey from central London, which isn’t that taxing.
The nearest station is Hackney Central, which is on the overground network, but it might be quicker to take the overground train from Liverpool Street to Chingford and get off at Hackney Downs, which is about half a mile from Sutton House.