Category Archives: Capital Ring


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Hackney was first recorded as Hakeneia in 1198, and is thought to take it’s name either from the Old English personal name  “Haakon” or  “Haca”, or the word  “haca”, meaning hook-shaped, and “eg”, meaning island, or area of high and dry ground surrounded by low marsh.  The church of St Augustine was built here in the Medieval period.  In the Tudor period, Hackney  became a popular location for aristocratic country houses; and in the Stuart, for alms-houses providing care for the poor, the aged, the infirm, and  “the insane (and no doubt inconvenient) relatives of the affluent”. It remained semi-rural until as recently as the nineteenth century, but is now very much a part of Inner City London.

Church of St Augustine

The church of St Augustine was originally built here sometime before 1275, possibly on the site of and older, Norman or even Saxon church.    It was subsequently rededicated to St John sometime between 1660 and 1790, and substantially demolished between 1797-98, after a  new church dedicated to St John was built nearby.  Only the tower survives.

Sutton House


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The courtier Ralph Sadleir built a house here in 1535, which still stands, on what is now Homerton High Street.    Now known as Sutton House, after Thomas Sutton, the founder of Charterhouse School, who was once thought to have lived here (but in fact did  not), it is  owned by the National Trust and open to the public.

Sadly, Brooke House, built here in the 1470s, and extended between 1578-83, had to be demolished in 1954-5 after sustaining bomb damage in 1940 and again in 1944 (although a photograph of the bombed house taken in 1941 still survives).


Aside from the Bishop Wood’s alms-houses, built in Clapton in north Hackney in 1665 (see previous post), two other sets of alms-houses were also built in Hackney in the late seventeenth century, although both have been rebuilt since.

Site of Spurstowe's Alms- Houses

One, on land to the west of Mare Street  in central Hackney, for six  poor widows, was built in 1666 at the behest of  Dr William Spurstowe, and rebuilt in 1819, and again in 1966, on a new site on Navarino Road.

Monger's House (rebuilt 1847)

The other, between what is now Cassland Road and Well Street Common in south Hackney, for six “poor, civil, honest” men, was built at the behest of Henry Monger in 1669, and rebuilt in 1847.



Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Walthamstow was first recorded in c. 1075 as Wilcumestowe, from the Old English “wilcuma”, meaning “welcoming”, and “stow”, “holy place”.   In the Medieval and post-Medieval periods, its rural location some  seven miles remote from  the City of London made it an attractive place for wealthy merchants to escape or retire to.   The area only began  to become densely built up in the nineteenth century.  It is now part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest.


The fifteenth-century  “Ancient House” stands there still, in the picturesque secluded enclave of Walthamstow Village, alongside  the sixteenth-century Monoux Alms-Houses, built by the sometime Master of the Drapers’ Company and Lord Mayor of London George Monoux, and the eleventh- or twelfth- century church of St Mary.

Church of St Mary

1 - General view of exterior of  church

2 - General view of interior

3 - Churchyard

The  church of St Mary was probably originally built sometime around the turn of the eleventh and twelfth centuries (it is not recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, although it is in a conveyance of 1108, indicating its then ownership by  Holy Trinity Priory in Aldgate).  It was subsequently substantially remodelled  in the thirteenth  to fourteenth centuries, when  the north and south aisles were added; in the fifteenth, when the chancel was extended, and the tower added; and in the sixteenth, when the tower was lowered, and chapels added at the east ends of aisles, by the aforementioned George Monoux and by Robert Thorne.  And it has been further much modified from the eighteenth century onwards.  The oldest parts that still survive date to the thirteenth-century rebuild.  The oldest memorial purportedly  dates  back to the fifteenth century.

There are believed to be large numbers of burials in the churchyard from both the Black Death of 1348-49 and the Great Plague of 1665.


Another in the series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Clapton was first recorded as Clopton in 1339, and as Clapton in 1593, taking its name from the Old English clopp(a) and tun, meaning farmstead or homestead  on a hill, the  hill in question rising  steeply to the west of the River Lea.  The area was largely agricultural and sparsely populated in the Medieval and post-Medieval periods,  but began to be  heavily developed and industrialised from the end of the nineteenth century onwards.  A pilgrimage route between London and Waltham Abbey ran through the area in the Medieval period.  Brooke House was built here in the post-Medieval, and owned or occupied by Henry Algernon Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland in the sixteenth century, and by  Fulke Greville, 1st Lord Brooke, in the seventeenth, before eventually being demolished in the mid-twentieth (Brooke School stands on the site today).    The church of St Thomas was not built until the eighteenth century.  Clapton was incorporated into the Borough of Hackney in 1965.

Bishop Wood's Alms-Houses (built 1692)

Bishop Wood's Alms-Houses (detail)

Bishop Wood's Alms-Houses plaque

A terrace of alms-houses for poor widows over sixty was built in an attractive location overlooking the pond in Lower Clapton in 1665, at the behest of Dr Thomas Wood, a native of Hackney and sometime Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry.  One of the stipulations of Wood’s will was that  the inmates should be provided every other year with new gowns bearing his monogrammed initials T.W.  The trustees soon chose to commute this to a money payment.

Aside from some late nineteenth- and  early twentieth- century restorations, Bishop Wood’s  alms-houses remain in their original form.



Stoke Newington

Another in the  series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Stoke Newington  was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Neuton, meaning “new homestead or farmstead”.  It was recorded in 1274 as Neweton Stoken, and in 1294 as Stokene Neuton, the affix meaning “by the tree stumps”.

It may be described as having been part of  Inner London since the late seventeenth or eighteenth centuries.

Church of St Mary

The old church of St Mary was probably originally built in the Saxon period, the Domesday Book of 1086 referring to a Manor of Stoke Newington, the property of the Canons of St Paul’s, and reputedly the gift of King Athelstan, which presumably included a church.

It was probably rebuilt in the Medieval period, and certainly rebuilt in the post-Medieval, Elizabethan, by the Lord of the Manor, William Patten, in 1563, thus becoming  one of the earliest churches anywhere in the country specifically designed for Anglican rather than Catholic worship.

It has subsequently  been extended, by Sir Charles Barry (in 1829), and restored, following severe bomb damage sustained during the Second World War (in 1953).   It continues to function  as a church, and also as a community and arts space, staging such events as the Stoke Newington Early Music Festival (and, in 2011, atmospheric readings of the macabre tales of Edgar Allan Poe, who between 1817-20  attended the Reverend John Bransby’s Manor House School  nearby).

Old church from Clissold Park, with new church beyond

New church from Clissold Park

The nearby new   church, by Sir George Gilbert Scott, was consecrated in 1858.


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Highgate was first recorded in 1354 as Le Heighgate, meaning, in Middle English, high (toll) gate.  The gate was originally set up on the Great North Road by the Bishop of London, who was also the Lord of the Manor of Hornsey.  The surrounding area remained essentially rural and sparsely populated until post-Medieval times, and after the Great Fire of London in 1666 was temporarily used to accommodate displaced persons, as noted by John Evelyn in his diary.  A number of aristocratic country houses were built here at this time, including Arundel, Cromwell, Fitzroy and Lauderdale Houses.  The area eventually became rather more developed in the nineteenth century,  although even to this day it still retains much open green space.

Lauderdale House



Lauderdale House was originally built by Richard Martin, Master of the Royal Mint and thrice Lord Mayor of London,  in 1582.  However, it was not known as such until the early seventeenth century, when it was bequeathed by the then-owner Mary, Dowager Countess of Home to her daughter  Anne, the wife of John Maitland, the Earl of Lauderdale.  In 1649, during the Civil War, Lauderdale, who was a Royalist, was forced to surrender the house to John Ireton, a leading Parliamentarian (General Henry Ireton’s brother and Cromwell’s son-in-law).  After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, it reverted to the Lauderdale family’s ownership, Lauderdale being a member of the CABAL advising the restored king, Charles II – and the king’s  mistress, Nell Gwynne, lived in it  for a while.   The house changed hands many times in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before undergoing radical alteration in the early nineteenth. Its last private owner was Sidney Waterlow, another Lord Mayor, who gave it and its surrounding grounds to the London County Council in 1883, “for the enjoyment of Londoners”. The recently restored house is now an  arts and education centre.


Kingsbury takes its name from the Old English cyning, meaning king, and burh, meaning manor.   It was first referred to, in a Saxon Charter of 1003/4, as Cyngesbyrig, at which time it was evidently  a royal possession.  The old  church of St Andrew  was founded at least as long ago as the thirteenth century (see below).  It is surrounded by the remains of an early Medieval ditch.  Settlement of the surrounding area is thought to have begun in the fourteenth century, after the Black Death of 1438-9.  The  new church,  which had stood in Marylebone  from 1845 to 1931, was relocated to Kingsbury in 1933, by which time Kingsbury was becoming  assimilated into suburbia.  Television pioneer John Logie Baird received the first combined sight and sound transmission here in 1930.  Earlier, Oliver Goldsmith wrote She Stoops to Conquer at Hyde House Farm here in 1773.

Old Church of St Andrew

General view of old church

Graveyard of old church

Detail of wall of old church highlighting flint and Roman tile used in construction

The old  church of St Andrew  was founded at least as long ago the thirteenth century, with surviving records indicating that it was administered by the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem between 1244-48.  Interestingly,  there are certain indications  that it is ultimately  of Saxon rather than Medieval origin, including the characteristically, although not diagnostically, Saxon “long-and-short” stone-work on  the quoins.  A significant amount of recycled Roman brick and tile was used in its construction.

The old church was extended and modified in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and restored after long neglect in the nineteenth and early twentieth, by which time it had become a chapel-of-ease to the newly built nearby Church of the Holy Innocents.  It was eventually closed down some years   after the new church of St Andrew was built directly adjacent to it in 1933.   In 2010, it   re-opened  for use as a Romanian Orthodox Church.

Inside the church are a thirteenth-century font, and a fourteenth-century bell  that  is the oldest still hanging anywhere in Middlesex.  Also inside are  memorials to John Shepard of Kingsbury (d. 1520), and to John Bul of Roe Green, Gentleman and Keeper of the King’s Poultry (d. 1621).





Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk  …

Harrow ultimately takes its name from the Old English hearg, meaning place of heathen worship.   It was first referred to, in a Saxon Charter of 767, as “Gumeninga hergae”, meaning Gumen’s such.   In the Charter,   Offa, King of Mercia, granted to Stidberht, Bishop of St Albans, some 16000 acres of land lying between “Gumeninga Hergae” and Lidding Brook (?Kenton).  In 801, Offa’s successor Cenwulf confirmed the grant, but he later reclaimed the land for himself.  On Cenwulf’s death, the land passed to his son Kenelm; and after he, Kenelm,  was murdered by his half-sister Cwoenthryth, it passed to her.   But  in 825, the  Council of Colvesho compelled Cwoenthryth to surrender the land to the church once more.   The  Domesday Book of 1086 records that before the Norman Conquest the land was held by Earl Leofwin, and afterwards by Archbishop Lanfranc.  The surviving church of St Mary was built on the land in 1087; Harrow School  in 1572.  The surrounding borough  remained largely rural until the coming of the Metropolitan Railway in the late Victorian period, after which  it rapidly became suburbanised.

Church of St Mary

St Mary Harrow

The church of St Mary, atop the Hill, was originally founded by the aforementioned Archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc, in 1087, and consecrated by his successor Anselm in 1094 (it was also visited by Thomas Becket a matter of days before his murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170).  The church was extended through the twelfth to fourteenth centuries; substantially rebuilt in the mid-fifteenth; and restored, by George Gilbert Scott, in 1847.

Tower with Norman doorway


Essentially only the lower part of the tower survives from the eleventh century.

General view of interior

Brass memorial to John Lyon (d. 1592) and his wife Joan

Inside the church, the fine Purbeck Marble font probably dates to the twelfth or thirteenth; the memorial to Edmund Flambard, one-time Lord of the Manor, to 1370; and that to John Lyon, the founder of neighbouring Harrow School, to 1592.

Memorial to Allegra Byron

Lord Byron, an old boy of Harrow School, penned  his poem “Lines written beneath an elm in the churchyard of Harrow” here, in 1807.  His illegitimate daughter Allegra was buried here, in 1822.

Harrow School

General view (Old Schools in centre, part of Chapel on right)

Harrow School was originally founded, by the aforementioned John Lyon, in 1572.  The oldest surviving part, the “Old Schools”, was built in 1615, and altered externally and extended, by Charles Robert Cockerell, in 1820 (one original classroom, the “Fourth Room”, still survives, its oak-panelled walls inscribed with the names of numerous famous old boys – among them not only Byron, but also Peel, Sheridan, Trollope and Churchill).  The Headmaster’s House, by Decimus Burton, was built in 1845; the Chapel, by George Gilbert Scott, in 1855;  the Library of 1863, also by George Gilbert Scott, in 1863; “Druries”, by C.F. Hayward, in 1865; and the  new Speech Room, by William Burges, in  1877 (the old Speech Room was converted into an art gallery and museum in 1976, at the same time the new dining hall was built).  The Physics Schools were built in 1971; and the Churchill Schools (Design Technology) in 1988. 

The surrounding 360-acre  grounds include a lake laid out by Lancelot “Capability” Brown in 1767, playing fields and a nine-hole golf course!


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Greenford was first recorded, as Grenan forda, in the ninth century, in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 845.  It takes its name from the Old English grene, and ford, referring to a vegetated area around a  ford over the River Brent.  The manor was in the hands of Westminster Abbey from the time of the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century until that of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth.  It remained essentially rural until the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the arrival of the railway.

Church of Holy Cross

General view - Holy Cross Greenford

Weatherboarded tower

Old gravestone with skull and crossbones motif

The old church of Holy Cross on Oldfield Lane is thought to have been founded in  the twelfth century, around 1157.  The oldest surviving parts of the present church, though, are thirteenth- to fourteenth- century, and the main body of it  is late fifteenth- to early sixteenth- century, with some nineteenth-century  modifications.  There are a number of surviving fifteenth- to early seventeenth- century memorials and monuments in the church, alongside a font dating to 1637.  There are also some interesting stained-glass windows acquired from King’s College, Cambridge, and inserted in the nineteenth century, although dating to the fourteenth to sixteenth.

The neighbouring new church was built in 1943, to cater for the then rapidly growing population of local factory workers and commuters.


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring”walk  …

Osterley was first recorded in 1274 as Osterle, from the Old English eowestre, meaning sheep-fold, and leah, meaning woodland clearing. It is now a leafy suburb of Outer London.

Osterley House


Osterley House was originally built here in 1576  for the wealthy City of London financier and philanthropist Sir Thomas Gresham, who had bought the manor of Osterley in 1562 (*).  It was described as a “faire and stately brick house”, and is known to have been visited by the Queen, Elizabeth I, in 1576.  The house was subsequently rebuilt in the eighteenth century for  Francis and Robert Child, the grandsons of Sir Francis Child, the founder of Child’s Bank (the architect being Robert Adam).  It is now owned by the National Trust.


Only the brick stable-block survives from the original house.  It now houses a cafe and shop.

(*)  Gresham also bought the neighbouring Boston Manor in 1572/3.


Church of St Lawrence

St Lawrence Brentford

The church of St Lawrence was first founded at least as long ago as the twelfth century, although the present stone tower dates only to the fifteenth, and the brick nave to the eighteenth, to 1764.  The church was closed down in 1961, when the monuments were removed.  It is currently for sale.

Boston Manor House

Boston Manor was first recorded in the eleventh century, and later, as being owned by the Priory of St Helen Bishopsgate in the City of London, in the twelfth.  The manor  was confiscated by the Crown during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538.  It was later given by Edward I to Edward Seymour, the First Duke of Somerset, and  Lord Protector of England – and taken back again after his execution in 1552.  It  was then given by  Elizabeth I to Robert, Earl of Leicester in 1572, and sold by him to Sir Thomas Gresham, who already owned adjoining Osterley Park,  in 1573.  After Gresham’s death in 1579, the manor  passed to his step-son Sir William Reade, and later  to Sir William’s widow, Lady Mary, in 1621.

Side and front from garden


It was Lady Mary Reade who built the core of the present house here in 1622-3.  After her death in 1658, it passed to her relative John Goldsmith, and after his death in 1670 it was bought – and considerably extended – by James Clitherow, a wealthy City merchant with interests in the East India Company.   The house then remained in the Clitherow family until it was sold by Colonel John Bourchier Stracey Clitherow to Brentford  Urban District Council in 1923 (the contents, including paintings by Rubens, van Dyck, Kneller, Hogarth and Romney, having been auctioned off the previous year).   It is currently  owned by Hounslow Cultural and Community Services, and open to the public at weekends throughout the spring and summer.

The Drawing Room

Settee and tea trolley, Drawing Room

The Drawing Room retains many original Jacobean features …

Detail of one of elements ceiling panels, Drawing Room

… including an ornate  moulded plaster ceiling and overmantel, probably by Edward Stanyon, and possibly, in part,  to designs by the Flemish painter Marcus Gheeraerts.