Tag Archives: Bishop Wood’s alms-houses


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 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.