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.
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.
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.
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.