Discover Sutton House
Expect all the atmosphere of a Tudor house: with fine oak-panelled chambers, a great hall, fireplaces, cellars, and a tranquil courtyard. Then, keep your eyes peeled for later period additions that reveal the house’s other histories.
One of London’s last remaining Tudor houses, Sutton House was originally built in 1535 by Sir Ralph Sadleir. By 1540 he was Secretary of State to Henry VIII and this was his family home.
The house has seen many transformations: it was a Victorian school, a Men’s institute in World War One, a Trades Union office in the 1960s and 70s and a punk squat in the 1980s. Today, you can learn more about the lives, passions and even scandals of some of its most intriguing residents.
Ralph Sadleir’s family home
By the time Sadleir was eleven he was being trained as a secretary to Thomas Cromwell. He became one of Cromwell's most trusted employees, helping him with the dissolution of the monasteries and coming to the attention of King Henry VIII. In the same year that he built Sutton House, Ralph was taken directly into the King's service. Sadlier is one of the characters featured in Hilary Mantel's 2009 novel Wolf Hall.
A walk through the house’s tranquil courtyard allows you the best views of the house as it looked when it was first built. A gabled roof and original chimney stack are still visible, along with original Tudor brickwork, diagonals and diamonds made of glazed, blackened brick. The main rooms have been beautifully restored and show how a leading Tudor family lived. The house has appeared in several TV series, notably 'Most Haunted' (2007) and Terry Pratchett's 'Hogfather' (2006).
The Linenfold Parlour
The very rare oak-panelled Linenfold Parlour is one of the most impressive rooms in the house; full of the grandeur the original owners sought to display. We believe Ralph Sadleir used it for conducting business with court guests, or as a private dining room.
Look out for the Linenfold carving, panels that took a lot of skill and time to make which were installed by later residents who made their fortune through the East India Company. These are among the few examples of their kind left in London, the others being at Hampton Court and Westminster Abbey. Behind the Linenfold panels are Linenfold wall paintings, revealed behind hinged wooden panelling.
" Sutton House's carved Linenfold panels took a lot of skill and time to make. These are among the few examples of their kind left in London, the others being at Hampton Court and Westminster Abbey."
Large and luxurious with a huge stone fireplace, this room has a complex history but was significant in Tudor times. The savoury part of banquets would have been served in the Great Hall downstairs then the most important guests would have been taken up the Great Chamber for the sweet course at the end of the meal.
Captain John Milward was a businessman with shares in the East India Trading Company, he traded in goods from across the world. He lived in Sutton House from around 1634, during which time Sutton House was ablaze with colour from the many rich furnishings he collected from the East.
He was likely responsible for the building of the painted staircase decorated in the Trompe l’oeil style – French for ‘trick of the eye’. The paintings are intended to look like three-dimensional wooden carvings and you can still pick out images of a goat, a dog, a griffin and a ram on the stairs.
If you take the winding back stair to the Georgian Parlour, you’ll get taste of how it would have been decorated at that time. At this time London was a centre for Huguenot refugees.
From 1743 to 1751, the house was let to Mary Tooke (née Lethieullier), a well-to-do widow from a prominent Huguenot family. Tooke was the first of many Huguenot residents who made Sutton House their home. Look out too for an interesting Tudor detail over the fireplace where you can make out 16th century graffiti.
Chapel (Eastern Cellar)
At the foot of a narrow staircase, you’ll find another unexpected architectural pleasure. Part of the original Tudor cellars which were converted into a chapel in 1914 by the St John at Hackney Church Institute. The Institute was housed in Sutton House between 1891-1939. The architect responsible was Edward Maufe, who later designed Guildford Cathedral. The cellar was briefly used as a bomb shelter at the end of the First World War.
In the 19th century, Hackney was home to growing numbers of residents as the neighbourhood was transformed by new construction. This room tells the story of a wealthy Victorian home, with shoes and other personal items that were found under the floorboards now on display.
1980s Squatters' Room
By the 1980s, squatting culture was thriving in London. Squatters moved in to Sutton House, which had been empty for a few years. They opened a café, held gigs and led arts workshops from the house. Their aim was to provide a community space, particularly for the local unemployed, to learn and develop skills.
After a few years, the remaining squatters were issued an eviction order. The house was to be sold until local community members formed the ‘Save Sutton House Campaign’. They successfully convinced the National Trust to invest in the restoration of the house, and to open it to the public.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Squatters’ arrival here, this room was converted in 2015 into a recreation of how it looked in 1985. This was done with help from some of the squatters who lived here.
Want to learn more? Book a guided tour
This is just a taste of the many rich stories it has to tell.
To learn more, why not book a place on one of our free guided tours led by a Sutton House expert.
Tours take place on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday from 3pm..
After the tour there is time to look around the house and garden, visit the cafe and browse the gift shop.