At the heart of the house
From an aerial view Sutton House looks more or less like a square, with the Courtyard in the middle. However, its original Tudor plan used to be ‘H’-shaped, with the centre block slightly more towards the front (north side) and the two aisles a bit shorter, more like a squared ‘U’. On your next visit, look for the models of Tudor Hackney and Tudor Sutton House to aid your imagination.
Some of our expert tour guides like to start their narration in the Courtyard, because only from here is it possible to see how the original house would have appeared in the 16th century when it was built. The front façade of Sutton House has changed over time and now presents a mixture of architectural styles, demonstrating the house’s adaptation over time. However, from the back of the centre block the Tudor gabled roof is still visible, as well as the original chimney stack (up to the first parapet) and a lot of original Tudor brickwork, characterised by diagonal and diamond patterns made of glazed, darkened bricks.
The only surviving original Tudor ‘Armada’ window in the house overlooks the Courtyard, on the west side. It may have been left untouched during the Georgian makeover because it was facing into a shed and not deemed important enough to replace with a sash window, as happened everywhere else. In Tudor times it would have been very expensive to make glass windows, as each individual diamond pane would have been made and cut by hand. This often meant that family-owners would take their windows with them to the next home!
The Courtyard as we know it dates back to 1904, when the Wenlock Barn was added on the south side, sealing it and creating a nice area of shade. This Arts and Crafts addition was built by the St John’s Church Institute to accommodate large social gatherings; it was restored in 1991 and is still used for the same purpose.
In every season, the Courtyard plays a central role in the life of the house and it’s very well cared for by our passionate volunteer gardeners. During spring and summer, colourful tiny flowers bloom here and there and a few wooden tables and chairs accommodate visitors in need of a refreshing drink. Its orange and yellow tones brighten up those dull autumnal days… and give volunteers lots of work with fallen leaves! At Christmas, it turns into a magical spot decorated with a grand Fir tree and fairy lights and candles all around.
Our lovely Courtyard, like the rest of Sutton House, has really seen it all in the last 500 years. But, despite all transformations, it will never cease to evoke calm and serenity to the minds of visitors and workers alike – it takes you away from the busy and noisy city life.