This volume describes a single building, Brooke House, Hackney. The house
acquired this name from the Grevilles, who owned it from 1609 to 1820, and
who held, from 1621, the Barony of Brooke of Beauchamps Court. But the
history of the house stretched far back beyond its association with the Grevilles, to its
obscure recorded origins in the 1470's, when it was probably the country house of a
well-connected and ambitious ecclesiastic, William Worsley, who became Dean of St.
Paul's in 1479. The house achieved its greatest fame in the reign of Henry VIII, when
it was held in quick succession by, amongst others, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland,
Thomas Cromwell, and by the King himself, who provided Cromwell with a large quantity
of timber for the enlargement of the house. Throughout the rest of the sixteenth century
and for most of the seventeenth it was occupied by members of the nobility, several of
whom were prominent in public affairs, and one of whom, Henry Cary, Baron Hunsdon,
was responsible for the handsome embellishment of the long gallery between 1578 and
The decline of Brooke House began after the death of the fourth Baron Brooke in
1677, when the family appears to have ceased to live at Hackney; in the early eighteenth
century the house was divided and in the occupation of traders. From 1759 to 1940
it was used as a private mental asylum, and the survival of the building into the middle
of the twentieth century is probably in large part due to this institutional use.
In October 1940 a high explosive bomb destroyed the northern courtyard and severely
damaged much of the rest of the house. In March 1944 the Council acquired Brooke
House and some five and a half acres of surrounding land, primarily for housing purposes.
It was hoped that the surviving portion of the building might be preserved for educational
use, but the estimated cost of restoration and adaptation was found to be prohibitive.
So much, besides, of the original building had been destroyed, and so much of the remnant
would have required rebuilding that the result of such heavy expenditure would have
had little real historical or architectural value. The Council therefore decided to demolish
the remainder of the house, and this was done in 1954–5.
Brooke House has already been the subject of a monograph, published by the Committee for the Survey of the Memorials of Greater London (later the London Survey
Committee) in 1904. Its use at that time as an asylum imposed severe limitations on
the Committee's opportunities to record the building adequately, and the Council therefore decided to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the demolition to compile
a more detailed account of the building, based on modern historical and archaeological
research. This volume presents the results of this work, and also fills the inevitable
pause between the publication of volume XXVII (Spitalfields) of the Survey of London,
and volumes XXIX and XXX, which will describe the St. James's Square area. To the
more central areas of London, which contain a large proportion of the finest surviving
buildings, the Survey will continue to devote its attention.
The recording of the building during demolition was carried out by the staff of the
Historic Buildings Section of the Council's Architect's Department under the direction
of Mr. W. A. Eden, who planned this volume and whose findings are contained in the
first chapter. The contractors were Messrs Holland and Hannen and Cubitts, Limited,
and Mr. E. Jeames, who was in charge of their work on the site, successfully employed
somewhat unorthodox methods to facilitate opportunities for research. The Council is
most grateful to Mr. E. Clive Rouse for his help in the preservation of the remarkable
wall-painting which was discovered during the course of demolition; to Conservator
Egmunt Lind of the Danish National Museum, who communicated his method of
removing paintings from plastered walls to members of the Historic Buildings Section;
and to Miss M. Blumstein of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Mr. R. W. Hunt of the
Bodleian Library Mrs. P. Tudor-Craig and Mr. A. R. Wagner, Richmond Herald, for
their help in the interpretation of the painting.
The excavations which were carried out after the demolition of the fabric above ground
were superintended by Professor W. F. Grimes and Mrs. Audrey Williams. To them,
and to the Roman and Mediæval London Excavation Council, who willingly agreed that
Professor Grimes and Mrs. Williams should undertake this considerable task, the Council
tenders its grateful acknowledgment for their most valuable contribution to this volume.
They, for their part, would like to record their appreciation of the work of Mr. F. J.
Collins who was in charge of the site and of the staff of the Architect's Maintenance
Division (Area III) who undertook the actual digging.
The historical account of Brooke House, which besides correcting a number of errors
in earlier accounts also throws new light on the origin of the building, is the work of
Mrs. Marie P. G. Draper, Senior Historical Research Assistant in the Clerk's Department. It owes much to the help of His Grace the Duke of Northumberland, and of the
Earl of Warwick, who most generously granted access to their archives; to Mr. D. Graham
of the Alnwick Estate Office, Mr. A. Wood, Warwickshire County Archivist, Mr. L. A.
Payne, Librarian of the Royal College of Physicians, Mr. J. Richardson, Reference
Librarian of Hackney Central Public Library, Professor C. N. L. Brooke of Liverpool
University and many more.
Other members of the Council's staff who have assisted in the preparation of this
volume include Miss P. M. Calland of the Clerk's Department, Messrs. F. A. Evans,
F. H. Healey, Z. Dmochowski, D. B. Sumpster and Mrs. C. Eaton of the Historic
Buildings Section, and Messrs. P. Honeyball and A. Tarring of the Quantities Division
of the Architect's Department.
Chairman of the Town Planning Committee