Survey of London Monograph 7, East Acton Manor House. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1921.
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The hamlet of East Acton is approached by East Acton Lane, which runs northward from the Uxbridge Road. It lies about a mile east of Acton Parish Church, across a stretch of meadows, among which was a picturesque windmill where now is Acton Park. The property belonging to East Acton Manor House was on the east side of East Acton Lane, and was partly freehold and partly copyhold of the Manor of Acton. In the case of this house, as in that of many others, it is doubtful if the name "Manor" is correctly applied, although it is known that Acton possessed more than one Manor, subsidiary no doubt to that of Fulham, the property from very early times of the Bishops of London. The subject of this volume scarcely merits any exhaustive research into the early history of the neighbourhood, since the principal part of the building cannot be dated before the opening years of the 18th century. There are records, however, of an earlier house, either on the same site or on a part of the same estate.
By his will dated December 18th, 1656, Alderman John Perryn devised the property to the Goldsmiths' Company, of which he was Prime Warden in 1655–6, and it has remained in the Company's possession since his death on February 26th, 1657. In the will, of which an extract is given in Appendix I, mention is made of "a manor house, messuage or tenement with five several farms, messuages, tenements," etc., "lately purchased . . . from Sir Richard Ashfeild Knt." In later deeds in the archives of the Company, the "capital messuage or mansion house" is further described as "usually called or known by the name of Fosters." (fn. 1) This name occurs in the lease to Henry Lambe (1686), but it is shown distinctly on plans in the possession of the Goldsmiths' Company on portions of the property lying north-east of the Manor House, in the vicinity of the present course of the Acton Golf Club. From this we might infer that the site was changed, but the indications of parts of an earlier building in the fabric already described are evidence to the contrary, unless we consider this earlier building to be part of one of the farm buildings on the estate. The list of occupiers of the house as shown by the records of the Company is given below, and in a parallel column is shown another list which has been compiled from the Assessment Books for poor rate, etc., preserved at the Parish Church. The first Assessment Book is missing, but in the second volume, which commences with the year 1674, are extracts from the first under the following heading:—"These persons lived at Acton as appeareth by the Asseesment booke," and the occupiers of the Great House, East Acton, are given from Sir John Ashfield in 1634 to Lady Vyner in 1665 "& till her death." Further names have been extracted from the later books which with a few breaks continue to 1819, and the remaining names have been furnished by the Treasurer to the Acton Urban District Council.
The property at East Acton belonged to Sir John Ashfield's wife, Elizabeth, daughter and sole heir of Sir Richard Sutton, who was auditor of Imprests to James I. Lady Ashfield had previously married Sir James Altham, but it is not known whether she lived at Acton during his lifetime. Sir Richard Sutton probably at one time stayed here himself, as there is record of the burial of Lady Sutton at Acton in 1625, and it is noteworthy that the year of his death (1634) is the first date given in the old Parish Assessment Book for Sir John Ashfield's residence in the Great House.
Particulars of Sir Richard Sutton's property are to be found in an Inquisitio post mortem (fn. 2) held at "Le questhouse in alta holborne" on the 9th of June, 10th year of Charles I. (1634). The document is an interesting one, and sets forth that Sir Richard, who died on the 26th April of the same year, was possessed of a capital messuage in the parish of St. Botolph, Aldersgate Without, in or near "a lane called Little Brittaine." After this is a description of property in the manor of Shripney, Sussex, and then follow details of his lands in Acton. These include six acres in Southfields, held of the Bishop of London, two acres in Northfields of the King, and one of the Bishop of London, 11 acres, called Dustcrofts, purchased from John Garrowaye, Esqr., held of the Bishop of London, "also one messuage, one cottage, two gardens, two orchards and 50 acres of land, two acres of meadow, two acres of pasture and common of pasture for all manner of beasts in Acton and East Acton in the County of Middlesex purchased by Richard Sutton from John Suckling, Kt., and Jane his wife, held of the Bishop of London as of his manor of Acton, worth together per annum beyond the outgoings, 26s. 8d."
Sutton's property is still more particularly described in the Court-rolls of the Bishop of London's manor preserved at the Public Record Office. The most important entry is that of a Court held on the 25th April, 1610, when Edward Blowfield, of London, and Francesca, his wife, surrender to the use of Richard Sutton and Elizabeth, his wife "all that tenement and appurtenances lying in East Acton called Fosters," with a large number of portions of meadow, pasture and woodland all given in great detail. From an admission of Sutton, in 1606, to waste land adjoining his "house at East Acton," of which the measurements from "le gatehouse" are carefully set forth, we learn that Edward Blowfield was his Attorney, and it is therefore possible that the latter's surrender of 1610 was merely a formality.
The record of the purchase from Sir John Suckling referred to in the Inquisitio post mortem has not been found, nor that from John Garroway. (fn. 3) Suckling, however, held land in Acton, and in 1603 he and his first wife, Martha, were admitted to a cottage, or tenement, and 30 acres. In 1607, when he was living at Whitton, where his son, the poet, was born, he obtained a "license to let," and since the Sutton Inquisition refers specifically to his second wife, Jane, the sale of the property would appear to date from after 1613, until which year his first wife was living. We have, however, seen that Sutton was in possession of "Fosters" in 1610, and we are, therefore, without direct evidence that Sir John Suckling was Sutton's predecessor in the Great House.
Particulars of the more important of the subsequent owners and tenants of the house will be found under Biographical Notes, but it is not easy to choose from the list the name of the builder of the later structure with any certainty, although the choice would appear to lie between Henry Lambe and the Duchess of Hamilton. No mention, however, of the rebuilding is made in the document of 1717 (see Appendix II.), in which Lambe's widow recites a description of the property. The detail of the building would suggest, perhaps, a date earlier than Lady Hamilton's occupation, but the style of its architecture persisted for several years in the 18th century, and the date 1727 on the lead cistern was to be seen at the house until its recent demolition. In this connection it is noteworthy that Bowack, in his supplement (fn. 4) (1706) refers to the house as follows:—"At some distance to the east, at a small village called East Acton, is a handsome seat with good gardens formerly belonging to Alderman Peryn before mentioned, now to [Henry] Lamb who sometime since purchased it with a good estate round it." Here, too, there is no mention of rebuilding. Of the earlier house which Perryn occupied nothing definite is known, and even its site, as we have seen, is uncertain. It would seem, however, that in any case the original house was almost entirely pulled down when the new one was built. The latter lasted some two hundred years, and was eventually demolished, apparently without protest, in the year 1911.