Archaeological evidence below ground: Phase II

Pages 35-51

Survey of London: Volume 28, Brooke House, Hackney. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.

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Phase II

Whether or not there was evidence in the superstructure of the house for any succession of alterations, the plan as revealed by excavation suggested that the large-scale changes now to be described were essentially of a piece. Their effect was not only to enlarge but also to improve and rationalize the buildings. A feature of the phase was the raising of the general floor-level by amounts which varied from place to place. The variations in plinth levels ranged between 2 and 3 feet.

The alterations to the eastern range of Court I, that of the hall, are better reserved for later. The other three ranges were widened and the western range was extended northwards to form the great long gallery at first floor level. Plate 39a shows how this reconstruction cut across all the buildings of the earlier phases of Court II.

In Court I a new wall was built backing against the foundations of the original wall on all three sides. It had the effect therefore of adding about 1½ feet to the widths of the rooms at ground level on the south and west sides. On the north the increase was of the order of about 3 feet since a new outer wall had been built here as part of the complete remodelling of this range (see below). In Court I the wall was of one build throughout. It tended also to be more massive than its predecessor, being 26 inches wide on the north side as compared with 20 inches. Its ends rested on the added vestibule to the main staircase on the south-east (see below) and against the inner wall of the hall block on the north-east.

As has been said, the buildings were improved as well as enlarged. The apartments on the south side had been made more splendid by the addition of two large bay-windows which were removed by alterations during the eighteenth century. In the north-west angle of the remodelled court was a polygonal turret. In recent times this at ground-level had become a porch with doorways for entry into the range, and as such had been incorporated into the existing building. From features observed during the dismantling of the building this turret originally contained a staircase. It was later converted to use as a garde-robe and in its floor was a deep soak-away.

The old north range of Court I had now become the middle range separating Court I from Court II. As already observed, it had been widened on both sides. The south wall, in Court I, was heavier than the north (26 compared with 18 inches). Slightly to the west of centre in both walls were opposing doorways; the brickwork of the inner one was very well preserved beneath a modern cement rendering (Plate 25b). There was no indication of doorways at this point in the earlier walls: the levels were such that the jambs would have survived had they existed.

The other feature of Court I might have been dealt with as one of the minor changes intermediate between the two main building 'periods'. This was the rectangular chamber 12½ by 15½ feet internally, built across the south-east angle of the court, its west wall ending against the face of the original south wall, its north wall abutting on the southwest corner of the oriel window of the hall. The purpose of this addition must have been to provide a vestibule to the main staircase in the angle of the south and east ranges. Structurally it preceded the main Phase II reconstruction, for the end of the new wall containing the bay windows rested against it in a straight joint; but this relationship need not, in fact, reflect any real difference in date. On the other hand, it is possible that the new vestibule, the new entrance-passage in the middle range and the blocking of the doorway to the court from the screens passage (page 30; Plate 38a) are closely related modifications to the access arrangements of Court I.

Fig. 12. Plan of buildings at their full (pre-Georgian) development, Phase II

It has already been observed that in its original form the only entrance to Court I from the outside was by way of the screens passage in the hall block. The provision of a passage in the remodelled middle range of Phase II, however, provided access to Court I from the new Court II: from this time on, Court II became the entrance court; and although other entrances were created later this arrangement persisted essentially throughout the remaining life of the building. It is possible to argue that with the construction of the passage in the middle range access to the court through the east range was no longer necessary: the inner door could therefore be blocked, thus removing an uncomfortable feature from the hall and converting Court I into a true inner court, and giving it a pleasantly withdrawn and private character. But the blocking of the doorway from the hall would have required a new arrangement for communication between the hall and the rest of the court, in particular the apartments in the south range. This could have been obtained by way of a doorway from the south-west corner of the hall into the newly constructed vestibule and during the course of the demolition of the superstructure it was observed that such a doorway had indeed been cut. The north jamb of an oblique opening had survived immediately beside the south jamb of the oriel window: the dressed ends of the bricks had been rendered in plaster and the whole had been preserved by a brick filling inserted to convert the oblique opening into a squared-up doorway into the Georgian block. A doorway from the hall hereabouts would in any case have been a normal feature from the beginning; but the missing link in the chain of evidence that would either confirm or controvert the sequence above suggested is the lack of evidence as to the date of the blocking of the screens passage doorway: it can only be said that the general character of the brickwork indicated a pre-Georgian date. Whether or not the modifications followed so immediately one on the other there can be no doubt that they were related, even if the improvements that they represent were carried out over an extended period of time.

Returning now to the middle range, immediately west of the north doorway of the crosspassage was a massive chimney which served fire-places on both floors. It had been built as a separate unit (the wall on each side meeting it in a straight joint), but was contemporary with the rest of the block. It had undergone alteration in later periods, but it did not seem that there had been a fire-place in this position in the preceding phase.

The kitchen retained its original position at the east end of the range, but the cooking arrangements were much altered both at the time of the first rebuilding and subsequently at dates which cannot be determined (fig. 13). Immediately to the west of the fire-place was a doorway with oblique jambs, opening into the north courtyard, which was subsequently blocked. This doorway no doubt provided ready access to the ovens at the back of the fire-place.

Fig. 13. Plan of kitchen fireplace in middle range showing structural changes

The fire-place itself, once built, remained unchanged. It was straight-fronted, without the projecting piers which were a feature of Phase I and which were now buried beneath a brick hearth in a worn and battered state where exposed (Plate 38c). (fn. 1) On the east the fire-place was built against the pre-existing wall of the east range. It had a wide jamb in order to accommodate a plaster-lined recess, 23 inches wide by 27 deep, opening in the face of the jamb. This recess was subsequently filled up and given a fair face of brickwork. On the west side the fire-place was seen to be of one build with the rest of the north wall of the middle range.

Behind (that is to the north of) the fire-place was a brick-built oven, at this stage apparently a single compartment 11 feet 2 inches by 2 feet 9 inches internally. The sidewalls were brick-filled arches buttressing the back of the fire-place and resting upon a back wall which survived only to a height of three or four courses. Within the area so enclosed, and even beyond it to the north, there was evidence of much burning: the ground was burnt a bright red and the change had penetrated well into the surface. Access to the oven must have been obtained from the back. This version of the oven also abutted on the original west wall of the east range in straight joints: the end wall of the range and the outer wall of the oven were in alignment. By the same token the oven as now built was earlier than the first extension of the east range (see below), which rested, in its turn, largely on the main building, but slightly overlapped the back of the oven (Plate 38b).

In the second version the oven was both enlarged and divided into two parts by a central wall. This change followed the first extension of the hall block and is dealt with in its place below.

The most important change of Phase II, however, was on the western side. The western range of Court I was extended northwards for a distance of 67 feet so that its overall length was now about 178 feet, its internal width (18 feet) being that of the slightly widened original version (Plate 42).

The extension was very little out of alignment with the original range. On the west side it had been built, not from the external wall of the block, but from the inner partition wall. The original west end of the north (or middle) range had been dismantled to offset or ground wall level; the new wall was built against the broken end of the old in a modified straight joint (the core of the latter projecting into the new work). The north wall of the middle range had been cut back at its western end for the new west wall, making with it an irregular open joint (Plate 39b); the walls of the other pre-existing buildings on this side (A, B) had also either been cut back or incorporated in the new wall.

The treatment of the eastern (inner) wall of the extended west range was quite different. This wall may be said to be in two parts, at least as it presented itself in the excavation. The evidence of straight joints would seem to suggest that while the north wall of the middle range was cut back to allow for the extension of the outer west wall, the wall itself was left standing at any rate at the time when the long gallery was built: it was clearly removed later. The first part of the east wall of the long gallery (at ground level) was therefore built to bridge the north range of Court I. At the south it made a straight joint with the pre-existing wall; its northern end was toothed into the outer wall of the north range. The late wall had a shallow foundation and was 'humped' over the deeper early wall; there was no doubt about the treatment at ground level, for the late wall had a defined squared end which was let into the earlier wall. The difference was accentuated by the fact that a different mortar had been used for it.

The second part of the east wall of the extended west range began with a straight joint against the outside of the original north range. This also had a shallow foundation, this time of gravel, an unusual treatment in a building which otherwise is remarkable for its lavish use of brick; and it continued so until it met the pre-existing building (C) on the northern side of Court II. Here the foundation was deepened to accommodate it to those of Building C, now razed to allow of the remodelling of this part of the site.

The justification for regarding the two parts of the eastern wall of the extended long gallery range as of the same 'period' rests on their generally similar construction. The fact that they were not united over the pre-existing outer north wall of the middle range would seem to indicate that, as already mentioned, this wall was still functioning when the western range was extended; and further support for this may perhaps be found in slight variations both in alignment and in dimensions, as between the two parts of the new wall. While, however, this last point cannot be pressed, it should be noted that if the original north wall of the main block (Court I) was still in use now the external widening of the middle range must have followed the building of the long gallery. The sequence is suggested by the straight joint between the extended west range and the new north wall of the middle range, with the latter resting on the former. But it can imply nothing more than a structural succession, with no real difference in date between the two parts, since the redesigned inner court of this period with its access from the north must have required an outer doorway in its north range which was not provided in the original plan.

The remodelling of Court II did not end with the reconstruction of its west side. A new north range was also built, of one piece with that on the west. Here too the original irregular buildings were replaced by a single block which was divided into two unequal parts by a cross-passage practically opposite that on the south side of the court. This new range was linked in its turn with a reconstructed eastern range which still retained the entrance-gateway. The redesigned layout covered about the same area as previously, but in an orderly and unified manner.

On the north as on the west the outer wall of the new north range coincided approximately with the north wall of the pre-existing building. The axis of Building C was set somewhat askew to that of the new range: in consequence its north-west corner lay within the range, while its north-east must have been just outside it. On the west the faced wall of Building C had been cut back nearly 2 feet to allow for the new wall, the foundation remaining in place on the inner side of it. On the east also the wall of Building C had been cut back: as already described the earlier foundation emerged beyond the new wall for a distance of about 18 inches (Plate 37a).

The difference in alignment between Building E and the north range was even more strongly marked. On the west the wall that this building shared with C was cut by the wall of the north range on the side of the court. On the east the walls converged. On the outer (north) side the later wall overlay that of Building E as it approached the edge of the site: the ends of the two walls coincided very closely on the so-called boundary wall (above, page 27) which remained the end wall of the range. The later wall had been robbed for the last 30 feet or so of its length but the robber-trench was still visible in one or two places. On the inner (south) side the two walls came together at the north-eastern angle of the court, but the later wall continued eastwards at higher level and was traceable for its full length to the point at which it met the 'boundary' wall.

Fig. 14. North-east turret (Phase II, Court II) in relation to earlier features

The unifying process was continued along the east side of Court II. The early building, D, here was razed in common with the others and rebuilt in a reduced form, its north-tosouth length being shortened—a change which had the effect of moving the carriageentrance about 10½ feet northwards. This shifting of the entrance was related to modifications of the north end of the hall range which will be dealt with in due course. The new east range was probably of one build with the rest of Court II, in spite of the fact that its only visible contacts with the north range took the form of straight joints. Its eastern frontage could not be found, but was no doubt in about the same plane as the end of the north range: its width would therefore have been about 16 feet.

A feature of Court II was the presence of two small polygonal turrets in the north-east and north-west angles. Though slightly varying in size they were identical in general character and for all that their relationships with the north range were somewhat different they must be regarded as being of the same date. The north-east turret (fig. 14; Plate 40) was of one build with the remodelled east range for its top six or seven courses as surviving; at a lower level it met the base of the earlier wall (the wall, that is, of Building D) in a straight joint. The turret was carried on a broad foundation, but in spite of this strains and stresses had caused the brickwork to part above the straight joint. The turret had served as a staircase from the beginning and one or two broken steps survived at the time of the excavation. Behind it to the east the new building to which it was attached had a wellpreserved floor on which rested a short flight of three broken steps to the higher level of the north range. The flight was built against the turret wall, the lower steps being laid radially: it was broken away before reaching the south wall of the north range. The brick floor was about 20 inches lower than the floor of the turret and was probably the original floor of Building D. Though of one build with the east range, the north-east turret was not built into the north range—a variation which was probably a matter of building practice rather than an indication of difference in date. As elsewhere, pre-existing structures—in particular the rapidly converging south walls of Building C and the new north range respectively— and variations in levels must have been added to the practical difficulties of building on the site. The turret wall on the west side was thus carried over the reduced wall of Building C to end against the face of the north range in a straight joint: the variation in support as between the wall-base and the made ground beyond it caused the turret wall to 'hump' appreciably over the earlier wall (Plate 40b). The north-west turret of Court II was of one build with the new north range; its junction with the west range had been very curiously contrived. At this point the south wall of Building C passed under the wall of the west range and projected for something more than a foot beyond it on the side of the court. The turret wall had been accommodated in the angle formed by wall and stump, resting on both in a straight joint. The turret was constructed for use as a garde-robe and the upper courses of its brick-lined cesspit built round the earlier stump (Plate 39c). The reason for this complicated arrangement appears to have been that in the raising of the general ground level as part of the Phase II reconstruction the already existing wall of Building C made a convenient abutment, necessitated by the change of building levels where the wall of the remodelled west range crossed Building C. As already observed (page 40), this wall had a shallow foundation where it crossed the open court, but was carried to a greater depth inside Building C. The retention of the stump would have served to simplify an awkward transition.

Subsequently the cesspit was enlarged by the provision of a roughly circular extension on its east side with which it communicated by means of an inserted door-like outlet at low level. The timber framing of this opening was still in place. Later still the turret became a staircase—a change which must have taken place during the present century, for in the plans of 1903–4 (fn. 2) it appears at both ground- and first-floor levels as a small featureless chamber communicating with the interior of the building only on the first floor.

The completion of Court II in the Phase II reconstruction involved the modification of the carriage-entrance on the east side of the court. The south side of this entrance was of course the north end of the main hall range. The varied changes that had taken place in this area were deliberately left for description at this point. It is impossible to present a complete solution to all the problems presented by the structures here. The whole of this part of the site lay within the north end of the Georgian block and throughout the period of the institutional use of Brooke House it had been part of the domestic offices in which had been erected various brick-built vats and containers. Earlier features had therefore suffered much destruction; and there was the further complication that the whole of the area could not be available for excavation (fig. 15).

The first version of the hall block had ended on a line with the back of the oven at the end of the middle range: the end wall, at right-angles to the long axis of the hall, passed under the later walls of the Georgian rebuilding. This wall was of brick, 18 inches wide on a broad brick foundation, the top of the foundation being about 3 feet below the modern surface; its east end had been destroyed by one of the later structures referred to above. The extension of the hall block was carried out in two stages: it seems likely that these should be related to the changes on the north side of the carriage-entrance of Court II. With these alterations the alignment of the north wall was changed. The successive walls were parallel to one another, their angle to the main axis of the block conforming closely with that of the oblique east range of Court II.

The first addition to the hall range was therefore trapezoidal in plan, being narrower at the west than at the east end. On the west the new wall abutted on the back wall of the kitchen oven (in an intermediate version: see above) in a straight joint (Plate 38b) and after running northwards for 6 feet, turned east through an angle of about 100 degrees, to give the range the oblique end already mentioned. The course of this wall was not visible throughout its length, but two pieces of it survived at low level towards the east side, where they had been cut and otherwise modified by later changes (Plate 41a, 41b, 41c). The wall passed into and under the east wall of the Georgian block. The trial hole which was all that was possible here showed it to be standing to a height of about 3 feet, its top being 2½ feet below the present surface. Just beyond the Georgian wall, however, it appeared to be cut by an early-looking brick wall which probably marked the original building frontage for this part of the site. This wall will be further discussed below: in the late sixteenth century changes may have taken place beyond it to the east which may have affected its character. It suffices to say here that a similar wall was found both to south and to north of it; and since the northern version (crossing the north range of Court II) was set forward to the east 1½–2 feet beyond its line, the change is consistent with other evidence that the main entrance to Court II lay between the two.

It seems likely that the modification of the hall range above described should be linked with (or at least regarded as conditioned by) the development of Court II at the time when Building D extended southwards to its original full length. It has already been observed both that the new work and Building D were closely aligned and that the building frontage changed its line on each side of the gap between the two. The width of this gap was about 14 feet: at this stage therefore the carriage-entrance of Court II would have been flanked by the first extension of the hall range on the south and by Building D at its original full length on the north. There is no evidence to connect this sub-phase in the development of the east range with the intermediate changes in Court II when the isolated buildings in the area were linked to enclose the yard. Satisfactorily tidy as the arrangement would have been there is no reason to think that the two sets of modifications were other than independent of one another.

Fig. 15. Plan of north end of east range showing successive changes

The second extension of the east range seems likewise to be related to the final form of Court II. (fn. 3) Here, perhaps, the connexion is more definite. As already stated, the broad effect of this change, whatever the order of events, was to move the carriage-entrance of Court II northwards. Building D on the north side was reduced by about the same amount as the east range (with an additional projection) on the south was extended, so that the width of the passage between them remained in the neighbourhood of 12–14 feet.

Once again, the extension cannot be said to have added notably to the length of the hall range and it is only possible to guess at the factors which caused so much work for such a limited return in the way of new accommodation. The new north wall, approximately parallel with the old, was a mere 3 feet beyond it internally (Plate 42). On the west its offset foundation fitted against the outer angle of the earlier phase, the two making a straight joint at low level: above, old and new wall appeared to run as one. The north wall had been cut into by a large brick-built vat or tank (Plate 41b): when this was removed the wide-stepped foundation making the usual lavish use of brick, was seen to continue beneath it. The 18-inch wall was reduced to plinth level (about 4 feet below the modern surface) as it passed into the east wall of the Georgian block. The conditions were too restricted and confused to determine what had happened beyond, but it must be assumed that the wall would have ended on the northward continuation of the wall already mentioned in connexion with the first enlargement of the east range.

Beyond the second period north wall an oblong brick-walled cesspit 8½ feet by 7 feet internally projected northwards about 10 feet. It lay well within the entrance and its wellbuilt walls, nearly 2 feet wide, could have carried a considerable superstructure which might have formed a tower-like projection at the inner end of the carriage entrance, reducing its width to the approximate figure of 12 feet mentioned above. This figure was varied only slightly when the Georgian block came to be built. Beside the large pit (which contained a featureless mixture of rubble and builders' rubbish) was a second and smaller pit, also brick-lined and mutilated as found.

Three matters of detail require to be considered in connexion with the final enlargement of the east range. On the west side considerable trouble had been taken to incorporate the addition into the pre-existing structure. The original wall of the hall range at its north-west end was wider on the inside than that of the additions. It was cut back and the face of the new wall carried through for some feet across the line of the first north wall of the range, which must now have been demolished. It is in truth not easy to say whether this change was part of the first or of the second extension. The fact that the walls of the two 'periods' were of one build might seem to justify the relationship suggested above. On the other hand, if the original northern wall of the range remained in place after the first enlargement was carried out the width of the addition between the old and new walls would have been impossibly small.

Another feature of the north-west angle was a solid mass of brick about 7 feet each way, of one build with the final north wall of the range, but extending beyond it on the west to form a broad offset. The purpose of this block was unexplained. It survived to its full height in a finished surface which was about 2 feet above the plinth level of the wall. It was too small to be the base of a staircase, and there was no sign of its having carried any superstructure apart from the wall.

The last of these features was a foundation which projected northwards from the final north wall of the east range. This foundation, which was towards the east side, cut through the north wall of the preceding phase and continued beyond it, being then destroyed by one of the later vats. While however the earlier wall to the west of it had been reduced, on the east the two appeared to be united as part of the same structure, judging by the way in which they were closely fitted together. This might suggest that the eastern part of the earlier north wall had been incorporated in the later structure, since the faced wall survived to a height of several courses as it passed into the east wall of the Georgian block. But in fact the wall as it remained did not rise above the plinth level of the later preGeorgian period and may therefore have been covered by the later floor. It would, however, be misleading to pretend that in the encumbered and disturbed nature of this part of the site all its different features can be satisfactorily interpreted. The various foundations suggested a series of internal divisions none of which could be completely worked out. Apart from this the two-period sequence following on the original building seems clear enough and most of the remaining elements, apart from the widespread use of brick flooring, appeared to be of post-medieval date. The east wall of the Georgian block had an interest of its own in the way in which older walls had been incorporated in it at low level. The early walls were not completely razed, but presented a number of straight joints where they passed transversely into the foundation.

It remains to say something about the boundary wall which formed the eastern frontage of the site as first defined. This wall has already been mentioned (page 27) as closing the east side of Court II flanking the carriage-entrance, but it is tied up also with later changes, and particularly with the problem of the 'gatehouse' to which reference is made in the papers of Sir Rowland Hayward, who owned Brooke House from 1583 to 1593 (page 61).

The boundary wall extended southwards from the carriage-entrance along the oblique line already described (page 43), finally abutting on the extension of the lodge which seems to have been a later addition to the hall porch (Plate 37c, fig. 12). The outer face of the boundary wall could not be found in the neighbourhood of Court II, but its full width of just under 2 feet was visible for about 17 feet on the north side of the porch.

The alterations to the porch preceded the boundary wall and should therefore be described before subsequent developments are considered. They are not all of one structural 'period' and their actual date is quite uncertain; but they must have had a curiously make-shift appearance when complete and it seems likely that the latest of them belongs to a comparatively late date in Phase II.

The first element was a wall 25 inches wide and still standing to a height above plinth level of about 40 inches (its top being directly under the modern surface). It was built against the north face of the solid foundation which carried the porch and its turret, but stopped short of the outer wall of the east range by 2 feet. Its plinth levels were such as to suggest that it may not have been of very different date from the first building. At its outer (eastern) end it was cut by the foundation of the modern boundary wall of the site, so that its full length could not be determined, but its prolongation in this way in itself is sufficient to indicate that it was not primarily or exclusively linked with the porch, but formed part of an extension, possibly a yard, attached to the main block on the east side. On the other hand, the wall was recessed on the south side to take the tiled floor of the later alteration to the porch (below); and the recess (which can be seen, before the tiled flooring was removed, in fig. 16) appeared to be an original feature.

On the north side of the wall 9 feet 10 inches out from the main range was a small projection 22 inches long with a squared end which had the appearance of a buttress; this was subsequently incorporated in the later wall referred to above. The most curious feature of the wall, however, was the fact that it embodied at its base a barrel-vaulted brick culvert, very similar in character to that beneath the south-eastern turret already described (page 31). The purpose of this culvert was not obvious. At its inner end the gap between it and the main wall (Plate 37b) was closed on the south by the foundation of the porch, while part of a brick revetment enclosing the north side also remained. The space there contained might have served as an open sump of which the culvert was the outlet; but it must be confessed that no evidence had survived in the parts examined to show that they had been so used.

A brick-built oblong-sectioned drain had at a subsequent date been laid obliquely across the area by-passing the north-east corner of the entrance-porch (fig. 16). The wall above described had been cut to allow the drain through and rebuilt with a setback on the outer face over the drain. The inserted drain was directly above the crown of the culvert at a level which suggested that it had served to carry off surface water; but the structure had not survived beyond the foundation in the areas examined, nor could it be related to any surface-level away from the buildings themselves. Its top was a few inches below the surface of the foundation base, conforming therefore roughly with the upper foundation offset of the main wall of the east range and also with the offsets of the entrance-porch.

The final recognizable phase in the area of the porch appears to have been the remodelling of the lodge on the north side. The turret was apparently dismantled, and a wall built obliquely from the end of the north-eastern diagonal buttress to the free-standing wall to enclose an irregular space, the floor of which was made up with a brick filling to cover the plinths and base of the turret and provide a new surface at a slightly higher level than the tiled floor of the entrance-porch. The new lodge therefore was a much larger affair, its north and south sides being the detached wall (combined with some part of the turret wall) and the north side of the porch respectively, its west side the wall of the main range.

On the east side a short length of a quite slight wall surviving to a width of less than 9 inches remained towards the north end: its southern half had vanished from the point where it passed beyond the oblique low-level tie-wall and was therefore deprived of its support. Some additional foundation must have been provided in the neighbourhood of the diagonal buttress to carry this new wall: it could not have been bonded into the existing foundation and would have been easily dismantled during one or other of the many disturbances of the ground that took place on this side of the site. Whatever the actual details, however, it is quite clear that the lodge extended as far as this. The remains of the tile-flooring demonstrate the fact conclusively; and the tiles overlay the diagonal buttress of the porch, indicating that this too must have been dismantled to allow for these alterations (fig. 16 and Plate 34c). The face of the late lodge as above visualized would have projected beyond that of the porch by a matter of something over a foot and the wall must be assumed to have turned back to end on the north-east angle of the porch; the arrangement appears to be echoed in Chatelain's engraving of 1750, where the porch can be seen to have a small building projecting beyond it on the north side. It must, however, be pointed out that the engraving also shows the turret still standing.

Fig. 16. Plan of entrance porch and lodge in east wall showing succesive changes

On this evidence the following interpretation is suggested for the east front of Brooke House after the alteration described above. Towards the south end the hall and chapel frontage had before it a forecourt the depth of which to the high road was probably that of the forecourt which had survived down to the early twentienth-century road alterations (Plate 7, Inset). On the south this forecourt was defined by the free-standing wall with the turret in the angle which prolonged eastwards the line of the south front of the main building (page 31; fig. 10). On the north the boundary was probably the wall which flanked the north side of the porch. The porch would therefore have been more or less in the north-west corner of the forecourt, the angle of which would have been completely filled when the enlargement of the lodge was carried out. Beyond the forecourt to the north the oblique 'boundary' wall already described took over. Uncertainty as to the character of the east side of the hall range introduces here an element of uncertainty as to the structural part played by this wall. It may have been in part a yard wall: certainly to the north it formed the outer wall of the east range of Court II.

As has already been said, finality in these matters will always be impossible; but the arrangement above described has a certain plausibility in that the forecourt relates directly to the hall end of the range and is cut off from the domestic offices. Even more difficult is the question of the 'gatehouse' referred to in the lease granted to Sir Rowland Hayward during his tenure of the property in 1583–93 (page 61). The carriage-entrance for which a gatehouse would have been appropriate was of course in Court II and it must be assumed that the gatehouse was hereabouts. The fact that the building of it involved encroachment upon waste land adjacent to the house would suggest that the gatehouse was a projection from the original property boundary, and the most likely place for this would seem to have been immediately south of the carriage-entrance, in a position occupied by the eastward projecting wing shown on Burlison's plan of 1842 (Plate 4) at the north end of the Georgian block.

All these features disappeared when the Georgian east block was built and the east side was remodelled generally. The road reconstruction of 1909 cut back the frontage and took with it the ground in which the answers to some of the outstanding questions might have been found. The 'brickwork of a very old description', for instance, referred to in a contemporary account (page 66) might well relate to the gatehouse.

A final comment relates to the eighteenth-century additions, which apart from the lowering of the level in the hall area—and from its destructive or obstructionist functions— presented no problems for the excavators. The disposition of the earlier buildings left its mark on the extent and plan of the later, though it was of such a very different type. The Georgian builders contrived a symmetrical front which was flanked by unsymmetrical wings. In spite of various adjustments to achieve this symmetry, however, the position of the main entrance was retained, and the full length of the block remained that of the medieval range at its full and final extent, the Georgian wall actually overlying the outer angle of the large projecting cesspit (fig. 17).

Fig. 17. Plan of east range showing relationship of Georgian block to earlier buildings

In summary, therefore, the following are the main results achieved by the excavation of Brooke House (Plate 42):—

(a) There are indications of an earlier brick building of massive construction, at low level, particularly on the east side, in the hall block where they have been incorporated in the later work (page 27). The extent of this earlier work was not determined: it had survived in very fragmentary condition.

(b) Phase I of Brooke House proper consisted of a quadrangular court to the south, enclosed by buildings on all sides, with the hall block on the east, the chief entrance being by way of a porch and cross-passage on the hall side. Beyond the court to the north was a series of unco-ordinated buildings round an open space (fig. 10).

(c) The northern buildings were linked up, whether piecemeal or in one process it is impossible to say, to enclose an irregular court with its entrance also on the east side (Phase Ia fig. 11).

(d) The whole complex underwent drastic modification to constitute Phase II (fig. 12). Apart from minor changes the south, west and north ranges of Court I were enlarged and improved; the west range was extended northwards to form the long gallery at first-floor level and the rest of Court II was entirely rebuilt to produce a more orderly layout. This remodelling involved raising the general ground-level two feet or more over the greater part of the area.

Changes at the north end of the hall block which led to its extension in two stages, are probably to be correlated with the alterations to Court II under c and d above.

(e) The remainder of the building remained essentially unchanged, the east (hall) wing was replaced by the Georgian block which in its extent and the disposition of its features reflected the layout of the original buildings (fig. 17).

More recent changes, represented mainly by comparatively shallow walls, had not seriously affected the surviving earlier buildings. The ground over the whole of the site had been much disturbed, often to some depth. Apart from eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury pottery, finds were scanty and none occurred in circumstances which contributed concretely to questions of dating, which apart from broad conclusions can only be answered from the historical records.


  • 1. There had been a gradual building-up of the levels from the beginning but no significant objects were recovered from any of the surfaces. The early wall-top had been covered by at least two successive brick floors.
  • 2. Drawn for, and reproduced in, E. A. Mann, Brooke House, Hackney, 1904, Plates and .
  • 3. It may be that this was 'the Enlargyng of yor buttry . . . & Scolary . . .' referred to by Thomas Thacker in his letter to Thomas Cromwell of II August 1535 (page 57).