Pages v-vi

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

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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 1583.

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.

Richard Edmonds
Chairman of the Town Planning Committee

County Hall