Brooke House: Historical and topographical account

Survey of London Monograph 5, Brooke House, Hackney. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1904.

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'Brooke House: Historical and topographical account', in Survey of London Monograph 5, Brooke House, Hackney, (London, 1904) pp. 7-13. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]


"What boots it now to Percy's gallant heir, That once he stood the rival to his King; And side-long glances stole from Anna's eyes. . . . In yonder lonely churchyard laid, Scarcely distinguished from the common dead, No noises now rouse up the list'ning sense, Save that, from yon old tower, our village clock Strikes on the ear his deep and drowsy chime." (fn. 1)

So sang the local poet of a dead and gone generation, and the sentiment is no less applicable to the subject we are about to consider, in this more modern but less poetic age. The stately dead still live in history's page; the old tower still stands; and Brooke House—where once dwelt "Percy's gallant heir"—with all its associations of a regal past, and much of its original splendour, remains to us. One marvels that the rapacity of the modern speculator has permitted this old-world mansion, with its acres of ground ripe for the brick-andmortar harvest, to remain so long untouched.

Although, in a sense, 'Ichabod' might fitly be inscribed across the portal of Brooke House, yet we shall hope to show, before we turn the last page of this monograph, that much of its ancient glory remains, a precious heritage to those who revere and love the memorials of the past.

It is not surprising, in attempting to trace the history of such a parish as Hackney back to the time of the Conquest, to find some divergence in the conclusions arrived at by the various historians of the intervening periods.

At the Conquest, all England became vested in William I., as in fee. To whom he allotted the lands in Hackney it is impossible, in the absence of all record or tradition, to determine. The principal manor of Hackney (says Lysons, (fn. 2) writing a century ago) was formerly parcel of the bishopric of London; and, though not mentioned in the record of Domesday, was, it is probable, included in the Survey of Stepney.

"In the reign of Henry III., when the first mention of the place occurs as a village, it is called Hackenaye and Hacquenye; and in a patent of Edward IV. granting the manors of Stepney and Hackney to Thomas Lord Wentworth, it is styled Hackeney otherwise Hackney." (fn. 3)

In the year 1233 the Knights Templars purchased in this parish half a hide of land with its appurtenances, of Ralph de Burgham, for sixteen marks sterling. This order—the Knights Templars—was in 1312 disannulled in England, and the knights, being condemned to perpetual penance, were sent into monasteries where, it is recorded, they behaved themselves modestly. The Temple, with all the lands belonging to it in the City & suburbs, was given to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, by Edward II. in 1307 with remainder to the king and his heirs, by which entail it came again to Edward III. in 1327, who gave it to the Knights Hospitallers of St. John Baptist of Jerusalem. (fn. 4) It is recorded that when Philip de Tame, prior of Saint John of Jerusalem (to which monastery all the possessions of the Knights Templars were granted upon the dissolution of that Order) took possession of them, he was admitted by suit of Court. An annual quit rent was also paid to the Bishop of London. (fn. 5)

The Bishop of London had a grant of free-warren in Hackney in the year 1291.

There was formerly a manor termed "The King's Manor" in the parish of Hackney, granted in the fifteenth year of Richard II., 1392, to the Earl of Cambridge, whose title is still recognised in "Cambridge Heath," a neighbouring district.

Tradition has carried the origin of this denomination—the King's Manor—as high as King Alfred, from whose grant the Kings-land is probably descended. (fn. 6)

The manor of Hackney seems to have been—from about the year 1410 —part of the dowry of the English queens, and there is record of a grant of the "Manor of Hackneis" (with other lands) to Elizabeth, Queen of Edward IV., dated July 7, "in the seventh year of our reign" (1467).

After the dissolution of the Priory of S. John of Jerusalem this estate at Hackney appears to have been granted to Henry, Earl of Northumberland.

The Crown having resumed the immediate tenure of all the Church lands in Hackney—which comprehended those of the Monastery of St. John, the Hospital of St. Mary, and the demesne of the Bishop which included the manors of the Rectory—these were bestowed on certain lay persons for good and faithful services done the King; and hence arose the manors of Lordshold, Kingshold, and Brooke, the two former of which, with that of the Rectory or Grumbold now chiefly remain. (fn. 7)

Robinson, in his history of Hackney, states that the manor of Lordshold was co-extensive with the parish of Hackney, and was in the time of Edward VI. valued at £61 9s. 4d.

This estate at Hackney having been granted by the King, probably in trust, to the Earl of Northumberland, was re-conveyed by this nobleman in 1535 to Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor, and others, for the King's use; but it appears, nevertheless, that the Earl kept possession of it till his death which happened two years afterwards "at his manor of Hackney." It then reverted to the Crown, and from that time was called the Manor of King's hold. (fn. 8)

It appears that it was the King's intention to have bestowed the manor upon Sir William Herbert, K. G., Earl of Pembroke, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, and the lineal descendant of Sir William Herbert ap Thomas of Raglan Castle, Mon., who was knighted for his valour in the French wars by Henry V.; but before this intention could be put in force the King died. This event was not allowed to defeat the intentions of the deceased monarch; consequently Edward VI. and his Council in pursuance thereof, by letters patent A. D. 1547 (the first of his reign) granted Sir William Herbert for the support of his high appointment a manor in Hackney "of the clear yearly value of 40 marcs," (fn. 9) or, according to Lysons, £ 39 15s. 4d. per annum.

In the grant to Sir William the manor is termed "part of the Kings Majesty's purchased lands" and is called "our Lordship and manor of Hackney."

The letters patent define the manor to be "all and singular our houses, edifices, barns, stables, dove-houses, buildings, gardens, orchards, gardengrounds, lands & soil being within the scite, enclosure, circuit, compass, or precinct of the said capital mansion." This "capital mansion" can be no other than Brooke House, which is described as "a fayre house, all of brick, with a fayre hall and parlor, a large gallery, a proper chapel, and a proper library to laye books, in, &c.," situated on the London Road and enclosed on the back side with a broad and deep ditch which formed the "scite, circuit, or precinct" referred to, which certainly does not at all coincide with the description of the manor of Hackney or the Kingshold as set forth in the letters patent of James I., by which it was granted to Hugh Sexey and others. Brewer, in his "Beauties of England & Wales," states that "the Manor House of Kingshold, long termed Brooke House, is yet remaining, and is now used as a receptacle for insane persons under the direction of Mr. Holmes." Wheatley and Cunningham (fn. 10) also agree that Brooke House was the manor house of the Manor of Kingshold, and was sometimes known as Kingshold. It would therefore seem that what was known as the Manor of Brooke was ultimately merged into that of Kingshold. Besides, the Manor of Hackney did not necessarily imply that of Kingshold, since the Lordshold and Kingshold both have the general description of Manors of Hackney. (fn. 11)

Another historian however states, and the record is quite authentic, that "the manor belonged of old to the Bishop of London till Dr. Nicholas Ridley, bishop of that see, by indenture bearing date April 12, 4 Edward VI. about the time of the Reformation, granted or surrendered this manor," and all & singular the messuages, lands, tenements, hereditaments, whatsoever to the said manor belonging or appertaining"—with that of Hackney—to the said king his heirs and successors for ever, in consideration of certain other lordships.

The Earl of Pembroke, in the same year in which the grant was made to him, sold the manor to Sir Ralph Sadleir. From him it passed the year following to Edward Carew, Esq., and having continued for some years in that family, by a quick succession was alienated in 1578 by Richard Carew, Esq., to Sir Henry Carey, first Lord Hunsdon, by whom it was conveyed in 1583 to Sir Rowland Hayward.

In 1596 this manor, with the capital mansion called the King's Place (then lately in the tenure of Sir Rowland Hayward), was conveyed by Anthony Radcliffe and others (the executors, it is probable, of Sir Rowland) to Elizabeth Countess of Oxford, who in the year 1609 alienated the Manor of Hackney, (i. e. this of the Kingshold), with four messuages, two cottages, two tofts, &c., 100 acres of land, 50 of meadow, 100 of pasture, and 20 of wood, in the parishes of Hackney and Tottenham, to Fulke Greville (afterwards Lord Brooke) his heirs and assigns. Soon afterwards by some grant or exchange the manor (formerly valued at £39 15s. 4d.) became vested in the Crown; "for," says Lysons, "I find it granted by letters patent of James I. anno. 1614 [9th May 1615, according to John Thomas] to Hugh Sexey, Henry Mildmay, Thomas Laud, and Thomas Banckes, their heirs and assigns for ever, for the sum of £296, reserving certain portions however." Hugh Sexey subsequently purchased the interests of Thomas Laud and Thomas Banckes; and in 1619 the manor was vested in Sir Laurence Hyde and nine others; in 1633 Humphrey Hurleston, Esq., of the Inner Temple; and in 1644 William Benning, gentleman, of Tottenham High Cross. It was afterwards, in 1646, the property of William Hobson, Esq., citizen of London, who died in 1662.

By his will William Hobson directed all his estates & manors in Hackney and elsewhere to be sold for the payment of his debts, but expressed a desire that this manor of Saint John of Jerusalem (or the Kingshold) might if possible be reserved. (fn. 12)

In 1659 William Smith and others, who it is probable purchased it of the Parliamentary Commissioners, alienated it to William Hobson, Esq., whose three daughters and co-heirs married Sir William Bolton, Kt., Patient Ward, and William White, Esquires, who were Lords of the Manor till 1669, when they alienated it to John Forsyth, Esquire, citizen and alderman of London. (fn. 13)

In 1676 the property came to Nicholas Cary and Thomas Cook, goldsmiths, of London. (fn. 14)

Other records state that the manor appears to have been alienated in 1677 by Benjamin Bannister, citizen & apothecary, and William White, citizen and haberdasher, as sons-in-law and trustees of William Hobson, to Sir George Vyner, whose first court was held in 1668. His father Sir Thomas Vyner, by his will bearing date 1665, directed £ 7000 to be laid out in the purchase of lands for his son Sir George.

During the tenure by Wm. Hobson, however, or his trustees, it is evident that the house was in the occupation for some time of Lady Brooke, as Evelyn in his Diary under May 8th, 1654, writes: "I went to Hackney to see my Lady Brooke's garden, which was one of the neatest and most celebrated in England, the house well furnished, but a despicable building."

Pepys also writes under date June 25, 1666: "Mrs. Pen carried us to two gardens at Hackney (which I every day grow more and more in love with) Mr. Drake's one, where the garden is good, and house and the prospect admirable; the other my Lord Brooke's, where the gardens are much better, but the house not so good, nor the prospect good at all. But the gardens are excellent; & here I first saw oranges grow: some green, some half, some a quarter, and some full ripe, on the same tree, and one fruit of the same tree do come a year or two after the other. I pulled off a little one by stealth (the man being mightily curious of them) and ate it, and it was just as other little green small oranges are: as big as half the end of my little finger. Here were also great variety of other exotique plants, and several labarinths, and a pretty aviary."

The manor was purchased in the year 1694 by John Sikes, Esq., of the co-heirs of Sir Thomas Vyner, Bart., the infant son of Sir George. Mr. Sikes in 1698 sold it to Francis Tyssen; in 1724 it was in the hands of Thomas Cook, as before noted; and in 1781 it became vested in John Dent, John Wormald, & the Rev. Peter Beauvoir, who held it as trustees until 1814, when it became the sole property by purchase, June 8, of William George Daniel Tyssen.

The mansion, now called Brooke House, was reserved by Lord Brooke, when he sold the manor, for his own residence, & it has continued ever since in his family, the freehold being now vested in the Earl of Warwick. The remainder of a long lease was assigned to the late Dr. Munro, and is now vested in his sons. The house, which was at the time of this recital by Lysons, in the immediate tenure of a Mr. Holmes, had then been for many years occupied for the reception of insane persons.

It will thus be seen that we are dealing with no ordinary structure, and that the long line of successive royalties, courtiers, gallants, wits, and statesmen, with whose careers the ancient manor and manor-house have been for so many centuries coincident, and whose history is so clearly defined & recorded, should make it one of the chief glories of this onceroyal suburb—a treasure-house of sentiment and beauty, and as one of the last surviving remnants of the past, and the only baronial mansion in the neighbourhood, to be religiously preserved.

Appended is a table showing from the preceding notes the chronological succession of the owners and occupiers of the manor and manor-house from its earliest times:—

1233. The Knights Templars purchase land in Hackney.

1312. The Order disannulled & the property confiscated by the Crown and given by Edward II. to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke.

1327. Reverting to the Crown, is given by Edward III. to the Knights Hospitallers of St. John Baptist of Jerusalem.

1410. Part of the dower of the Queen Margaret of England.

1467. Granted to Elizabeth, Queen of Edward IV.
Dissolution of the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem and confiscation by Henry VIII.
Presented by Henry VIII. to Henry, Earl of Northumberland.

1535. Reconveyed by Earl of Northumberland to Sir Thomas Audley for the King's use, the Earl still residing, and dying here two years after.

1547. Reverting to the Crown, the manor is bestowed by Edward VI.
upon Sir William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.
Purchased by Sir Ralph Sadleir from the Earl.

1548. Edward Carew.
Richard Carew.

1578. Sir Henry Carey, 1st Lord Hunsdon.

1583. Sir Rowland Hayward. (Q. Elizabeth's visit).

Anthony Radcliffe and others.

1596. Elizabeth, Countess of Oxford.

1609. Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke.

The Crown. James I.

1614/1615. Thomas Laud,Thomas Banckes, Hugh Sexey, and Henry Mildmay. Hugh Sexey purchased the interests of Laud and Banckes.

1619. Sir Laurence Hyde and nine others.

1633. Humphrey Hurleston of the Inner Temple.

1644. William Benning of Tottenham High Cross.

1646. William Hobson, Citizen of London.

William Hobson's sons-in-law as trustees probably.

1654. Lady Brooke (in occupation: Evelyn's visit).

1659. William Smith and others.

1662. William Hobson's sons-in-law: Sir William Bolton, Knight; Patient Ward, Esquire; William White, Esquire.

1666. The Right Hon. Robert Lord Brooke (in occupation: Pepys' visit).

1669. John Forsyth, Esquire.

1676. Nicholas Carey and Thomas Cook.

1677. Sir George Vyner.
Sir Thomas Vyner.

1694. John Sikes.

1698. Francis Tyssen (by purchase) Francis John Tyssen.

1724. Thomas Cook.

1777. William Clark.

1781. John Dent and others.

1814. W. G. D. Tyssen.

1811/1816. Mr. Holmes (Lysons. Brewer's "Hist. of Middlesex.")

Dr. Munro.

1868. Dr. Adams (the present holder of the lease and occupier).


  • 1. "La Bagatella."
  • 2. Quoted in MSS. 'Hist. of Hackney.' J. Thomas.
  • 3. Walford's 'Old and New London.' Vol. V. p. 512.
  • 4. Mag. Britt., 1724.
  • 5. Lysons.
  • 6. Walford's Old & New London.
  • 7. Papers relating to Hackney Manors: Tyssen Lib.
  • 8. Lysons.
  • 9. MSS. Hist. Thomas.
  • 10. "London, Past and Present."
  • 11. Thomas' MSS. 'Hist. of Hackney.'
  • 12. Lysons.
  • 13. Hackney Journal, April 1842.
  • 14. Hackney Journal, 1842.