Friday 7 February 2014

Sutton House

Hackney. Famous for its Marshes full of talent-free footballers and for spawning Ray Winstone and Martine McCutcheon. I didn't fancy it that much to be honest but I needed a scone destination that was close to home and Sutton House fitted the bill. 

So I started reading up on how Sutton House is the oldest residential building in East London and was built in 1535 by a Tudor courtier called Ralph Sadleir when my brain suddenly said, in Winstone-esque way, HOLD UP. For I recognised the name Ralph Sadleir and after some investigation I realised he was one of the characters in the Booker prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies

Now, someone wibbling on about a book you haven't read is monumentally tedious so I am not going to mention how brilliant Wolf Hall is (it is though). All you need to know is that the subject is Thomas Cromwell, who was a right-hand man of Henry VIII until he went the way of so many of Henry's favourites and became a no-head man. Ralph Sadleir worked for Cromwell from the age of 14 and went on to become a trusted member of Henry's court. His final task before he died at the age of 80 was to act as a judge at Mary Queen of Scots' trial during the reign of Elizabeth I. 

You learn all this (and a great deal more) at Sutton House because they have an absolutely brilliant exhibition explaining the history of the house from the 1500s to the present day. It's the most comprehensive history of any National Trust property I've ever seen - Sutton House was home to Ralph and his wife and seven kids, then it was owned by various people (who all seemed to end up bankrupt) before it was a school, then a church. At one point in the 1980s it was inhabited by a community of squatters, something that is fully embraced as an important moment in the history of the house. 

Sutton House Exterior

They also have the best guide book and leaflet directing you through the property - you leave the house feeling like you really understand not only how the house has changed over time but how Hackney has changed as well.

The Sutton House scones
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SCONES, I hear you cry. Well, since you asked, they were EXCELLENT. They were warm, perfectly sized, soft and full of fruit. I'd snaffled them down before I'd even looked at them. I was also given a choice of tea, which was served in a lovely dinky little china cup, a choice of jam (this NEVER happens) AND it was the cheapest cream tea in National Trust Scone Blog history (£3.95). So it's a big fat five out of five for the Sutton House scones (applause). 

Sutton House National Trust Scones

I'm going to finish with this nice portrait of Sir Ralph Sadleir. He actually looks a bit like David Tennant if you squint and take away the beard - hey, maybe that's who'll play him in the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall next year! *runs down to Ladbrokes*.  

Scones: 5 out of 5!
Sutton House: 4.5 out of 5
Crockery: 5 out of 5

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