What's The Oldest Building In Hackney?

M@
By M@
What's The Oldest Building In Hackney?

Series exploring the most venerable buildings in each London borough.

See also: Camden, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark, Tower Hamlets.

St Augustine's Tower, Hackney.

At last, we've reached a borough with an easily identified 'oldest building'. Hackney contains its fair share of antique structures, but one is particularly hoary.

St Augustine's tower

To find the oldest building in Hackney, look no further than the borough's coat of arms:

Hackney coat of arms

There it is, perched on top like an eccentric pink hat. The building depicted is St Augustine's Tower, a prominent landmark on Mare Street for half a millennium. It is not actually pink.

The tower was constructed during Henry VIII's lifetime, very early in the early 16th century. Historic England notes that some bits may be even older. It was once part of a church, but that was pulled down in 1798.

The tower pictured around 1750, when it was still part of a church.

The surviving tower can be visited for free on the last Sunday of every month (2-4.30pm), and you really should. The tower contains one of the city's oldest clocks, and commands memorable views. Spitalfields Life and Look Up London also sing its praises.

A clock in St Augustine's Tower, Hackney.
16th century clock. Image by M@

Sutton House

Although not quite so old, this part of Hackney contains another remarkable survival. Head through the church gardens to Homerton High Street and there, at numbers 2 and 4, you will find Sutton House.

Great Chamber at Sutton House
Image Ethan Doyle White under creative commons licence.

Built for a courtier of Henry VIII around 1530, the house has survived the eras as a school, private residence, offices and a period of semi-dereliction. It is now under the custodianship of the National Trust, and open to visits (you may need to book). Explore the panelled rooms, and look out for the graffiti preserved from Sutton House's days as a squat.

Other buildings

Hackney contains one other Tudor building, the Old Church in Stoke Newington (formerly St Mary's old church, and not to be confused with the newer, taller St Mary's church by George Gilbert Scott, which stands opposite). This reckons to be the only surviving Elizabethan church in London, dating from 1563.

The next oldest is probably the Geffrye Museum, a set of alms houses of 1715 turned into a museum of the home. A row of terraced houses on Newington Green date from 1658, but lie just over the border in Islington.

See also: Camden, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark, Tower Hamlets.

Last Updated 25 January 2019