Modern Mare Street runs from Cambridge Heath Road to Lower
Clapton Road, but before 1868 the name applied only to the road
south of the vicinity of the present Hackney Town Hall.
Mare Street was a distinct settlement in 1593, probably with
houses near the Well Street junction, possibly including the
pub known later as the Flying Horse. There may also have been
houses at the Triangle, where the modern Westgate Street was
then Sheep Lane - the name later applied to another lane leading
from the present Westgate Street and running parallel with Mare
Street. By then, the first Sheep Lane had become Mutton Lane,
probably from the Shoulder of Mutton Field or from the pub of
the same name (later the Cat and Mutton). There were ponds at
the Cambridge Heath end of the road.
Mare Street residents in 1602 included Thomas Catcher, a moneyer
and a Mr De Quester, likely to be James De Quester, a foreign
merchant. These two and some other residents were all London
citizens - this area was more than convenient for those with
business in the City.
The location of very few Tudor houses on Mare Street are known
for certain, since the majority were demolished or rebuilt before
they could be recorded by artists. One that did was Barber’s
Barn, a three storeyed gable ended house just south of the present
junction with Darnley Road, which is reputed to have been built
around 1590. Home to the regicide Colonel John Okey, who was
executed in 1662, it ultimately passed to nurseryman Conrad
Loddiges, who pulled it down to build a modern terrace on the
site - probably in the 1790s.
Homerton had its origins as a hamlet north of the course of
Hackney Brook. At the western end of what became Homerton High
Street, a path ran across the Church Field to Hackney Church,
whilst the road turned north to link with the road to Clapton.
This road, now Urswick Road, was Upper Homerton, while the High
Street, dropping down at its eastern end and becoming Marsh
Hill, was Lower Homerton or Humberton Street. A lane went south
to the Blew Bridge across the Hackney Brook - this is the modern
Ponsford Street - and the dip in the road before it meets Morning
Lane, marks the site of the brook.
By the end of the 16th century there were more people paying
church rates in both parts of Homerton than in any of the five
divisions of Hackney. These divisions covered quite broad areas,
but most of the inhabitants would have had houses fronting on
to Urswick Road, Homerton High Street and Marsh Lane. High Street
residents included wealthy London merchants, who wanted a home
in the country close enough for them to retain their ties with
the City, while Upper Homerton also had some noble residents.
One of these was Edward, Lord Zouche, resident at the time
of the Daniells, who lived in a house on the north side of Homerton
High Street, probably on the site of the present Dean Close.
He had bought a freehold house “upon the corner of
Humberton Street” in 1595. Zouche’s grounds
included a physic garden and he employed Matthias L’Obel
as his gardener. L’Obel gave his name to the lobelia.
The herbalist, John Gerard, visited Hackney and was given foreign
seeds from Zouche’s garden. Gerard also commented on the
quality of the locally grown small turnips! Zouche ceased to
be a Hackney resident before his death in 1625 and it is likely
his house was sold in 1620 to Sir Julius Caesar, Master of the
Rolls. It may have been the seat of Sir Thomas Cooke from 1672
and if so, after his death in 1695 the estate was bought by
Joseph Brooksbank, who was a Hackney resident by 1712. The house
may have been retained until Joseph’s son, Stamp Brooksbank,
had completed the grand Palladian Hackney House in 1732. Thereafter
it was demolished and the site used for the stables of the new
house. (The cellars of the old house came to light during site
clearance of Victorian houses in the 1970s).
Zouche’s house was approached from Homerton High Street
by a long drive. On the south side of the road, at the junction
with the modern Urswick Road, stood two large houses, built
on a field called Alfordscroft. The earliest, to the west, was
the Tanhouse - in existence in 1499. Sir John Heron, who had
substantially contributed to the rebuilding of Hackney Church,
bought the land in 1511. The second house was the work of Ralph
Sadler, who had been a member of Thomas Cromwell’s household
and was subsequently in Henry VIII’s service. Sadler’s
father bought the Tanhouse estate in 1521 and Ralph built “the
bryk place” on a cramped site to the east of the
Tanhouse in 1535-6.
This is today’s Sutton House, Hackney’s oldest
surviving domestic building. The modern name came from Thomas
Sutton (d.1611), the founder of London’s Charterhouse
and supposedly England’s richest commoner at the time
of his death, though Sutton probably lived in the Tanhouse next
door. Sadler’s new house was built on an ‘H’
plan, with two wings linked by a central range. Both wings are
angled to the east, making the most of the limited land available.
The front of the house was decorated with diapered or overfired
bricks giving a lozenge and diamond pattern. Rooms included
a great hall with a dais at the west end for a high table, and
a great chamber above with linen-fold panelling. Beyond this
was the main bed chamber with its own privy. The top floor would
have been for servants and children.
Sadler sold his house and land to John Machell the elder in
1551. Machell was a City of London alderman. The house passed
through many hands, including the Vyner family who had also
acquired the Black and White House on Church Street. One wing
received a Georgian front in 1741-3 and it was divided into
two in 1752. After being united again and serving as the St
John’s Church Institute from 1890, the house was acquired
by the National Trust in 1938. Tenanted for many years, a successful
local campaign in 1984-7 persuaded the Trust to refurbish Sutton
House and it is now open to the public.
The most striking of Homerton’s 16th century buildings
was the ‘Plough’ range, which stood on the north
side of the High Street, opposite the lane running down to the
Blew Bridge. This timber framed building of two storeys with
gables in the roof, ran over 290' from Furrow Lane (once Plough
Lane) to the lost Bannister Street. There may have been a courtyard
behind the range, and it could once have belonged to a wealthy
Londoner or a medieval royal official. By our period it was
probably already divided, as Homerton’s older houses were
subdivided. A smaller house on the south side of the street
had been divided into four by 1598.
By the early 18th century the western end of the ‘Plough’
range had become the Plough public house and the adjoining properties
became shops in the early 19th century. The entire range, with
altered fronts, was still intact in 1840 but was demolished
in successive stages from the eastern end, with the last original
part going in 1887.
Hackney’s 18th century workhouse on the south side of
Homerton High Street had also been one of Homerton’s grand
houses. It was still a good buy when the Jewish jeweller Isaac
Alvares bought it in 1674, becoming Hackney’s first recorded
Jewish inhabitant. It was a timber frame building, with three
gables, plastered at the front and with irregular brick built
extensions at the rear when it was drawn in 1841, shortly before
it was demolished.
Further down the hill there was a large house on the corner
of Pratt’s Lane (on the site of the present Glyn Road)
and the High Street in 1565. Down Marsh Hill and on the north,
a moated enclosure once surrounded Tower Place. This is likely
to have been a substantial house in 1605, but was ruined by
1684. The moat survived as part of the grounds of Marsh House,
which was probably built after the Tudor period until 1910,
when it was removed for the construction of Trehurst Road.