South Hackney

Shore Place 1736
Shore Place 1736

Two small settlements made up Tudor South Hackney, both grouped around road junctions. The first was at the junction of a footpath running east from Mare Street and the road from Bethnal Green (the modern Grove and Lauriston Roads, earlier Grove Street). The footpath, which continued east as a lane to Hackney Wick, very roughly paralleled the modern Victoria Park Road. The second settlement lay at the junction of Grove Street and Well Street, which then as now ran from Mare Street curving north towards Homerton.

Grove Street took its name from a grove that once stretched westwards from the hamlet to the modern Shore Road. On the site of 18 Shore Road stood a medieval estate house, which existed in 1320, when it was called De la Grave. It formed part of an estate built up by Sir John of Shoreditch, and his brother Nicholas in the first half of the 14th century. In 1502 the ‘manor place’ had two barns, two stables and a dove house. Rebuilt in brick after 1612, it became a castellated building of five bays, known variously as Grove House, Shoreditch House and latterly Shore Place. It was demolished shortly after 1768 by the London building speculator, Thomas Flight.

There were cottages recorded at the north end of Grove Street in 1516-17. There were two moated house sites, one on each side of Well Street. The one on the north side, the Pilgrim's House, was owned by the medieval order of the Hospitallers in 1416. The manorial pound for Kingshold manor stood alongside it, though by 1693 there was a new pound for local stray beasts at the west end of Well Street. It is likely that the Pilgrim’s House was rebuilt in brick, but the earliest drawing of 1741 shows a two-storied house with three gables, built around a courtyard in chequered brick and with a decorative brick cross on the front. The moat had been drained prior to 1741. The house survived, subdivided among poor tenants who included chimney sweeps, until the end of the 18th century. The name of the Two Black Boys public house on the north side of Well Street, which recalled the sweep’s boys, was the last vestige of Pilgrim’s House.

In the 17th century, the two largest land holdings had been built up by the Norris family and Henry Monger, whose property was later to form part of the estate of Sir John Cass. Monger had acquired part of his land from his wife, the daughter of William Swayne on the latter’s death in 1649. In turn Swayne’s holdings included the land and property purchased by London draper Arthur Dericote in 1557. Monger’s holdings included a large house on Grove Street, which could have been the house that Dericote’s predecessor, John Bowes, had bought from William Leigh in 1539-40.

Hugh Norris had bought land on the east side of Grove Street in 1654 from Edward Misselden. His acquisition included a rambling timber framed building with a long range of two storeys, adorned with ornate plasterwork. There were two turreted stairways, capped by what may have been octagonal-windowed floors and the building looked like a miniature Nonsuch Palace, begun in 1538. Hugh Norris’ descendant Henry Norris demolished it in 1728 - the Georgian replacement was demolished in the 1860s when the western ends of Penshurst and Southborough Roads were constructed.

Dalston and Kingsland

Balmes House Estate
Balmes House Estate

Dalston Lane turns north at the junction with the modern Graham Road. This alignment avoided the low-lying lands along Pigwell Brook. The original hamlet of Dalston lay on this northern part of the lane, at the junction with a path running north to Shacklewell, on the line of the present Cecilia Road. There was also a small settlement at Kingsland, near Kingsland Green - a house at Kingsland belonged to Alderman John Brown (d1532), serjeant painter to Henry VIII. South of the road to Islington lay the Lock Hospital.

The rest of what is now thought of as Dalston, south of Dalston Lane and west of London Fields would have been open pasture land. De Beauvoir Town was then the Balmes or Hoxton estate. In 1305 there was a house and mill on the estate - the name Balmes probably comes from Adam Bamme (d.1397), mayor of London. The estate was rented to William Whitmore, a London haberdasher, prior to 1593 and was bought by his son Sir William Whitmore for a younger son, Sir George Whitmore. There may have been a moated house on the site in 1504, but it is likely that the two-storeyed house, with two sets of dormers in a steep roof, was built for Sir George Whitmore around 1635. The replacement house, on the present line of the southern part of De Beauvoir Road, just north of the canal, was demolished about 1852.


Sir Henry Rowe
Sir Henry Rowe

Shacklewell was a settlement along Shacklewell Lane, which formed a curved loop from Kingsland High Street northwards to Stoke Newington Common. The earliest recorded inhabitant was a tenant of a London saddler in 1490. But presence of a spring and the comparative seclusion may have attracted incoming London merchants. Sir John Heron, treasurer of the king’s chamber, who built up substantial land holdings in Hackney in the early 16th century, chose to live there and his widow was the highest assessed Hackney parishioner for the subsidy of 1524.

The Heron family finally sold the estate to Alderman Thomas Rowe in 1566, a Lord Mayor of London. On his death in 1570, the house passed to his son Sir Henry Rowe - also a Lord Mayor of London. The gradual decline in the Rowe fortune prompted the sale of the estate to Francis Tyssen in 1685.

The Heron house stood back from the road on the north side of the Green at the southern end. By the time illustrations of the house were made, it had been rebuilt as a three-storey brick building with Dutch gables. It came to the Tyssens when they bought the estate, and as the family were also lords of both Lordshold and Kingshold manors, the house was known as the manor house, although it would not have been such in Tudor times. The old house was still standing in 1743, but is likely to have been demolished shortly afterwards.

Clapton and Stamford Hill

Clapton Street - the present Upper and Lower Clapton Roads, was recorded in 1378 and was a ‘high street’ in 1478, but was something of a back road.

Just south of Brooke House (the present Lea Bridge roundabout) a lane ran east, roughly on the course of the present Lea Bridge Road down to a ferry across the Lea. Further north, Kate’s Lane (the present Northwold Road) went west to Stoke Newington Common.

There was relatively little building along Upper Clapton Road much before the beginning of the 18th century. Further south, there was a gabled house on the site of Rowhill Road, which probably dated from our period. Bought by Samuel and Bucknall Howard in 1715, it was sold to John Howard, a London upholsterer, in 1727 and was the birthplace of his son John Howard, the prison reformer and philanthropist.

Just to the north of Clapton Pond stood Clapton House. This probably stood on the site of the house of Thomas Wood, later Serjeant of the Pantry, who lived in Hackney in 1597 and was a vestryman in 1627. On his death in 1649, Wood’s house passed first to his eldest son Sir Henry Wood and then to Sir Henry’s younger brother Thomas, bishop of Lichfield and Coventry. It is likely that the bishop, who remained a Hackney resident, rebuilt the house, which was considerably altered for a later tenant in the late 18th century. It was demolished in 1884.

Stamford Hill formed part of ‘Newington’ in the 16th century, and was assessed for taxes with Shacklewell, Kingsland and Dalston. Hackney Brook ran east across the road and round the northern end of Stoke Newington Common, and the name ‘Stamford Hill’ is derived from Sanford or Saundfordhill, from the ford where the brook crossed the road. Building in our period was centred on the junction with Stoke Newington Church Street, where there were local tradesmen and two inns on the west side of the road in 1570 and a wine tavern in 1600.


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This site, developed with funding from the New Opportunities Fund as one of the projects within Sense of Place, London, forms part of the National Archive's Education site. It was developed as a partnership between Hackney Archives Department, Immediate Theatre and the National Archive's Education Team