I was in warm, sunny London on Thursday. The original plan was to meet a friend from my online book group and attend a showing of the 1953 film “Little Boy Lost” organised by the Persephone Book Shop. I always book my cheap train tickets way ahead and when we came to enquire about the film all the places had been taken but I still had my train tickets. In the end it turned happily as the weather was so warm and sunny that it might have been a shame to have been cooped up in the BFI.
Our Plan B was to visit the National Trust property Sutton House instead. I’ll copy and paste Clare’s summary of the history of the house as she summed it up perfectly to our group yesterday :
“It is a Tudor house, with lots of later additions, and a
fascinating history. It was first owned by Ralph Sadleir, an important
official in four reigns starting with Henry VIII. After that it was owned by
other individuals plus passing through the hands of two separate girls’
schools, a boys’ school, a church institute which ran all sorts of
activities for young men, and in the 1980s it was occupied by squatters who
wanted to form an arts community there.”
Today Sutton House is very much a part of the local community and the only staff we came across were volunteers all of whom were friendly, helpful and knowledgable. You can check out the website to see the variety of activities organised at the house – not surprisingly it’s booked up for over a year for school party visits. At one point I spotted a flyer for ‘Sutton House Book Brunchers’ who meet at the Bryck Place Tea Room once a month. Bryck Place is the original name for Sutton House and the tea room is a delight – a book lovers’ and tea drinkers’ paradise! There was a bit of renovation going on in the tea room on the day we visited so it was a matter of help-yourself to drinks and cake or scones and jam and drop a contribution in the box. So we did! The tea rooms are surrounded by shelves mostly stacked with secondhand books but some also with secondhand cups and saucers and jugs and teapots all for sale.
The tour of the house began in the Linenfold Parlour (see the poster pictured above). This would have been an important room in Sadleir ‘s original building in what was at the time (1535) a quiet, rural village. You then can visit the cellars, climb the Painted Staircase to the Gallery, the Little Chamber and the Great Chamber, a bedroom now decked out as a Victorian study and climb up again to an exhibition and history room on the second floor. A further staircase takes you right down to the ground floor again where, on this east side of the house, is a Tudor kitchen with access to an enclosed courtyard and a Georgian Parlour. This last room had a corner devoted to tea and it’s accoutrements and I was happy to note the following little verse :
“In lands near or far
or wherever you be
friendship is welded by
a good cup of tea”
From Sutton House it’s a short walk to Hackney Central Station where we boarded our London Overground trains in opposite directions. As I sat on my train heading towards Whitechapel the following text came through on my ‘phone : “Afternoon tea now available at 45a!” Some friends, staying at the Landmark Trust property 45A Cloth Fair this week, were inviting me to join them for (another) cuppa and more cake. I’ve stayed at 45A in the heart of Smithfield between Barbican and St Paul’s tube stations half a dozen times already so it was like arriving home as I climbed the creaking staircase to the first floor sitting room and joined my friends for tea and cake.