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tudor landscape
Roman Medieval Tudor Georgian Victorian Early 20th C Late 20th C
It was during Tudor and Stuart times, 1485-1713, that the city of London started to spill over into areas such as Hoxton. In 1568 the Portuguese Ambassador built his house in Hoxton and other wealthy immigrants followed suit, probably spurred on by religious conviction; nonconformists (protestants who did not conform to the doctrine of the Church of England) and Catholics were not allowed to practice their religion within the City walls. This established Hoxton as a Nonconformist retreat.

Side by side with these dissenters and wealthy merchants were those who simply wanted to avoid the jurisdiction of the city. Hoxton was home to many bawdy houses and inns and so to crime and prostitution. In 1575 the Lord Mayor of London decided to ban all theatres within the city. This led to an actor living in Shoreditch, James Burbage, to open the aptly named 'The Theatre'. Built in the grounds of what had been the Holywell Priory, it was the first public theatre in London, and also where Shakespeare premiered at least three of his plays, including Romeo and Juliet. There were other activities to be enjoyed in Hoxton too, as well as visiting the alehouses, prostitutes and theatres, there was archery and hunting - an attempt by locals to farm the common land around Hoxton that was used for archery was met by rowdy resistance. In 1580 Queen Elizabeth I ordered an end to building within three miles of the city but it did not curtail Hoxton's role as a pleasure garden for the city.

Hackney itself became increasingly attractive to the gentry following the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire, which occurred the year after. Wealthy residents who wished to be close to the city, but also enjoy the country life built grand houses in Hackney. The still heavily wooded area around Stoke Newington was a favourite hunting ground of courtiers and many hunting lodges were built there. For the majority Hackney remained as it had been in medieval times, a collection of villages surrounded by fields and pasture. Some commons and other open areas, such as Hackney Downs and London Fields were what were known as Lammas Land. After Lammas day in early August landowners were expected to have cleared their crops and tenants of the manor were allowed to turn their animals out on to the land to graze for the winter.

One addition to the landscape during the Stuart period, made possible by an Act of Parliament in 1605, was the creation of the New River, designed to bring fresh water to North London from springs in Hertfordshire. It was completed in 1613 and ran through Newington Common, later incorporated into Clissold Park in Stoke Newington, by St Mary's Church.

The fresh air of Hackney had always made it attractive as a site for hospitals and during the Stuart period it also saw the establishment of several almshouses. Most are now demolished but happily Bishop Wood's Almshouses, built in 1690 by the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry for poor widows still stand. As does the Geffreye Museum, which was originally the Ironmongers' Company Almshouses. Built at the end of the Stuart period, in 1712, they are now a museum of historic interiors and Hackney's Grade I listed buildings.

Along with the gentry's houses these buildings are examples of early brick buildings, which came into use in the Tudor period but increasingly so after the Great Fire of 1666. The bricks for these buildings would more than likely have been made in the brickfields of Kingsland, where the landscape was dominated by this booming industry.

Balmes House film
This still is from a film of a reconstruction of Balmes House. Click here to see the film. This will open in another window and take a few minutes to download..

(You will need Quicktime 6 for this. Click here to download it.)

Tudor Hackney map
This picture of Tudor Hackney shows the large houses and key features of the village. Click to see an enhanced version which you can zoom in on. Sutton House
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