Pictures 31 - 45
Picture 31 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is a fireplace that once stood in Eastbury’s Old Hall but has since had two other homes. The above photo was taken at Nymans, a National Trust site in West Sussex.
In the Elizabethan period when the Sisley family lived at Eastbury, this fireplace surround adorned the fireplace in Eastbury’s Great Hall. The Great Hall (now the Old Hall) was designed to be a public room used for ceremony, where esteemed guests, attendants, servants and farm workers would have come and gone throughout the day. The Great Hall would have been decorated with tapestries, painted cloth and painted plaster, and this ornate surround of carved stone.
In 1840 this surround was sold to Reverend Fanshawe of Parsloes Manor in Dagenham, as was the surround of the fireplace in the East Chamber. At Parsloes Manor this surround was instead placed in the kitchen. In 1925 Parsloes Manor was demolished, and with it this surround may have been lost forever.
However, recently it was rediscovered in the remains of Nymans in West Sussex. This National Trust site was built in 1839 and underwent significant renovations from the 1890s when it was bought by the Messel family. When Leonard Messel inherited the house in 1915 it was transformed again, and became a mock-medieval mansion, complete with a Great Hall and stone fittings throughout.
Unfortunately, the house was destroyed by fire in 1947 and post-war rationing made it impossible to rebuild. In 1953 it became a National Trust property, and in recent years the fireplace surround that once belonged to the Sisleys was re-discovered in the ruins. Although damaged by the fire, in the left-hand corner you can see the shield-like space where Clement Sisley once put his coat of arms.
Picture 32 of our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ introduces you to another of Eastbury’s owners, Sir Thomas Vyner.
In 1649 Eastbury was sold to Sir Thomas Vyner after the death of its previous owner William Knightly who was leasing Eatbury to tenants for profit. Vyner was a wealthy businessman, and for him Eastbury was an addition to his already extensive landholdings.
Vyner was an influential member and prime warden of the Goldsmith Company, one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London. Vyner’s influence and wealth led to royal connections. He provided financial administration and accounting for both James I, James II and Oliver Cromwell. Vyner also supplied large quantities of gold bullion and created coinage for both the government and the East India Company.
Later in his life, Vyner ventured into politics, and after becoming alderman to the Billingsgate ward, he was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1653. In the same year he was knighted by Oliver Cromwell. By 1660 Vyner had mostly retired from public service, and in June 1661 was made a Baronet by King Charles II.
After his death in 1665, Eastbury remained in the ownership of the Vyner family until 1714. Throughout the 65 years it was passed down to Vyner’s son, grandson and then his three nieces.
Picture 33 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is an engraving from 1780 of Eastbury’s south side by Samuel Sparrow, published in ‘The Antiquities of England and Wales’ by Francis Grose.
‘The Antiquities of England and Wales’ explores a variety of historical monuments through text and illustration, and is considered one of the most significant antiquarian publications of the 18th century. Between 1772 and 1787 over 100 volumes were published, aiming to popularise English and Welsh historical monuments by producing a ‘readable and general introduction to the subject’.
When this engraving was created, Eastbury was owned by the Sterry family who retained their ownership until the First World War. During this time Eastbury and its grounds were rented to tenant farmers and their families and the house underwent significant modifications for farming purposes.
In this engraving, Eastbury’s East tower is still intact and almost the full length of it can be seen. By 1814 it had been almost completely demolished, perhaps because it was no longer needed. By This time farming families were living in the West wing of the house, and the East wing was used for stables or storing farm equipment.
Picture 34 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures takes you to Eastbury’s courtyard.
Eastbury’s H-shaped layout is typical of the Elizabethan period, with east and west wings extending southward and joined by a high wall to form a secluded inner courtyard. Unlike houses earlier in the Tudor period whose courtyards are placed at the front of the building, Eastbury’s is placed at the rear. Eastbury is therefore designed to look outwards over the grounds and gardens, rather than inwards toward a courtyard.
In the Elizabethan period, enclosed courtyards were a feature of wealthy homes and were often used as a space for visitors to await the company of the lady or gentleman of the manor. Courtyards were often entered through an external gateway, and then led into the Great Hall, as can be seen at Eastbury. The two octagonal towers, gables and soaring chimney stacks would have created a striking impression for any visitor who entered Eastbury’s courtyard.
When the Sisley family lived at Eastbury, the courtyard was also used as a well to collect water, which would have been placed where this cherry tree now grows.
Picture 35 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ introduces you to Augustine Steward the younger, Anne Sisley’s son from her second marriage and inheritor of Eastbury.
Augustine was born to Anne and her second husband, Augustine Steward the elder, in 1584. His father was wealthy, and when he died during Augustine’s early teens, he left him a significant income and property portfolio in his will, including Eastbury Manor. Due to this large inheritance, Augustine had enough money to invest in the Virginia Company of London.
The Virginia Company of London, or ‘The London Company’ was established by King James I in 1606 with the aim of establishing settlements on the east coast of North America. The London Company reach North America in April 1607 near present-day Virginia Beach, and by May had moved inland down the James River and established the Jamestown settlement.
In 1612, Augustine’s name appears on the London Companies third Virginia charter, which extended the colony’s boundaries to include the Islands of Bermuda. It is likely he was aiming to profit from the emerging tobacco trade. Investors were not required to make the journey to Virginia, however when Augustine’s cousin Samuel Argall was appointed Deputy Governor, he decided to board a ship across the Atlantic.
In 1618 Augustine arrived in Jamestown greeted by his cousin, however tensions were fraught and instability in the colony led to both Augustine and Samuel returning to London by the Autumn of 1619. It is believed Augustine remained involved with the London Company, and in 1628 he decides to sell Eastbury and use the profits to pay off a loan that he perhaps took out to pursue a new business venture.
With this sale, Eastbury’s connection to the Sisley family ended.
Picture 36 of our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is this photo of Eastbury’s tithe barn taken in 1917.
A tithe barn was a common feature in agricultural areas, and was used for storing tithe paid in kind. Tithe was an annual payment of one tenth of a farm’s produce paid as tax to support the Church and clergy.
There is evidence of a tithe barn on the Eastbury estate as far back as 1300 when the land belonged to Barking Abbey. During this time Eastbury’s farmland would have been supervised by a Reeve, a local official responsible for ensuring tenant farmers paid their tithe. This tithe was used to support Barking Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539. By the time of the Dissolution Barking Abbey was the third wealthiest nunnery in England, a testament to the fertile land that surrounded it.
When Clement Sisley bought the estate and constructed Eastbury Hall in the 1560s, the house and private gardens took up only a small portion of the land. The remainder was a mixture of open grassland used for growing cereal crops, and marshland nearer the river that made for excellent grazing for livestock.
Eastbury’s tithe barn would have not only stored its own tithe, but also been the collection point for the tithe of farmers in the surrounding area. Produce such as grain, hay and other food produce would have been stored here, this would have been the primary source of income for the Eastbury estate.
Eastbury’s tithe barn was demolished in 1917, just a year before Eastbury and its remaining land were acquired by the National Trust.
Picture 37 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ looks at Eastbury’s wall hanging, and the Tudor wedding. This applique wall hanging, that sits above the fireplace in the Old Hall, depicts a Tudor wedding. It was commissioned by Eastbury’s volunteers, designed by Penny Purchase and worked by Nicola Borrow.
Key elements of a Tudor wedding can still be seen in some wedding ceremonies today, the bride stands on the left and the groom on the right, the father of the bride ‘gives her away’, the groom puts a ring on the bride’s left ring-finger and then the marriage is recorded in writing by an official.
However, some aspects of weddings have changed significantly. In the Tudor period only a marriage between a man and a woman was permitted, and ceremonies could only take place in a church. The act of civil marriage, as is conducted in Eastbury’s Old Hall today, only became legal in 1836. New clothes were rarely bought for the ceremony, and wearing white was not traditional, this only became popularised by Queen Victoria.
Marriage in the Tudor period was predominantly an economic contract, it was much harder to build a financially stable life as a single person. When Eastbury’s original owner Clement Sisley died, his widow Anne remarried just over a year later to provide financial security for herself and her children.
In 1571, Clement’s daughter Mary was married in St Margaret’s Church, Barking to Abbacuck Harman of East Ham. It’s possible that the marriage was celebrated in the Sisley family’s new home of Eastbury Hall.
Picture 38 of our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ explores the lost wall paintings of the Long Gallery. The wall paintings were recorded in this sketch by Clarke and Black in 1834.
Eastbury’s Long Gallery was located on the second floor of the manor, now the East Attic. Until it was converted into farm storage and stables in the 19th century, the east wing would have originally been used to live in and host guests. The paintings in the Long Gallery, and in the Painted Chamber below, would have added elaborate decoration to the wing.
In ‘The History of Essex’ published in 1814, author Elizabeth Ogborne writes ‘in a room of the right wing, painted in fresco, are some military figures in niches, of the time of King James I, almost obliterated: three of the most perfect are … a drummer, fifer, and soldier with his gun at rest’.
In 1917 the remains of these paintings are mentioned again in ‘Survey of London Monograph 11, Eastbury Manor House, Barking’. The survey states ‘the walls of the east wing on [the second] floor still exhibit traces of painting, the subjects of which were figures in costume.’ It then goes on to say ‘the prevailing colour used was apparently a shade of green.’
Although these wall paintings have sadly been lost, it is from references in publications, and drawings such as these that have allowed us to recreate them. A large replica now stands in their place in the East Attic.
Picture 39 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ takes you back to before Eastbury Hall was built by Clement Sisley in the 1560s. This picture shows the remains of Barking Abbey taken in the 1920s.
Barking Abbey was founded in c. 666AD and followed the rule of St Benedict, it was home to both monks and nuns. The Abbey owned the Hundred of Becontree, a large area stretching across modern day Newham, Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Redbridge and Havering. Eastbury was within this Hundred, and its rich pastures and marshland were used as farmland to support the Abbey.
The earliest reference to a manor building on the Eastbury estate dates to 1331-2 when a ‘manorial reeve’ of Eastbury is mentioned in farming accounts of Barking Abbey. Although the Eastbury estate was owned by Barking Abbey, they would have employed a reeve to manage the property and collect rent from other tenants.
In 1420 there is evidence of two men, Thomas Worthle and John Grene inhabiting Eastbury and submitting a request for the re-thatching of a roof. Later, in 1497 the land was being farmed by a Robert Hooke and records from Barking’s Manor Court suggest there was a farmhouse on the land.
By 1539, Henry VIII disbanded Barking Abbey and claimed its land and properties for the Crown as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries that took place across England, Wales and Ireland. Now under ownership of the Crown, the Abbey’s wealth was sold off and then the building demolished. In 1540 demolition began and over the course of 18 months materials such as lead and the metal from its eleven bells were sold.
Eastbury itself was sold to Sir William Denham in 1545. It then passed hands twice before being sold to Clement Sisley in 1557.
Picture 40 of our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is an aerial drawing of Eastbury’s gardens from 1737. This map was commissioned by Eastbury owner at the time, Mrs Mary Weldale.
In 1730 Eastbury came into the ownership of the Weldale family after the death of its previous owners William Browne and his sister Elizabeth Sedgewick. John Weldale was a cattle salesman who divided his time between his new property and London. Unfortunately, he died just a year later and Eastbury was then divided between his three daughters, Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary for whom this map was made.
This map gives us the best insight of what Eastbury’s gardens would have looked like during this period. To the east of the building the gardens had been extended past the Walled Garden with the planting of a ‘new orchard’. This orchard led through to a small garden surrounded by a moat. It is thought that a fishpond had existed here from the 14th century.
The lawns to the font of the house, now the north lawns, are labelled ‘Summer House Field’. This suggests that at one time another smaller building was present here for entertaining guests in the gardens. It is thought that the Vyner family, who owned Eastbury in the 17th century, undertook these extensive garden works, as only they had the wealth and social connections to undertake work of this scale.
Today, Eastbury’s Elizabethan Walled Garden remains, but the extended orchard and moated garden have been lost. It is likely that these garden walls from the Elizabethan period were not pulled down or modified as the subsequent tenant farmers who inhabited Eastbury were limited by the terms of their lease.
Picture 41 in our series ‘A history of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ looks at this mysterious small bricked up window. This can be seen on the north side of Eastbury above and to the left of the front porch.
On the first floor, what is now Eastbury’s accessible toilet used to be a small room whose use during the Elizabethan period is more of a mystery. It is thought that this could have been Clement Sisley’s muniment room, which functioned as a safe space to keep important documents such as estate papers, accounts, and wills.
In Clement Sisley’s will he writes ‘my leases shall remain in my iron chest wherein all my evidences lie ... I will my wife’s mother to have one key and Peter Osburne another key and my wife the third key... And not the chest to be opened without the consent of them all three together to the use of my said children.’ So, we know that Clement had a safe that stored all his important documents and looking at past layouts of Eastbury’s interior this seems to be the most likely place it would have been kept.
Even more mysterious is that the positioning of this small window means it would have let light into the space between the floor of this small room and the ceiling of the front porch below. Did this window shed light on a hidden place under the floor to store valuables?
Picture 42 of our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ introduces you to William Morris, British textile designer, poet, novelist and artist.
Morris was born in Walthamstow, where the William Morris Gallery is now located, in 1834. He spent his childhood in Essex exploring local forests and parks where he developed an affinity with landscape and nature. Morris became an apprentice to a young architect, Philip Webb after finishing his Oxford degree. Although Morris left this apprenticeship to pursue a career in art and design, he and Webb remained close friends.
Morris was against the industrialised nature of production in the Victorian era, and instead believed in hand crafted objects and design. This prompted Morris and two friends to found Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., a company that produced hand crafted textiles and furnishings. Although the new company did not make much money at first, in the late 1860s two commissions from the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) and St James’ Palace helped establish their reputation.
Morris was also alarmed by the restorations of historical buildings taking place in Victorian England, a feeling shared by Philip Webb. In 1877 they went on to found the Society for the protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and pleaded for ‘Protection in the place of Restoration’, as he saw restoration as a ‘feeble and lifeless forgery’. Although Morris died in 1896, his legacy lived on, and it was the SPAB, along with the National Trust, who went on to save Eastbury from demolition in 1918 and carry out vital repairs to protect the condition of the building for future use.