Pictures 1 - 15
Staff, volunteers and visitors are missing this beautiful old house. We hope that the below posts provide public access to Eastbury’s heritage during lockdown. ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ will be celebrating this unique, distinct and cherished place in East London.
Picture number 1 in our series 'A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures' is a watercolour by Alfred Bennett Bamford (1857-1939) which shows Eastbury in excellent condition. If you look closely it perhaps includes our precious pear tree in the historic walled garden.
Bamford was an English watercolourist known for his pictures of Essex. Many of his watercolours of Barking and Dagenham are in the borough’s collections Valence House We have a copy displayed in our exhibition ‘Eastbury Saved’.
We hope this and other posts will help to divert our friends during this difficult time and provide something beautiful to muse upon.
Picture two in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is a floor plan by T. E. C. Streatfield from 1871-2. It shows the H-shape layout that was typical of the Tudor period. We are proud to say Eastbury is one of the few surviving examples of this layout from the Elizabethan era.
The eight ground-floor rooms wrap around an inner courtyard, from which visitors can look up and be dazzled by Eastbury’s dramatic roofline of gables and chimneys. Surprisingly, the architectural profession, as we know it today, did not exist in the 1570’s when Eastbury was built, and no floor plan from this time has ever been found.
Considering this, the symmetry and vast size of the building is amazing to see. A master builder must have been employed to undertake this work. However, you may notice that the interior design is far less symmetrical, as creating both exterior and interior symmetry without to scale measurements would be a difficult feat!
In fact, as far as our records show, no recent measured survey of Eastbury has ever been made. When Richard Griffiths Architects undertook their sensitive refurbishments, it was floor plans like these that were adapted and used, making them an integral part of Eastbury’s 450 year history.
Picture 3 in our series 'A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures' is this watercolour painting by Thomas Lound. It depicts the south side of Eastbury, as you would see when walking up the south lawn towards the entrance to the inner courtyard.
Painted in the first half of the 19th century, Lound's depiction shows the deterioration that took place as what was once a high status family home, became home to tenant farmers and their families. Eastbury's rooms were now used as storage for animal feed, and even as stables.
Thomas Lound (1801-1861) was a landscape painter, amateur photographer and member of the Norwich School of Painters. He was part of the Antiquarian Movement, a group of artists dedicated to documenting old buildings in Britain, many of which were in ruins.
These paintings are a valuable insight into how Britain looked at this time. For these artists, ‘summers were spent travelling and drawing, winter in engraving and spring in publishing’ (Ann Payne, British Library). Three of his other works are on display in National Trust properties in Norfolk.
Picture 4 of our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is a Chapman and Andre map from 1772-4. This map of the Barking and Dagenham area shows the extensive changes to the landscape that have occurred in the past 250 years.
The Thames runs along the bottom of the drawing, with the tributary River Roding flowing through Barking Town on the left-hand side. Just to the right of Barking you can see ‘East Bury’. In the 18th century before London crept eastwards towards Essex, Eastbury was surrounded by fields and marshland.
You can see the marshland stretching down from Eastbury to the Thames. When Clement Sisley built Eastbury, views would have spanned all the way down to the Thames. In the 1570’s, when the Sisley family first made Eastbury their home, the Thames would have been filled with merchant ships carrying cargo into the city, including spices, sugar and wine.
In his diary entitled ‘Travels in England 1599’, the Swiss writer Thomas Platter wrote, “They buy, sell and trade in all the corners of the globe, for which purpose the water serves them well, since ships from France, the Netherlands, Germany and other countries dock in this city”. In the same diary, Platter writes of his visit to the Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank to see Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar.
In 1603, an inventory reveals that Eastbury was being rented by John Moore, a wealthy merchant who invested in the first voyages made by the East India Company. Eastbury’s proximity to the London docks would have made it an ideal residence for a merchant in the Elizabethan era. Perhaps he made a trip to the Globe Theatre himself!
Picture 5 of ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ takes you outside to Eastbury’s Walled Garden. The Walled Garden dates back to the Elizabethan period when gardens were designed as social spaces and walking areas, as well as to grow things for cooking and medicinal purposes.
Along the east wall of the Walled Garden are four niches, one of which is pictured here. These are bee-boles – recesses in the walls for keeping beehive skeps. Skeps are man-made hives made from rope or straw, coiled round into a closed basket. At the end of the summer, they would have been cut open to harvest the honey. Honey was a sought-after sweetener in the Tudor period, as sugar was very expensive and hard to come across.
Beekeeping was also useful to produce beeswax for candles. Demand was so high for beeswax candles, especially from churches, cathedrals, and abbeys, rent was often paid in beeswax, or even bee swarms!
A variety of other uses have also been suggested for the niches, including housing birdcages and holding small lanterns to light the garden.
You can learn more about Tudor beekeeping from Community Archaeologist Alexis Haslam, at the Tudor walled garden, Fulham Palace here.
Picture 6 of ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is a photo of the West Tower taken in 1935, when Eastbury was home to the Barking Museum.
Eastbury was built with two tower staircases, which were originally the only means of reaching the upper floors as the central staircase seen today was installed during the Victorian era. The East Tower was used by the Sisley family and visitors and the West Tower was used by the Sisley’s servants. It was lit by small windows and had no handrail, meaning a precarious journey, especially as servants would often have their hands full.
This impressive staircase was constructed around a central post, or newel. The newel is made from three oak tree trunks stacked on top of one another. Each stair was notched into the post, and then the brick tower was built around it. While the East Tower fell into disrepair and was pulled down in the early 19th Century, the West Tower survives wholly intact and can be climbed by visitors today.
At its summit, which is higher than the top floor, is a viewing platform with six windows and a view that has drastically changed in the past 450 years. Clark and Black wrote in 1834: ‘An extensive prospect is obtained in every direction, over the flat pastures and marshes of Essex, the river Thames, and the hills of Kent, with its villages of Greenwich and Woolwich’. Today, the view from the top shows Eastbury nestled at the heart of Barking’s urban housing project and former industrial Dagenham.
Picture 7 in our series ‘A history of Eastbury in 100 pictures’ is this 1935 poster advertising the first exhibition held at Eastbury as part of the Barking Museum. Eastbury was leased to Barking Borough Council (now the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham) from the National Trust in 1934. Part of the Council’s contract with the National Trust stated that Eastbury had to be used partly for community activities and partly as a museum.
During the 1930s, unemployment soared in Britain as the world fell into an economic depression. As a response to this a National movement began, supported by Edward VIII, to encourage citizens to engage with Arts and Heritage. Barking Museum opened with a collection supplemented by over 100 different items loaned from private collectors, and even included artefacts loaned by King George V!
Picture 8 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is this sketch of the Old Hall drawn by Charles Vacher in 1837. Vacher (1818-1883) was a British painter who trained at the Royal Academy in London before travelling Europe and North Africa working on his sketches and watercolours.
It is clear to see the deterioration that had taken place to the house by the 19th century. The floor of the Painted Chamber above was by this time completely absent and you can see straight up to the fireplaces of the first floor. Hay bails and farming equipment are also scattered across the floor.
Sadly, Clement Sisley died in 1578 and when Anne Sisley remarried, her stepson Augustine Steward the Younger eventually inherited Eastbury in 1597. Then upon his death in 1628 his sons Edward and Martin Steward sold Eastbury to settle their father’s debts. Both the house and land were bought by William Knightly, Master of the Kings Bakehouse, of Kingston-Upon-Thames.
Eastbury then suffered a string of absentee landlord who rented the land for profit. By the 19th century when Vacher created this sketch, tenant farmers and their families were living at Eastbury and rooms, whose functions were now mainly storage based, were stripped of materials as this sketch shows.
Picture 9 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ takes us to Eastbury’s garderobe. Although it doesn’t look like it to the modern eye, a garderobe such as this would have been a luxury when the Sisley family lived at Eastbury.
Adjacent to the toilet was a space where clothes were stored, either hanging on pegs or in storage chests. Believe it or not, it was thought that smells from the toilet protected the clothes from harmful insects. In fact, the English word ‘wardrobe’ is related to the medieval French ‘garderobe’.
Contents of the garderobe would have dropped straight down to the inner courtyard beneath, and it was the unenviable job of the ‘night soil man’ to come and take it away.
It wasn’t until around 1841 that a flush toilet was installed. By 1858 there was a hydraulic system which pumped water into the kitchen and flushed the inside toilet. This doesn’t seem exceptional to us, but again would have been a luxury to many Victorians.
Picture 10 of our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ takes you to the Painted Chamber.
When the Sisley family lived at Eastbury, the Painted Chamber was a smaller, squarer room with the best bedchamber next door. Each with its their own fireplaces these chambers were high-status rooms, sitting above the Great Hall and facing north for the ‘healthy winds’.
During the Elizabethan period, rooms facing north and east were of higher status as they did not receive the unpleasant prevailing south-west winds coming in from the city.
The decorative paintings are thought to have been commissioned by John Moore, a wealthy merchant who rented Eastbury from Anne Sisley from c.1590 to his death in 1603. A lot of Moore’s wealth came from his work as a customs officer, collecting tax on imported goods coming into London. By the time of his death he was an official at the Port of London and had also invested in the newly formed East India Company. His level of wealth, and his family coat-of-arms, painted on the south wall, all suggest he could have been the painting’s commissioner. The south and east walls depict views as if through a window, with the east wall showing a dramatic seascape and the south wall a rural landscape with a cottage. Such themes were popular with wealthy families in the seventeenth century.
Now only portions of the north and east wall paintings remain, but originally all four walls would have been painted with such scenes.
Picture 11 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is another watercolour painting by Alfred Bennet-Bamford from 1907. This painting depicts a servant in the panelled room, the room that sits just off Eastbury’s current Tea Room.
When the Sisley family made Eastbury Hall their home, servants were an integral part of the household. At least eight were being employed when Clement Sisley died in 1578. Tasks included cooking, laundering, scullery work and taking care of the stables. Interestingly however, servants would not have been present at Eastbury in 1907, as the house would have been home to tenant farmers.
Bamford was born in Romford in 1857, and after graduating from Heatherley’s School of Art his work was displayed at the Royal Academy in London in 1883. However, as with many artists of his time, Bamford could not make a living from his art alone. In 1883 he had also been promoted to Lieutenant in the First Volunteer Battalion Regiment.
Bamford settled in Chelmsford in 1905 where he produced an extensive number of watercolour studies of the town. Bamford was interested in producing a study of pre-industrial life, and therefore used some artistic licence in his depictions, eliminating elements of modern life such as advertising, gas lamps and bicycles. This is perhaps why Bamford depicts a servant in Eastbury’s panelled room, to portray pre-industrial life in a manor house. If you look out of the window you’ll also notice that there is no housing estate outside.
Picture 12 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ depicts the ‘diapering’ brickwork still visible on Eastbury’s south external wall. Diapering was a popular technique in the construction of Elizabethan houses for embellishment and decoration. When Clement Sisley ordered the construction of Eastbury Hall, brick was expensive to produce and showed off the wealth of a family. This addition of patterned grey and red brick enhanced this status further.
The diapering pattern here is in the shape of a club. Eastbury’s north wall was patterned with a heart, and its west wall with a diamond. The spade was not included as this was considered unlucky. The playing card symbols are suggestive of the humour and playfulness of Elizabethans.
In order to achieve the consistent red and grey tones of the brick that highlights the diapering, brick facades were washed with dyes such as red ochre and even ‘small ale’, a weak beer often drunk as water was unclean. This colour wash was brushed over both bricks and mortar once construction was completed.
Picture 13 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ introduces you to William Weir pictured here with his penny farthing.
Weir (1865-1950) was a Scottish architect who specialised in the repair and conservation of ‘ancient’ buildings.
Spurred on by this interest, Weir joined the Society of the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). The SPAB was founded in 1877 by William Morris and Philip Webb who were growing increasingly concerned with the dilapidation of ancient buildings and the harmful repairs being undertaken by Victorian architects. It was the SPAB who lobbied the National Trust in the early 20th century to prevent Eastbury from being demolished due to its derelict state.
Once the National Trust acquired Eastbury in 1918, the SPAB began repair work with William Weir as the lead architect. The SPAB annual report of 1917 described Eastbury: ‘the fabric is sound, the red brick of which it is built has withstood the ravages of time weathered remarkably well; indeed, externally it looks very much as it did in the early years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.’ However, it said Eastbury’s interior had ‘mostly been stripped of its fittings years ago and presents a sad picture of neglect.’
Weir’s hard work and dedication to Eastbury has undoubtably allowed us to continue to share it with you all today. Thank you, William!
Picture 14 of our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ is the cover of the book ‘England and the Octopus’ by Clough Williams-Ellis, originally published in 1928.
England and the Octopus details the ‘urban sprawl’ that began to envelop England’s countryside and threatened historic buildings in the early 20th century. By the 1920’s this sprawl of urban development was nicknamed ‘the octopus’. Some, like Williams-Ellis, felt strongly that saving the country’s historic landscapes and buildings from urban development was vital. Others, however, saw the importance of providing housing for workers and preventing slums forming. The First World War intensified this issue, as returning soldiers and industry workers desperately needed housing, but the war made it difficult for the government to produce plans for modern housing developments while also protecting historical buildings.
What was once the small town of Barking began to rapidly expand at the turn of the 20th century. Between the 1850s and 1900 the population grew from 1,200 to 21,500, and by 1929 around 15,000 people were commuting into the city for work daily.
It was buildings like Eastbury that Williams-Ellis was arguing to save. Policies such as death tax (now inheritance tax) and increasing costs of maintaining gentry houses meant that owners were opting to demolish these buildings rather than pay to continue their upkeep.
In the 1910’s Eastbury’s owner Francis Sterry opted to begin selling the land around Eastbury for urban development. Eastbury itself was by this time in a state of disrepair and threatened with demolition. When lobbying groups such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings stepped in against ‘the octopus’, Eastbury was purchased by the National Trust in 1918 and saved from demolition.
Picture 15 in our series ‘A History of Eastbury in 100 Pictures’ looks at Elizabethan clothing. This picture is of our volunteer Morris wearing an example of men’s clothing from late Tudor period, when the Sisley family lived at Eastbury.
Men wore doublets, waste length snug fitting jackets that buttoned at the front. The name doublet originally came from the way it was lined and stitched with the fabric doubled over. Men then wore hose, this is a general term for male clothing worn on the bottom half. By the 16th century, hose had separated into two garments: upper hose or ‘breeches’ and nether hose or ‘stockings’. Breeches were loose and fastened above or just below the knee.
Breeches were worn by the upper and lower classes and were therefore worn in a variety of fabrics depending on your wealth. The wealthiest wore breeches made of silk, satin, and velvet while the less wealthy wore breeches of cotton or wool.
By the Elizabethan period, the ruff had transformed from frilled shirt collar and developed into an elaborate ‘cartwheel’ or fan-shaped ruff. The ruff was worn to frame the face, and as a status symbol. The wealthiest Elizabethans wore ruffs lined with lace, gold, and fine silk.
Hats were also a staple part of the Elizabethan outfit, worn by both men and women. Hats were used as another symbol of status and often adorned with feathers and jewels. A law was passed in England in 1571 stating that all citizens above the age of 6 were required to wear a hat on Sundays and National holidays. This was intended to help support England’s wool industry, as wool was the country’s primary export.