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At Eastbury Manor

July 1, 2018
by the gentle author

If you are seeking an afternoon’s excursion from the East End, you can do no better than visit Eastbury Manor in Barking, which is only half an hour on the District Line from Whitechapel yet transports you across four centuries to Elizabethan England.

Once Eastbury Manor stood in the centre of its own domain of rolling marshy farmland, extended as far as you can see from the top of its pair of octagonal turrets, but today it sits in the centre of a suburban estate built as Home for Heroes in the twenties in the pseudo-Elizabethan style, which casts a certain surreal atmosphere as you arrive. Yet by the time you have entered the gate and walked up the path lined with lavender to the entrance, the mellow brick facade of Eastbury Manor has cast its spell upon you.

Built in the fifteeen-sixties by Clement Sisley, Gentleman & Justice of the Peace, Eastbury Manor is among the earliest surviving Elizabethan houses, combining attractive domestic interior spaces with an exterior embellished by showy architectural elements in the renaissance manner. This curious contradiction of modest form and ambitious style speaks of Sisley’s eagerness to impress as a self-made property developer and landowner. He owned a house in the City of London and thus Eastbury grants us a vision of how those lost mansions that once lined Bishopsgate and Leadenhall St might have been.

Formerly part of the lands of Barking Abbey, after the Dissolution the property was sold to an absentee landlord before it was acquired by Clement Sisley in 1556. From apothecary bills, we know he fell ill and died in September 1578, bequeathing arms, weapons, armour and dags (guns) to his son Thomas ‘to him and his heirs forever at Eastbury’, in the hope that the manor might become a family home for generations to come.

Yet within only a few years Eastbury Manor was tenanted by John Moore, a Diplomat and Tax Collector, and his Spanish wife Maria Perez de Recalde. They were responsible for commissioning the lyrical and mysterious wall paintings, depicting an unknown European landscape rich in allegorical potential, glimpsed through a classical arcade of baroque barley-sugar-twist pillars.

Over two hundred years, the old house spiralled down through the ownership of a series of families with connection to the City of London until it became a farm, with animals housed in the fine Elizabethan chambers, and was threatened with demolition at the beginning of the last century.

Octavia Hill and C R Ashbee of the Survey of London, who had been responsible for saving Trinity Green Almshouses in Whitechapel, began a campaign to save Eastbury Manor by seeking guarantors to purchase the property from the owner. Once they had done so, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings arranged for the National Trust to accept ownership of the building in 1918. Thanks to the initiative of these enlightened individuals a century ago, we can enjoy Eastbury Manor today.

It is a sublime experience to escape the blinding sunlight of a summer’s afternoon and enter the cool air of the shadowy interior with its spiralling staircases and labyrinth of chambers. Ascend the turret to peer across Barking to the Thames, descend again enter the private enclosed yard at the rear, enfolded by tall ancient walls, and discover yourself in another world.

Eastbury Manor in 1796

Nonagenerian guide Dougie Muid welcomes visitors to Eastbury Manor – ‘Children often ask me if I have been here since the house was built’

Visit Eastbury Manor, Eastbury Square, Barking, Essex, IG11 9SN

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Leana Pooley permalink
    July 1, 2018

    Reading about this lovely old house provided a welcome idyll between hot, dusty weeding in the garden. Thanks.

  2. pauline taylor permalink
    July 1, 2018

    I am so glad that this lovely house has been saved but how sad that it is no longer lived in. There is a magic about such properties with their wealth of history; my shop is one such as it was built in c1400 and ‘modernised in 1790, it has a wonderful atmosphere, warm and welcoming and I hope that its previous owners and tenants are pleased to have us there. Each morning I make a point of going to the bottom of the stairs and saying good morning to them all and customers who make the effort to climb up to the top floor are all amazed that the original oak timbers in the roof can still be seen. There is nothing like a property with so much history and people love to soak up the atmosphere, I feel so privileged to be part of it.

  3. July 1, 2018

    Thank you Gentle Author for sharing this delightful place with us, a glimpse into the past. It reminds me of Sutton House in Hackney…another gem.
    I enjoyed a Sunday stroll along the lavender path and into the cool shade of the house.
    If those walls could speak……

  4. Eastendbutcher permalink
    July 1, 2018

    I deliver to a house opposite every week. It’s such a strange experience driving along the busy Ripple Road and then turning into what you think will be a typical local Council Estate and then this beautiful House appears in front of you like an oasis in the desert. I’ve visited it many time over the years and in 2004 I was married there.

  5. Malcolm permalink
    July 2, 2018

    I used to go to Eastbury House quite often back in the 1980’s and early 90’s when it was used for a wide range of clubs and activities. Barking photographic society still meet there every Thursday. It’s quite an unusual experience to suddenly come across a Tudor Manor House in the middle of a council estate for the first time, it really is like finding yourself in another era. There used to be many great houses in this part of the world and a little further out in Hornchurch, Romford and Upminster, commonly known today as Havering. Barking Abbey was once a very important monastery until the dissolution. Havering had a Royal Palace dating from before 1066, nothing remains of it today. In Romford there was the Gidea Hall estate dating from the 14th century. The last manor house was demolished in 1930. Elizabeth I stayed there, as did Charles I. All that remains of the once great estate today is Raphael Park, gifted to the town by Herbert Raphael, who bought the estate and built on it. In Hornchurch was Greytowers, a crenellated manor house demolished in 1931 to make way for housing. The only former manor house still standing is Langtons House, which is now the Havering registry office. Interestingly, it was once owned by John Massu, a Hugenot silk weaver from Spitalfields. He bought it in 1797. There were once dozens of Tudor estates in and around Havering -atte- Bower and the bits of Essex that have become part of London, none of them survived except Eastbury House.

  6. Rebekah Bristow permalink
    July 22, 2018

    Tempted by your essay and with the thought of spending a day away from a heated City we headed over to Eastbury Manor full of anticipation. An easy tube journey from Aldgate followed by a short walk through suburban Barking, we arrived somewhat unexpectedly back in time at the end of Tudor Road looking towards an intriguing Elizabethan Manor House. We spent a couple of hours exploring the National Trust property and enjoying lunch in the garden, I can recommend the chef’s homemade tomato soup and the cream tea.

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