When we think of the Tudor period of British history, one particular monarch comes to mind – King Henry VIII. Best known for his tumultuous love life with his six wives, and the sovereign who established the Church of England, the king certainly knew how to get his name into our history books.
But one thing often forgotten about the controversial ruler is that he once had a palace in what is today considered East London. Brooke House was located in Hackney, where the BSix College stands today, and it stood there for hundreds of years until it was destroyed in the Second World War.
Of course back when it was built in the 15th century, that part of London was mostly countryside. The property was constructed around a courtyard and boasted of a grand brick hall, chapel and gatehouse.
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In 1531, ownership of the estate went to King Henry VIII after agreeing to a land swap with its owner Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy. The palace was managed by Henry VIII’s trusted minister Thomas Cromwell, who carried out some renovation and extension work on the premises.
It was on this estate that Henry VIII reconciled with his eldest daughter Mary, who agreed to take the Oath of Supremacy there in 1537. Although Henry VIII had owned the property for roughly sixteen years, he only visited it a few times before his death in 1547.
After that, it went to Sir William Herbert, who served in Henry VIII’s Privy Chamber. He sold the property later that year to Sir Ralph Sadleir, who was said to be a protégé of Thomas Cromwell.
A few years later, Sir Wymond Carew bought the house, and he later rented it to Henry VIII’s granddaughter Lady Margaret Douglas. However, Lady Margaret Douglas spent much of her time imprisoned in the Tower of London thanks to her relative Queen Elizabeth I.
In 1578 the house was bought by Ann Boleyn’s nephew Henry Cary before being acquired by two-time Lord Mayor of London, Sir Rowland Hayward, in 1583. Throughout the 1600s and early 1700s, the estate underwent some structural changes until it was turned into a “private madhouse” in 1758.
It continued to serve as an asylum for almost 200 years until the building was severely damaged during the Blitz. For safety reasons, the ruins of Brooke House had to be completely pulled down in the 1950s.
Nonetheless, parts of the building were saved and handed over to Historic England’s Architectural Study Collection. Several wallpaper fragments depicting floral designs were saved, as were a number of brightly coloured tiles and a china tea set that were recovered from the wrecked building.