What?: 500-year-old, Grade II-listed manor house and former car breaker’s yard housing interactive art installations. Sounds pretty random right? And it is, but therein lies its brilliance. Sutton House was built in 1535 by Sir Ralph Sadler, Principal Secretary of State to Henry VIII and right-hand man to Thomas Cromwell, and is the oldest residential building in Hackney, having been home to a motley bunch of merchants, sea captains, Huguenot silk weavers, Victorian schoolmistresses, Edwardian clergy and even a group of squatters in its time. Here the old, the new, the commonplace and the downright weird coexist in perfect harmony, and make for an utterly fascinating day out. It’s also – if you’re willing to overlook the copious, rather perilous staircases – an absolute dream for toddlers.
First of all there are the treasure chests, which are abundant and filled with cute things for your little one to discover – expect Tudor puppets, period costumes, embroidered tea sets and plenty of props. Then there’s the squatters’ room on the top floor, which stands in stark contrast with the rest of the pretty sparse 16th century decor having been perfectly preserved with a Tracy Emin-esque mattress bed they can jump on (actually I don’t know about can but Bab did this anyway), loud wall murals to gawp at and a bunch of eighties chintz to generally interfere with. There are also, if Yvette Fielding and Lee from Blue are to be believed, an array of ghosts to befriend – if you really want to scare the shit out of your toddler.
The absolute best thing about Sutton House though has to be the Breaker’s Yard, a weird and wonderful wonderland filled with interactive art installations and play spaces. There’s Daniel Lobb’s The Grange, a double-height caravan sculpture with a stately home interior that your kid, if anything like mine, will be happy just clambering in and out of all day; a bus-turned-greenhouse they can ‘drive’ and otherwise poke about in; and an amazing sandpit made from old tyres. If you’re journeying from afar I’d definitely recommend coming on a good-weather day to get the most out of the outdoor area, although the house is pretty cool too and even has a little (child-friendly) tearoom to recharge in post-visit.
Where?: Sutton House is located at 2 and 4 Homerton High Street and is a seven-minute walk from Hackney Central Overground station.
Best Bits: Not your average National Trust property and massively underrated.
Worst Bits: The stairs made me so neurotic.
Price: £7 gift aid, £6.30 standard and free for under-5s.
Facilities: Baby changing, tearoom, no step-free access except to the ground floor.
Would We Come Back?: Yes, it’s brilliant.
Babu bangs the drums at Sutton House, Hackney.