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Hackney was essentially a village for much of its early history, characterised by pleasant and open countryside. The surviving tower of the original parish church of St. Augustine, said to have been built by the Knights Templar, dates from about 1300. In the 15th and 16th Century many members of the gentry and nobility had homes in Hackney. Brooke House, which stood at the junction of Lower Clapton Road and Lea Bridge Road, belonged to the Earls of Northumberland and Oxford, and survived up until the 2nd World War when it was extensively damaged. Hackney’s oldest surviving house is Sutton House, in Homerton High Street, and was the home of Thomas Sutton the founder of Charterhouse School and Hospital. The building was presented to the National Trust in 1938.17th and 18th Century Hackney was regarded as a resort, with gardens and pleasure grounds. Pepys mentions a particularly pleasant visit to see Lady Brooke’s famous garden in 1654 and he mentions another enjoyable visit with his wife in his entry for 1664. The North London Railway opened in 1850. This was a time of a great expansion and Hackney, still relatively rural, provided a perfect opportunity for speculative builders, with its reputation as a healthy, clean place on the fringes of the already overcrowded inner suburbs. Many local landowners were keen to sell off pieces of their estates. The houses in Fassett Square were built in the early 1860’s, on land which had once belonged to the Graham family. The houses are typical of their date, with the roof clearly visible, bay windows on the ground floor and the front doors set back from the façade behind a decorated arch. The earliest occupants were typically clerks, merchants, master craftsmen or commercial travellers and were sufficiently well-off to employ at least one servant. Marie Lloyd (right), the Concert Hall Artiste lived round the corner in Graham Road.
(Above : St. John at Hackney. Right : Marie Lloyd.)