Bruce Castle Museum
You don't really expect to find a Tudor mansion nestling amongst the suburbs and council estates of Tottenham, but there is one, and it's called the Bruce Castle Museum. There has been a house on the site since medieval times and in 1514, it became the property of William Compton, who held the position of 'groom of the bed chamber' to Henry VIII. This meant he had the dubious honour of assisting the King with going to the toilet, amongst other things.
Much of the house was rebuilt in the 17th century, but a curious Tudor hangover still survives to this day, a round tower situated just to the left of the main house as you enter. The exact use for the tower is not known, but one of theories is that it was a 'hawks mews' a place to rear birds for hunting and was made using local clay, at a time when the whole surrounding area would have been open space, something that is hard to imagine when you visit today.
In 1626 the house was owned by Hugh Hare, 1st Lord Coleraine, a man who suffered an unfortunate death in 1667 by choking on a turkey bone. His son, Henry Hare took over the building with his wife Constantia Lucy, whose death at the mansion is shrouded in mystery and is said to haunt Bruce Castle to this day. It was Henry Hare, who in the 1680's was responsible for the drastic re-modelling of the house, much of which survives to this day.
In 1827, Bruce Castle was bought by the Hill family who turned it in to a progressive private boarding school, adding an extra wing to house the school. Unusually for the time, Rowland Hill and his brother Arthur (who were joint headmasters) did not approve of corporal punishment to discipline their students. Rowland Hill is now remembered, not for his school, but for inventing the Penny Black postage stamp and the postal system which occurred later, when he left to join the Post Office.
The school closed in 1891 and was sold to Tottenham Urban District Council. The grounds became the first public park in the area, and the building, Tottenham's first public museum, which opened in 1906.
Bruce Castle is now a Grade I listed building and houses a small local history museum, the London Borough of Haringey archives, permanent and temporary exhibitions and a small cafe. It perhaps doesn't boast the splendour of a National Trust property, but never-the-less is a wonderful historical gem that has somehow survived through so much change and development in the area, and is also free to look around. If you do visit, you might like to nip across to All Hallow's church behind Bruce Castle. It was first founded in 1150 and the earliest parts of the current church date from the early 14th century.
Bruce Castle Museum is open Wed - Sun (1pm - 5pm), Lordship Lane, London, N17 8NU.
24/10/2019 01:45:40 pm
I lived in Tower Gardens Road throughout the '50s and the '60s. During this time Bruce Castle was boarded up and in a very poor state of repair - at Risley Avenue Primary School we learnt absolutely nothing about it! What a shame. Hopefully I will visit some day in the future.
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