Bruce Castle

Bruce Castle

Infobox House
name= Bruce Castle

imagesize= 280px
latitude= 51.599
longitude= -0.075
built= c. 1514
location= Tottenham, London
architectural_style= Elizabethan
construction_type= Brick
governing_body= London Borough of Haringey

Bruce Castle (formerly the Lordship House) is a Grade I listed 16th century [Sources differ as to the date of construction; some date the current building to the 15th century, but most agree that the house dates from the 16th century, although there is no consensus as to the exact date.] manor house in Lordship Lane, Tottenham, London.

The house has been home to Sir William Compton, Richard Sackville, the Barons Coleraine and Sir Rowland Hill, among others. After a period as a school it was converted into a museum, which houses the archives of the London Borough of Haringey. The grounds are now a public park, Tottenham's oldest.

Origins of the name

The name derives from the House of Bruce, which had historically owned a third of the manor of Tottenham. However, there was no castle in the area at the time, and the family is unlikely to have lived in the area.Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=2] Upon his accession to the Scottish throne, Robert I of Scotland forfeited his lands in England, along with any connection between the family and the area, the land then being granted to Richard Spigurnell and Thomas Hethe.cite journal|last=Lysons|first=Daniel|date=1795|journal=The Environs of London|location=London|volume=3|pages=517-557|title=Tottenham|url=|accessdate=2008-10-02]

The three parts of the manor of Tottenham were united in the early 15th century, under the Gedeney family, and have remained united since. In all early records, the building is referred to as the Lordship House. The name of "Bruce Castle" first appears to have been adopted by Henry Hare, 2nd Baron Coleraine (1636–1708), although Lysons dates the usage of the name to the late 13th century.


A detached Tudor round tower stands immediately to the southeast of the house, and is generally considered to be the earliest part of the building;Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=3] however, Lysons believes it to have been a later addition. The tower is built of local red brick, and is convert|21|ft|m tall, with walls convert|3|ft|m thick. The purpose of the tower is not known; it is conjectured that it was built as a dovecote. In 2006, excavations revealed that the tower continues for some distance below the current ground level.cite web|url=|title=Bruce Castle Park community excavation, 2006 |date=2006|publisher=Museum of London|accessdate=2008-10-02] The design of a window, in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style made popular by Horace Walpole, in the uppermost part of the tower, suggests internal alterations were made during the late 18th century.Sources disagree on the current house's construction date, and no records survive of its construction. There is some archaeological evidence for parts of the building dating to the 15th century; Robinson's 1840 "History and Antiquities of the Parish of Tottenham" suggests a date of about 1514,cite book|last=Robinson|first=William|title=History and Antiquities of the Parish of Tottenham|location=London|date=1840|edition=2|pages=216] although the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments attributes it to the late-16th century.

The principal facade of the Grade 1 mansion has little evidence of any early antecedents, appearing more an 17th-century manor house then a castle. It is unlikely it ever was a castle in the strictest sense of the word, as the castle building era was long over by the time of the present Bruce Castle's apparent construction. It is more likely that the house occupies the site of a former castle than ever was one itself.

While the precise date of construction is unknown certain architectural features indicate a strong approximation of its age. Constructed of red brick with ashlar quoining, the principal facade, terminated by symmetrical matching bays, has tall paned windows. The facades's dominating feature is a central tower with a belvedere, a motif of the English Renaissance of the late 16th/early 17th centuries (the Compton family's Warwickshire home Castle Ashby was also given Renaissance features during the 17th century). Hatfield House, also close to London, had a similar central tower constructed in 1611, as does Blickling Hall in Norfolk, built circa 1616. However, in resemblance the house appears to favour the style of Burton Agnes Hall constructed between 1601 and 1610. Thus, from these defining features, it appears likely that the house was constructed, or rebuilt, at some point during the first two decades of the 17th century.

The 2006 excavations by the Museum of London uncovered the chalk foundations of an earlier building on the site, of which nothing is currently known. Although there is no archaeological evidence or surviving historical record of its construction, and it does not appear in any illustrations, court rolls of 1742 refer to the repair of a drawbridge, implying that the building then had a moat. A 1911 archaeological journal made passing reference to "the recent levelling of the moat". [cite journal|last=Page|first=William|date=1911|title=Ancient Earthworks|journal=A History of the County of Middlesex|volume=2|pages=1-14|url=|accessdate=2008-10-02]

Early residents

It is generally believed that the earliest occupant of the house was Sir William Compton, Groom of the Stool to Henry VIII and one of the most prominent courtiers of the period, who acquired the manor of Tottenham in 1514. However, there is no recorded evidence of Compton's living in the house, and there is some evidence that the current building dates to a later period.

The earliest reference to the building dates from 1516, when Henry VIII met his sister Margaret, Queen of Scots at "Maister Compton's House beside Tottenham". The Comptons owned the building throughout the 16th century, but few records of the family or the building survive from the period.Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=4]

In the early 17th century the house was owned by Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset and Lady Anne Clifford. Sackville ran up high debts through gambling and extravagant spending; the house (then still called "The Lordship House") was leased to Thomas Peniston and later sold to wealthy Norfolk landowner Hugh Hare.Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=5]

17th century: the Hare family

Hugh Hare, 1st Baron Coleraine

Hugh Hare (1606–1667) had inherited a large amount of money from his great-uncle Sir Nicholas Hare, Master of the Rolls. On the death of his father, his mother had remarried Henry Montagu, 1st Earl of Manchester, allowing the young Hugh Hare to rise rapidly in Court and social circles. He married Montagu's daughter by his first marriage and purchased the manor of Tottenham, including the Lordship House, in 1625, and was ennobled as Baron Coleraine shortly thereafter.

Being closely associated with the court of Charles I, Hare's fortunes went into decline during the English Civil War. His castle at Longford and his house in Totteridge were seized by Parliamentary forces, and returned upon the Restoration in a severe state of disrepair. Records of Tottenham from the period are now lost, and it is not known what happened at the Lordship House during the period.

Hugh Hare died at his home in Totteridge in 1667, having choked to death on a bone attempting to eat turkey whilst laughing and drinking, and was succeeded by his son Henry Hare, 2nd Baron Coleraine.

Henry Hare, 2nd Baron Coleraine

Henry Hare (1635–1680) settled at the Lordship House, renaming it Bruce Castle in honour of the area's historic connection with the House of Bruce. Hare was a noted historian and author of the first history of Tottenham. He grew up at the Hare family house at Totteridge, and it is not known when he moved to Tottenham; at the time of the birth of his first child, Hugh, in 1668, the family were still living in Totteridge, while by the time of the death of his first wife Constantia in 1680 the family were living in Bruce Castle, and according to Hare Constantia was buried in All Hallows Church in Tottenham. However, the parish register for the period is complete and makes no mention of her death or burial.Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=6]

Following the death of Constantia, Hare married Sarah Alston, to whom he had been engaged in 1661 but had instead married John Seymour, 4th Duke of Somerset. There is evidence that during Sarah's marriage to Seymour and Hare's marriage to Constantia, a close relationship was sustained between them.Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=7]

The Ghostly Lady of Bruce Castle

Although sources such as Pegram speculate that Constantia committed suicide in the face of a continued relationship between Hare and the Duchess of Somerset, little is known about her life and the circumstances of her early death, and the castle is reputed to be haunted by her ghost.cite book |title=The A-Z of British Ghosts |last=Underwood |first= Peter|year=1992 |publisher=Chancellor Press |location=London |isbn=1-85152-194-1 |pages=146-147] The earliest recorded reference to the ghost appeared in 1858 – almost two hundred years after her death – in the "Tottenham & Edmonton Advertiser". quote|A lady of our acquaintance was introduced at a party to an Indian Officer who, hearing that she came from Tottenham, eagerly asked if she had seen the Ghostly Lady of Bruce Castle. Some years before he had been told the following story by a brother officer when encamped on a march in India. One of the Lords Coleraine had married a beautiful lady and while she was yet in her youth had been seized with a violent hatred against her – whether from jealousy or not is not known. He first confined her to the upper part of the house and subsequently still more closely to the little rooms of the clock turret. These rooms looked on the balconies: the lady one night succeeded in forcing her way out and flung herself with child in arms from the parapet. The wild despairing shriek aroused the household only to find her and her infant in death's clutches below. Every year as the fearful night comes round (it is in November) the wild form can be seen as she stood on the fatal parapet, and her despairing cry is heard floating away on the autumnal blast. [cite journal|title=The Ghostly Lady of Bruce Castle|journal=Tottenham & Edmonton Advertiser|issue=March 1858] The legend has now been largely forgotten, and there have been no reported sightings of the ghost in recent times.

Residents in the 18th century

Sarah Hare died in 1692 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, and Hare in 1708, to be succeeded by his grandson Henry Hare, 3rd Baron Coleraine. Henry Hare was a leading antiquary, residing only briefly at Bruce Castle between lengthy tours of Europe; during his ownership, the interior of the house was remodelled and the current ornamental staircase installed in the east wing. His marriage was not consummated, and following an affair with a French woman, Rosa du Plessis, du Plessis bore him his only child, a daughter named Henrietta Rosa Peregrina, born in France in 1745.Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=8] Hare died in 1749 leaving his estates to the four-year-old Henrietta, but her claim was rejected due to her French nationality. After many years of legal challenges, the estates, including Bruce Castle, were granted to her husband James Townsend, who she had married at age 18.

James Townsend was a leading citizen of the day. He served as a magistrate, was Member of Parliament for West Looe, and in 1772 became Lord Mayor of London, whilst Henrietta was a prominent artist, many of whose engravings of 18th century Tottenham survive in the Bruce Castle Museum.

James and Henrietta Townsend's son, Henry Hare Townsend, showed little interest in the area or in the traditional role of the Lord of the Manor. After leasing the house to a succession of tenants, the house and grounds were sold in 1792 to Thomas Smith of Gray's Inn as a country residence.

John Eardley Wilmot

John Eardley Wilmot (c.1749-23 June 1815) was Member of Parliament for Tiverton (1776–1784) and Coventry (1784–1796), and in 1783 led the Parliamentary Commission investigating the events that had lead to the American Revolution. He also led the processing of compensation claims, and the supply of basic housing and provisions, for the 60,000 Loyalist refugees who arrived in England in the aftermath of the independence of the United States.Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=9]

Following the French Revolution in 1789, a second wave of refugees arrived in England. Although the British government on this occasion did not offer organised relief to refugees, Wilmot, in association with William Wilberforce, Edmund Burke and George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, founded "Wilmot's Committee", which raised funds to provide accommodation and food, and found employment for refugees from France, large numbers of whom settled in the Tottenham area.

In 1804, Wilmot retired to Bruce Castle to write his memoirs of the American Revolution, and his role in the investigations of its causes and consequences. They were published shortly before his death in 1815.

After Wilmot's death the house and its grounds were purchased by London merchant John Ede, who demolished building's west wing. It was never rebuilt, resulting in the current "skewed" shape of the building. In 1827, Ede sold the house and grounds to Worcestershire educationalist Rowland Hill, for use as a school.

The Hill School

Hill and his brothers had taken over the management of their father's school in Birmingham in 1819, which moved to Bruce Castle in 1827 with Rowland Hill as Headmaster. The school was run along radical lines inspired by Hill's friends Thomas Paine, Richard Price and Joseph Priestley; [cite book|last=Watts|first=Ruth|title=Joseph Priestly and his influence on education in Birmingham|editor=Malcolm Dick|publisher=Brewin Books|date=2005|url=] all teaching was on the principle that the role of the teacher is to instill the desire to learn, not to impart facts, corporal punishment was abolished and alleged transgressions were tried by a court of pupils, while the school taught a radical (for the time) curriculum including foreign languages, science and engineering.Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=10] [A printing press designed by Rowland Hill and built by pupils of the school is currently on display at London's Science Museum. At this time, school curricula were almost always restricted to the classics; for a school to include engineering in the curriculum was almost unique.] Amongst other pupils, the school taught the sons of many London-based diplomats, particularly from the newly-independent nations of South America, and the sons of computing pioneer Charles Babbage.


During the period of the School's operation, the character of the area had changed beyond recognition. Historically, Tottenham had consisted of four villages on Ermine Street (later the A10 road), surrounded by marshland and farmland.cite journal | title =Tottenham Growth after 1850 | journal =A History of the County of Middlesex | volume =5 | pages =317–324 | publisher =Victoria County History | date =1976 | url = | accessdate =2007-06-06 ] The construction of the Northern and Eastern Railway in 1840, with stations at Tottenham Hale and Marsh Lane (later Northumberland Park), made commuting from Tottenham to central London feasible for the first time (albeit by a circuitous eight-mile route via Stratford, more than double the distance of the direct road route), as well as direct connections to the Port of London. [cite book|last=Lake|first=G.H.|title=The Railways of Tottenham|publisher=Greenlake Publications Ltd|location=London|date=1945|pages=12-13|isbn=1 899890 26 2] In 1872 the Great Eastern Railway opened a direct line from Enfield to Liverpool Street station, [Lake, page 22] including a station at Bruce Grove, close to Bruce Castle. [cite book | last =Connor | first =Jim | title =Branch Lines to Enfield Town and Palace Gates | publisher =Middleton Press | date =2004 | location =Midhurst | url = | isbn =1 904474 32 2 ] As a major rail hub, Tottenham grew into a significant residential and industrial area; by the end of the 19th century, the only remaining undeveloped areas were the grounds of Bruce Castle itself, and the waterlogged floodplains of the River Lee at Tottenham Marshes and the River Moselle at Broadwater Farm.

In 1877 Birkbeck Hill retired from the post of headmaster, ending the association of the Hill family with the school. The school closed in 1891, and the house and grounds were purchased by Tottenham Council. The grounds of the house were opened to the public as Bruce Castle Park in June 1892, the first public park in Tottenham.cite web|url=|title=Bruce Castle Museum|publisher=London Borough of Haringey|accessdate=2008-10-02] The house opened to the public as Bruce Castle Museum in 1906.Harvnb|Pegram|1987|p=11] [cite web|url=|title=Haringey|publisher=Museum of London|accessdate=2008-10-02]

Heraud's "Tottenham"

Bruce Castle was among the buildings mentioned in John Abraham Heraud's 1835 Spenserian epic, "Tottenham", a romantic depiction of the life of Robert the Bruce:cite web|url=|title=Haringey|publisher=Hidden London|accessdate=2008-10-02] quote|Lovely is moonlight to the poet's eye,
That in a tide of beauty bathes the skies,
Filling the balmy air with purity,
Silent and lone, and on the greensward dies—
But when on ye her heavenly slumber lies,
TOWERS OF BRUS! 'tis more than lovely then.—
For such sublime associations rise,
That to young fancy's visionary ken,
'Tis like a maniac's dream — fitful and still again. [cite web|url=|title=Tottenham: A Poem|last=Heraud|first=John Abraham|date=1835|accessdate=2008-10-02]

Bruce Castle Museum

The museum now holds the archives of the London Borough of Haringey, and houses a permanent exhibition on the past, present and future of Haringey and its predecessor boroughs, and temporary displays on the history of the area. Other exhibits include an exhibition on Rowland Hill and postal history, a significant collection of early photography, a collection of historic manorial documents and court rolls related to the area, [cite web|url=|title=New Bruce Castle document sheds light on Tottenham history|date=2007-08-31|publisher=London Borough of Haringey|accessdate=2008-10-02] and one of the few copies of the "Spurs Opus", the complete history of Tottenham Hotspur F.C., available for public viewing. [cite web|url=|title=Spurs well and truly books, Bruce Castle Museum|last=Fontaine|first=Valley|date=2008-09-26|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2008-10-02]

In July 2006 the grounds were the location of a major community archaeological dig organised by the Museum of London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre as part of the centenary celebrations of the opening of Bruce Castle Museum, in which large numbers of local youths took part. [cite web|url=|title=Financial statement, year ending 31 March 2007|date=2007-10-04|publisher=Museum of London|pages=17|accessdate=2008-10-02] [cite web|url=|title=Locals invited to muck in at Bruce Castle |date=2006-07-03|publisher=Museum of London|accessdate=2008-10-02] As well as large quantities of discarded everyday objects, the chalk foundations of what appear to be an earlier house on the site were exposed.



*citation |last=Pegram |first=Jean |title=From Manor House... to Museum |publisher=Hornsey Historical Society |location=London |series=Haringey History Bulletin |volume=28 |year=1987 |isbn=0903481057

External links

* [ Bruce Castle Museum]

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