Hackney Tudors: Common Ground

Hackney Tudors

This project aims to build up an imagined yet historically based picture of life in Hackney in the past from a child’s perspective. Groups of primary-age children focused this year on the 1530s when Henry VIII was king, Hackney was a village and the country was in the midst of a period of radical change. A combination of drama, music, dance and the results of new historical research enabled the participants and workshop leaders to work together towards a performance day, also producing artwork and written reports Most of the workshops took place in the Tudor Sutton House, with visits to Bromley Hall, then one of the king’s hunting lodges, and the mediaeval St Augustine’s Church Tower.

The focus of this year’s work was the time when one of the “side effects” of the closing of the religious houses was a great addition to the numbers of homeless people, many of them sick and/or old, who wandered the streets of most villages, including Hackney. The owner of Sutton House, Ralph Sadleir, worked for the King’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell. Sadleir was personally involved in the Dissolution, getting very rich very quickly and away from home most of the time.. . At home in Hackney there were rumours of unrest, as there were down the road in Bromley, where preparations were underway for the king’s next hunting trip. There was also trouble brewing from a group of homeless people, thrown off the priory land. His household in Hackney is worried that Sadleir will arrive home for Whitsun to find trouble on the doorstep.

Hackney Tudors

These were a series of full-day workshops, mostly based at Sutton House, with visits to Bromley Hall and St Augustine’s Church Tower, and a final reporting back session at school. The workshops were planned to enable the children to combine first-hand discovery with the opportunity of taking an active part in drama, music and dance. In some workshops there were other activities such as quill-pen writing, artwork and Tudor food preparation, and the children were encouraged to undertake research between workshops.

The participants and workshop leaders worked together on a promenade performance at Sutton House.. The audience of parents and friends encountered a sequence of scenes, with a song and presentation at each location and a final scene in the Wenlock Barn. The children produced reports and artwork; some of these are being incorporated into a project website, www.hackneytudors.co.uk, which is still being added to, and will be added to at each stage of the project. Some of the work will also be included in the planned project booklets, to be made available to all Hackney schools.

Ian McGovern, Deputy Headteacher of Grasmere Primary School, said of the project “We have found the approach to be creative and well researched. This has had direct effect on the motivation of all the pupils, who take part with real gusto. Many of the children involved are from inner city areas of high deprivation and some have special educational and complex needs. It opens a doorway for them that meets their needs and gives them opportunities which they have not had before. Our higher achievers use these projects to develop their own interests further, often alongside their families”.

Click here for more photos