With the exception of its
neighbour, All Hallows church, Bruce Castle is Tottenhams oldest surviving
building, and its second most famous after White Hart Lane Stadium.
How it came by its name is a somewhat convoluted story. At the time of the Norman
Conquest the manor of Tottenham belonged to Waltheof, Earl of Huntingdon, one
of the few Saxon magnates to retain his lands. He married the Conquerors
niece, Judith, and their daughter Maud married David, King of Scotland, who acquired
the Earldom of Huntingdon (Waltheof having been executed for treason in 1075).
Eventually, the manor passed to the Bruis, or Bruce, family, who built the original
manor house on this site in 1254. The familys English lands were sequestered
by Edward I in 1306, after Robert the Bruces rebellion.
The present house dates from the early sixteenth century; it was acquired by Sir
William Compton in 1514, and comprehensively rebuilt; in 1516 Henry VIII met his
sister Margaret of Scotland here, and Elizabeth I stayed here in 1578, as a guest
of Sir Williams grandson Henry.
Up until the latter part of the seventeenth century the house was known as The
Lordship. It is shown thus on a map of 1619, at which time it was the home
of Sir Thomas Penniston. This title appears to have been insufficiently grandiose
for a later owner, Henry Hare, 2nd Baron (later Lord) Coleraine (16361708),
who renamed it, having (presumably) had a root through ancient documents in order
to find something suitable.
Bruce Castle has never had any military function. The purpose of the curious tower
to the left has been a matter of speculation for many years, but recent research
has discovered that it was built to house falcons.
In the 19th century the house became a school run by the brother of Rowland Hill,
famed for the introduction of the penny post. It was widely renowned and applauded
for its progressive teaching methods (no corporal punishment, for instance). After
the Hills gave it up it continued as a school until the early 20th century, for
some reason having a particular attraction for pupils from Latin America. It is
now a museum with permanent exhibitions devoted to Haringey in times past and
to Rowland Hill.
This drawing (dated 1686)
represents Bruce Castle as it was in the late seventeenth century, a typical large
manor house in the Tudor/Jacobean style. Elizabeth I would have recognised it.
The figure in the driveway is probably Lord Coleraine himself. He may have been
responsible for the wall (built, presumably, to keep the unwashed at a distanceit
is possible that at one time the house was moated), and certainly for the tower
over the front entrance. From its observation platform, he could be lord of all
he surveyed. And, although the house stands at an apparently insignificant elevation,
the view from the platform is astonishing.
At some time in the eighteenth
century, Bruce Castle was extensively remodelled to bring it into line with the
Classical tastes of Georgian England. The windows have been narrowed, the gables
are gone, as are the mock-crenellations on the projecting wings, whilst the façade
has been raised to the level of the old gable-peaks and treated, apparently, to
a coat of stucco. The little turret on the tower has gone, and the wall in front
of the house has been demolished and replaced by iron railings, which allowed
the plebs to see their betters home and marvel at it whilst still keeping
them at a respectful distance. Its continuation, just out of picture to the right,
survives to this day.
This view was drawn about 1770, when the house was owned by Alderman Townsendone
assumes that is him giving a guided tour to a lady visitor (or is he discussing
the next round of home improvements with Mrs. Townsend?).
Bruce Castle from the south-east,
drawn in the 1790sas far as I can judge, from what is now Broadwater Road.
As it was in 1793. The stucco
of Alderman Townsends day has been removed, and, all in all, the house looks
pretty much as it does today. The artist has, however, greatly exaggerated the
distance from the gates to the house to give the impression of a grand carriage
drive that never existed.
|A decidedly eerie Romantic/Gothic
view, drawn 1815. Is it sunlight or moonlight? All it needs is a few bats flapping