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History of Eastbury Manor House 

Eastbury Manor House was built by Clement Sysley during the reign of Elizabeth I. It was originally in an isolated position, on rising ground with views of the Thames across marshland to the south.

The exterior retains its original appearance. Tree-ring analysis shows that the roof timbers were felled in the spring of 1566. The earliest dated items, such as a lead rainwater hopper head, were produced in the 1570s.

After being the country house of gentry families for the earlier part of its history, by the 18th and 19th centuries Eastbury (sometimes known as Eastbury Hall) was inhabited by a succession of tenants such as yeoman farmers, butchers and graziers. They fattened cattle on the rich marshland pasture before selling them in the London markets.

The house gradually fell into decay. One of its two octagonal stair turrets was pulled down in the early 19th century, and one room was even used as a stable. It was in danger of complete demolition until 1918 when it was purchased by the National Trust.

Click the links below for further information on specific areas of Eastbury's history.

Information sheet on the history of the Manor of Eastbury

Eastbury Research Group

Eastbury has its very own group of volunteers who spend lots of time uncovering new information about Eastbury's varied history. This research has contributed greatly to both information and display panels that you can see in the house and also during our event talks. There is always something new to be discovered and we are lucky to have a dedicated voluntary group to work towards finding out more to enhance your experience of Eastbury. 

Clement Sysley, Builder of Eastbury Manor House

Clement Sysley was probably born in the 1520s. He was descended from an old-established family from Fountains in North Yorkshire, and was brought up in Kent.

He purchased the Eastbury Estate in May 1557, and by 1560 had taken up residency in the parish of Barking. By 1574, he was referring to his new home as 'Estbery Hall'.

Clement is described as a 'Gentleman' in contemporary documents and had a coat of arms, so was evidently a man of wealth and social standing. He made some of his money buying and selling land in Kent, Essex, Dorset and London. He was appointed Justice of the Peace and administered law and order from courts at Brentwood, Chelmsford and Colchester.

Clement married three times and had 11 children, only three of whom are recorded as living to adulthood. His wives were Frances Fleming, Mandley Chambley and Anne Argall. The second and third wives would have lived at Eastbury.

Clement died in 1578 and his widow Anne (who was connected to the Argall family of Walthamstow) outlived him by 32 years. He had bequeathed the Manor of Eastbury to Anne for her lifetime, with reversion to their son Thomas.

The widowed Anne later married Augustine Steward, and her son Thomas Sysley became his ward. In 1592 Thomas granted a 500 year lease of Eastbury to his stepbrother, Augustine Steward the younger, ending the Sysley family's connection with Eastbury.

Their name survives in nearby Sisley Road, part of a housing development built by Barking Council after World War One.

The Gunpowder Plot

A long-standing legend links Eastbury House with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Daniel Defoe (author of 'Robinson Crusoe') writes in his 1727 book 'Tour throughout the whole island of Great Britain':

"A little beyond the town, on the road to Dagenham, stood a great house, antient, and now almost fallen down, where tradition says the Gunpowder Treason Plot was at first contriv'd, and that all the first consultations about it were held there."

Daniel Lysons, in his 'Environs of London' (1796) wrote:

"There is a tradition relating to this house, either, as some say, that the conspirators who concerted the Gunpowder Plot held their meetings there, or as others, that it was the residence of Lord Monteagle, when he received the letter which led to the discovery."

Lord Monteagle had suffered imprisonment in the Tower of London for suspected involvement in Catholic insurgency during the reign of Elizabeth.

It is known that he was at his house in Hoxton when he received the anonymous letter warning of the plot, which he immediately passed on the authorities. But is there any evidence linking him and the conspirators to Eastbury House?

In the early 1600s Eastbury was owned by Anne Steward, widow of Clement Sysley, its original builder. However, she did not live there but rented it to John Moore, an Alderman of London.

An inventory of goods belonging to John Moore at his death in 1603 shows that his Spanish Catholic widow Maria, her daughter Maria Perez and son-in-law Lewis Tresham were living at Eastbury at the time.

Lewis was the brother of Francis Tresham and cousin of Robert Catesby, both among the Gunpowder Plotters. Lewis was also the brother-in-law of Lord Monteagle, who was certainly living in Barking in 1607 when his son was baptized at St Margaret's Church.

The 19th century architect T.E.C. Streatfeild, in a lecture on Eastbury, stated that Monteagle could well have been staying at Eastbury as the residents of all other large houses in the area were accounted for.

Another piece of evidence is that on 9 November 1605, just days after Guy Fawkes was arrested in the Parliament cellars, investigations linked him to Barking. State Papers reveal that a Barking fisherman named Richard Franklin was questioned by magistrate Sir Nicholas Coote at Valence House.

Franklin alleged that his master, Henry Parish, had hired out a boat to Guy Fawkes (who was using the alias Johnson) in which Fawkes and others had travelled in disguise from Barking to and from the French port of Gravelines. Franklin also claimed that Guy Fawkes had made arrangements to make this route his getaway if the Plot had succeeded.

Preserved for Posterity

Eastbury House was still a farmhouse in 1913, but plans were made to develop it as the centrepiece of a new garden suburb.

A year later, at the outbreak of World War One, these plans were shelved when the House was requisitioned by the military and used as a factory to construct observation balloons for the Front Line.

By 1917 aeroplanes had replaced balloons and Eastbury was no longer needed for war work. It was purchased by a local builder and property developer, and there were fears that it would be demolished for salvage.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings campaigned to preserve Eastbury. In 1917 the London Survey Committee published a special book, 'Eastbury Manor House, Barking', which included photographs, historical notes and architectural drawings by Hubert V.C. Curtis.

In 1918, Eastbury House was purchased by the National Trust, saving it for posterity. It was leased to Barking Council in 1920.

A Public Amenity

After World War One, Eastbury House was used as the headquarters of the Barking branch of the United Ex-Servicemen's Club.

In May 1925 over 100 local ex-Servicemen, including local Victoria Cross winner Job Drain VC, lined up on parade outside Eastbury to greet King George V and Queen Mary, who stopped outside in their open car for a few moments on their way from opening the power station at Creekmouth.

In December 1935 the Earl of Crawford officially opened the new Barking Museum at Eastbury House. It was described as 'an impressive collection of objects of artistic beauty and historic interest'. Unfortunately the museum only survived for a few years, and was closed for good during World War Two.

During the war Eastbury was used as a post for Air Raid Precaution (ARP) wardens, and sustained slight bomb damage in 1944. The house was also used as a day nursery, a function it retained until 1956.

The fabric of Eastbury House was fully restored in 1964, and for many years it operated as the headquarters of Barking Arts Council.

In May 2002, Queen Elizabeth II visited Eastbury Manor House as part of her Golden Jubilee Year celebrations.

The 1990s heralded a new era of increased public access facilitated by staff and volunteers. The house underwent an extensive Refurbishment programme which culminated with the installation of interpretation boards in the rooms in 2010.

 
Costumed tour of the garden
Trade card of Frederick Whitbread, farmer of Eastbury

Eastbury Manor House

Eastbury Square

Barking

IG11 9SN

 

Phone: 020 8227 2946 / 5216

Email: eastburymanorhouse@lbbd.gov.uk