Review: Sutton House Sanctuary with Lab Tonica

Founder of Lab Tonica Kitty McEntee explains the benefits behind herbs found in Hackney Marshes

With our work-life balance seemingly off-kilter as we navigate life after a pandemic, taking time to rejuvenate and feel peaceful is always at the top of our wish list.

So, when the lovely Kitty, founder of herbal teas and aromatherapy company Lab Tonica, invited us to join her and a few others at a Tudor house on the edge of Hackney for a day of peace and tranquility, we knew we couldn’t turn it down.

The first of many experiential events, workshops and retreats, Sutton House Sanctuary was designed to help reconnect people with the healing powers of nature while enjoying a day of yoga, tea making and gong baths. Kitty transformed the only National Trust building in the borough into a gorgeous retreat away from the outside world. From start to finish, we felt welcomed and at ease.

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Gentle yoga session

Not just an event for yogis or herbal enthusiasts, anyone with a thirst for knowledge regarding health and wellbeing can sign up. All of the activities can be approached by any age and ability.

Starting the morning off with a welcome cup of POW (a caffeine-free alternative to your morning cuppa that really packs a fiery punch), the group chatted in the beautiful courtyard covered in climbing greenery and large pots of flowers. We also used this time to explore the beautiful building and grounds before the day began.

A surprising site to behold in Hackney, Sutton House and Breaker’s Yard is steeped in a 500-year history dating back to the Tudor times. You can just imagine courtiers and merchants sweeping past you on the stairs rushing to greet people at the door. We will definitely be back to visit again, perhaps to join one of its official tours and learn a little more about the place.

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Once introductions and warm welcomes were done, we headed up the main stairs to the Great Hall to partake in a very gentle yoga session with the amazing Sammy. Perfect for beginners, the class helped stretch out the tension from a busy week and helped us to feel ready to take on the day.

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Making our own herbal teas

Feeling limber and raring to go after the hour-long class, we were ushered back downstairs to sit at the beautifully arranged table, laden with boxes of dried herbs and leaves.

Under the midday sun, Kitty explained the meaning and benefits behind each herb and plant. For instance, you would use Hawthorn for anxiety, Damascus Rose for memory, Valerian for sleep and Linden Blossom for stress. What’s more, Kitty revealed that she’d acquired a lot of the herbs just a short walk away in Hackney Marshes. There you’ll find a lot of nature’s healers in abundance. Lab Tonica even offers a chance for you to join Kitty on a botanical walk around the marshes, where you’ll learn how to identify and forage for medicinal and edible plants and flowers.

With all this knowledge in tow, we set about creating our own herbal remedies. Once mixed together, we carefully placed a small amount of the mixture into tea bags and placed them ready to take home. The courtyard smelt incredible and so did our kitchens later. We can also reveal that the tea tasted refreshing and delicious – it was a lovely reminder of the day.

After a quick spot of lunch and getting to know each other a little more, we set about making smudge sticks. Like a sage stick, the herbal bunch is created, set to dry, and then burnt like a large incense stick around your home.

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Founder of Lab Tonica Kitty McEntee

I’ll admit, it could sound a little woo-woo, but as Kitty took us on a journey of discovery, we learnt just how much plants can scientifically transform your outlook and wellbeing. We picked branches of lavender and other delicate plants found in Hackney marshes and wrapped them in string ready to burn in a few weeks.

Interestingly enough, Kitty explained that although sage holds a surplus of incredible benefits, it’s not native to the UK and ends up being farmed for us rather than found. We decided that there are plenty of other incredible herbs other than sage on our soil to enjoy in abundance.

With all this knowledge in our minds, it was time to conclude the day with a gong bath led by singer Molly Chinner. For those who may have not heard of a gong bath, the session invites you to lie comfortably on the floor while being immersed in the vibrations of the instruments and sounds as a form of meditation.

One of the most calming experiences, we lay comfortably in the Great Hall once more while our minds were washed with soothing drums, tranquil sounds and incredible dulcet tones from Molly. In a relaxed state floating in and out of consciousness, we felt truly calm for the first time in months. It was the perfect end to a joyful day and we left with beaming smiles, knowledge and a lovely little goodie bag. A great way to recharge and feel ready to take on the rest of the week.

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Gong Bath with Molly Chinner

If you would like to join Kitty and Lab Tonica on another sanctuary experience, workshop, or botanical walk this August, visit to learn more. While you’re there, we recommend buying a box of tea too.

Sutton House Sanctuary, Day Retreat
Sutton House E9 6JQ
Tickets: £125 for 1 or £200 for 2 (save £50)

Images by Frederick Goff

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