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Greenwich Palace

A Scheduled Monument in Greenwich West, Greenwich

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Latitude: 51.4828 / 51°28'58"N

Longitude: -0.006 / 0°0'21"W

OS Eastings: 538557.51238

OS Northings: 177871.989857

OS Grid: TQ385778

Mapcode National: GBR L1.962

Mapcode Global: VHGR1.VZ6M

Entry Name: Greenwich Palace

Scheduled Date: 22 March 2013

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1410710

County: Greenwich

Electoral Ward/Division: Greenwich West

Built-Up Area: Greenwich

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Greenwich St Alfege

Church of England Diocese: Southwark


The remains of the Tudor Greenwich Palace complex including tiltyard, armoury, friary and other associated buildings and structures, together with the remains of earlier royal houses, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, an early C17 undercroft and a mid-C17 laboratory.

Source: Historic England


The monument comprises the remains of the Tudor Greenwich Palace complex including tiltyard, armoury, friary and other associated buildings and structures, together with the remains of earlier royal houses, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and a C17 undercroft and laboratory, all located on the south bank of the River Thames at Greenwich to the immediate east of Greenwich town centre. The palace site by the river is now divided into quarters, following the names of the C17 and C18 buildings within them. The quarters - King Charles (to the NW), Queen Anne (NE), King William (SW) and Queen Mary (SE) - will be used below to describe the locations of the buried features.

This list entry provides a summary description only for what is a highly complex and multi-phased site. The reader is therefore advised to consult the references cited for more detailed accounts of the history of Greenwich Palace and the many archaeological investigations which have taken place.

The monument (hereafter the 'Greenwich Palace site') covers a large area of circa 12ha and is located on river terraces of the south bank of the River Thames, approximately 6km south-east of central London. The underlying geology consists of river terrace deposits, primarily sands and gravels. It is a highly complex and multi-period site with the Tudor palace and its associated structures probably the better known components. There are significant earlier remains, however, including a C7 Anglo-Saxon cemetery and a sequence of royal houses which preceded the Tudor palace.

Greenwich Palace evolved from a modest medieval manor house, via a series of enlargements in the C15 and C16, into one of the principal royal palaces of the Tudor dynasty. The royal palace was an extensive sprawling affair. In addition to the main riverside complex there were chapels, kitchens, stables, barns, an armoury, a tiltyard for jousting and storage areas. Behind the main buildings lay orchards and walled gardens stretching south to the Deer (now Greenwich) Park (a Grade I Registered Park & Garden). Most of the palace complex was demolished in the 1660s, the ground levelled into terraces that stepped down to the river, and new buildings erected, and therefore little pre-1660 material remains visible. The exception is a vaulted brick and stone undercroft of the palace built in 1604, which still survives as a cellar beneath the present Queen Anne Quarter (see below). The plan of the Palace and its associated buildings is, therefore, provided by documentary and cartographic records supported by a great number of archaeological investigations.

Post-Tudor landscaping within the boundaries of the monument does not follow the Tudor landscape contours, and as such archaeological remains have been discovered at varying depths below the current ground surface, from a minimum of 0.2m below present ground level (in the vicinity of the Queen's House) to 0.9m above the gravels, approximately 6m below present ground level (within the lawns of the King Charles Quarter). Additionally, the banks of the River Thames on which the monument sits were not constant, and as well as natural movement, there has also been human intervention with the river's course: in the 1660s some 25m of ground at the north end of the Queen Anne Quarter was reclaimed from the river.

Anglo-Saxon cemetery (TQ 38703 77799)
Although not related to the later palace, the earliest significant remains within the monument are a group of Anglo-Saxon burials discovered in the 1860s to the south of the Queen Mary Quarter. (The settlement of Greenwich has Saxon origins and there are further Anglo-Saxon burials in Greenwich Park approximately 850m to the south in the form of a barrow cemetery: NHLE 1021440). Four inhumation burials with grave goods were identified. One burial included a possible hanging bowl of C7 date. There is the potential for further Anglo-Saxon burials to survive in the tiltyard area.

Medieval Manor House (TQ 38534 77978)
The earliest archaeological remains associated with royal occupation are those from a C14 manor house on the site later occupied by the palace, and on the same orientation (west-east along the river frontage between the Queen Anne and King Charles Quarters.) Excavations in the early 1970s demonstrated that it consisted of a range 8.5m wide running along the edge of the river with two main cross walls. The walls averaged 70cm thick suggesting that they were sleeper walls for a timber-framed super-structure. Two pairs of garderobe chutes, which led to brick-built vaulted culverts that discharged into the Thames, indicate a two-storey building. A brick pavement suggests a courtyard to the south of the house. The sand tile-bed for the original floor was preserved in one part of the excavations. Alterations in the early C15 at least doubled the size of the house with the addition of a stone built two-storey extension. At the same time the north wall of the earlier house facing the river was rebuilt in brick. Further alterations and improvements continued to be made throughout the C15. At the end of the C15, the house was largely demolished to within 10cm of the floor level. The razed walls were re-used as sleepers to carry the joists for part of the ground floor of the new palace.

Tudor Palace (TQ 38544 77987)
After the demolition of the medieval house, trenches were cut for a new and extensive sewage system, in preparation for the construction of the palace. These intersected those belonging to the former manor house. New garderobe shafts discharged into brick-vaulted chambers, three of which were excavated in the early 1970s. Between these chambers ran brick culverts about 60cm wide and originally about 1.5m high.

After the completion of the culverts in the early C16 the main brick walls of the palace were begun. The principal buildings of the Tudor palace were arranged around an inner courtyard. Further outer courtyards are illustrated and described in historical sources. The Tudor palace was a huge complex and was clearly modified many times over its life. Archaeological investigations aid our understanding of the construction phases and alterations. Contemporary illustrations, particularly those by Antonius Wyngaerde (c.1525-1571), a Flemish artist whose drawings of the palace from both river and park in c.1558 are an invaluable source, and archaeological evidence (chiefly Dixon's excavations of 1970-1) indicate that the north (principal) range, facing the river, was approximately 120m long. At its east end was the royal chapel, with the remainder comprising state rooms and the king's privy rooms. Further evidence of the chapel's east end was revealed by the Museum of London Archaeology Service in 2006 including a monochrome tiled floor. At the west end of the range was the king's privy kitchen, on the site of the earlier house's kitchen. This was partly of timber construction in its earliest phase and faced onto a cobbled courtyard. Almost in the centre of the river frontage stood the great tower, which formed the most prominent feature of the palace. Archaeological excavation revealed the external walls of the tower and its ground floor plan: it was approximately 14m from north to south and 12m from west to east. Remains of three polygonal projecting bays were uncovered forming the riverfront, the two to the east belonging to the great tower. The central one of the three contained a staircase. Another polygonal projecting bay, set diagonally, stood at the south-east corner of the tower; a porch in the angle between the tower and the north range gave access from the inner court to the ground floor rooms. The first floor of the tower was supported on a central pillar. Wyngaerde shows a fore-building that projects like a barbican from the great tower into the river; visible in his view is an arched opening to the west side of the fore-building, interpreted as a passage which allowed access along the riverbank from the tower. This is believed to date to Henry VIII's palace improvements contemporary with his construction of the tiltyard. To the east of the tower, excavations revealed part of the abutting range. Along its northern side, linking with the tower's staircase turret, ran a corridor floored with yellow and green tiles. As the main river entrances of the earlier Tudor palace are known to have been located to the east of Dixon's excavated area and west of the royal chapel, it is likely that the corridor ran from this entrance along the ground floor of the range to the great tower, and so to the privy apartments. Not long after the completion of the great tower the staircase turret was extended to the west. This is believed to have partly housed Henry VIII's library. By the early C17 the monarch's river access was moved from its former position to enter the palace through this extension to the tower, providing more direct access to the privy apartments.

The west range of the palace remains largely unexcavated, although Dixon excavated a trench across the centre of the range as well as the presumed south end of it confirming details of its survival and extent. It was of two storeys and documentary sources suggest that the queen's lodgings were here with the queen's privy kitchen at the north end of the range separated from the king's privy kitchen by the aforementioned cobbled yard. The very northern end of the range has been identified by excavation. Written sources indicate that a gallery linked this range to the friary church and House of the Observant Friars to the west. The south range was also sampled and evidence for a number of garderobes and chimney stacks recorded. This range may have also housed the extended queen's lodgings later in the C16 to early C17. In the garden at the corner of the south and west ranges a rectangular building was added and it has been postulated that this is the real tennis court referred to in documentary sources. The south range was also brick-built and of at least two storeys (demonstrated by the recording of the base of a staircase), and indeed Wyngaerde's view from the park suggests a two-storey range with an attic here. The east range has been found by partial excavation to have been a narrow range giving access to the royal chapel at the north-east corner of the palace. The palace's great hall, a timber-framed structure, extended eastward from this range parallel with, and to the south of, the chapel. A later vaulted brick and stone undercroft was inserted beneath the great hall in 1604 and survives beneath the Queen Anne Block.

Undercroft (TQ 38612 77978)
An early C17 undercroft is located beneath the Queen Anne Quarter. Five-and-a-half bays are visible with a further one-and-a-half bays recorded on plan to the west of the access stairs, and which are presumed to survive. The vaulting is of red brick, partly whitewashed, reinforced by ribs composed of chamfered bricks springing from low octagonal stone piers with moulded caps. Modern timber flooring conceals the original floor surface.

Four of the surviving bays, at the western end of the former hall, form a square 'room' with a central freestanding pier. This is bounded on three sides by the original retaining walls and on the western side by the massive foundation wall of the later Naval Hospital building. This cuts across the undercroft at an angle encasing one row of its supporting piers along with part of the vaulting. The north wall contains two splayed window embrasures, now blocked. Another splayed opening in the north wall contains a blocked flight of steps. In the east wall is a shallow arched recess, presumably formed during the C18 alterations. The vaulting in this section is octopartite, with lateral and longitudinal ridge ribs in addition to the normal diagonal and transverse ribs. A circular aperture has been formed in one of the webs of the north-eastern vaulting bay. In the floor of the south-eastern bay is a circular well-shaft with heavy stone capping.

To the south-west, a gap in the later foundations gives access to a further bay and a half of vaulting, blocked to the north and west by inserted walls. This vaulting is of a simpler quadripartite pattern without ridge ribs. An inserted doorway in the north wall here gives access to the basement of the Hospital building.

House of the Observant Friars (TQ 38517 77915)
Immediately to the west of the main palace lay the House of the Observant Friars. Wyngaerde's drawings of c.1558 show that the friary did not have a claustral plan. The church is illustrated as an aisle-less rectangular building aligned with the principal palace buildings, to which it was attached at its east end, and on an east-west axis. A spire is shown at the junction of nave and chancel. An irregular group of buildings depicted to the south of the church has been interpreted as the friary's domestic accommodation. Chalk foundations of a possible medieval date and moulded stonework have been identified by archaeological excavation and these along with deposits associated with the Friary's demolition in 1662 confirm its location.

Palace boundaries and ancillary structures
On the west side of the Friary was Friars Road which ran from a landing station on the river up to a gateway leading into Greenwich Park. The remains of the landing stage were discovered in foreshore surveys in 1995 and 2010. North and west of the Friary Church stood the forge and horse-mill of the main Armoury, close to the river for transportation but far enough from the palace buildings and the king's rooms for industrial sounds and smells not to offend the Court. It is probable that other workshops necessary for a large court - including a book bindery, painters' studio and metal working shop - were situated in this area. Further west lay the Royal Stables and south of this the Great Barn. This south-west boundary was probably marked by the continuation of Turnpin Alley, which now terminates on the west side of King William Walk, remains of which have been found in archaeological investigations by the Museum of London Archaeological Service. South-east of the Palace lay Henry VIII's tiltyard (1514-18) and its associated buildings. The south-east boundary of the Palace complex was marked by the Deptford-Woolwich Highway, which was straddled by the Palace's gatehouse (located immediately to the west of the Queen's House). The gatehouse has been illustrated in contemporary pictures (principally Wyngaerde c.1558), but not yet identified through archaeological intervention.

Landing Station (TQ 38443 77989)
Timber piles and remains of wooden structures were recorded on the foreshore by the 1995 Thames Archaeological Survey, with further discoveries by the Thames Discovery Programme in 2010. Piles interpreted as the remains of the Tudor landing stage associated with Greenwich Palace have been recorded immediately to the north-west of the King Charles Quarter of the Royal Naval College. The landing stage led onto Friar's Road which provided access from the river to the Great Park. Further timbers of later date have also been recorded indicating several phases of redevelopment of the waterfront access to the palace and subsequent Royal Naval Hospital.

Armoury (TQ 38421 77927)
Documentary and cartographic evidence suggests that the Armoury lay to the west of the palace in the area close to the Friary (now the lawns to the west of the King Charles Quarter). Wyngaerde's views of c.1558 appear to show a complex with chimneys, which may be industrial, in this part of the site. The armoury was a small factory housed in a complex of buildings; 22 armourers and their apprentices are recorded as working here in 1522. Archaeological investigations in 2002 by Time Team recorded smithying residue from secure contexts, both hammerscale and residue from welding, implying that metalworking was taking place here. Later features were also revealed including a cesspit and culvert associated with Greenwich Hospital as well as C19 garden features. A large amount of overburden was present in this area of the monument, masking the Tudor deposits. A number of walls which may relate to the palace were recorded in the 1950s by Alec Holden, Surveyor of Greenwich Hospital Estate, and in the early 1960s he also recorded the foundations of a Tudor-period tavern in this area.

Great Barn (TQ 38407 77773) and Royal Stables (TQ 38362 77832)
Henry VIII's Great Barn, believed to have been constructed in the first years of his reign as part of his palace improvements, is situated at the western edge of the Palace complex beneath the Dreadnought Library. The foundations of the barn have been recorded in a number of archaeological interventions here allowing the approximate extent of the building to be plotted. Further buried remains associated with this structure are likely to survive in this part of the monument.

The original Royal Stables may have been constructed by Henry VII but there are historical references referring to the building of two new stables by Henry VIII in c.1512 and also records of their repair in the 1530s and major work in the late 1560s. The stables were located on the western boundary of the site, bounded by King William Street, and to the north of the Great Barn and thus in the vicinity of the Pepys Building.

Tiltyard (TQ 38726 77782)
Constructed early in Henry VIII's reign, the early C16 Tudor tiltyard was situated south-east of the palace in an area now occupied by the National Maritime Museum's east wing (the Queen's House) and its lawns, and extends north under part of the Queen Mary Quarter of the Old Royal Naval College. It is well defined, stretching from its southern limit now marked by the colonnades of the Queen's House northwards across Romney Road and measuring approximately 650ft (198m) long by 250ft (76m) wide. The tiltyard, believed to have been built on virgin ground, consisted of a large open area or yard with the 'lists' or wooden barrier down the centre. The tiltyard was improved in the 1520s, there is an account of the maintenance of the surface in 1536, and it was restored or rebuilt in the 1570s. One of the 'tilts' repaired in 1631-2 was described as 350ft (106m) long and 3ft (1m) deep. The surface of the tiltyard was of sand, but with layers of gravel and plaster below. There is a 1636 record of the rebuilding of the surrounding walls, but a few years later it was dismantled and its timbers used to repair other parts of the palace.

The west side of the tiltyard was composed of buildings that included two great towers - symbolic of medieval chivalric ideals and heightening the drama of the tournament - which were grandstands for spectators. A Long Gallery connected the tiltyard to the palace and there was also a Green Gallery where Henry VIII's armour was on display. In 1527, a temporary banqueting hall, a revelling or disguising house (a theatre) and other structures were built, all part of a grand display for a French delegation. Their appearance and dimensions are described in detail by the chronicler Edward Hall (d. 1547) and have been partially confirmed by excavations in 2002. In fact, these buildings were repaired over the years and became permanent features. Other temporary structures would have included wooden castles used for mock sieges.

Severe but localised disturbance occurred during the C19 when a railway tunnel and a trench for the placement of a sailing ship were excavated in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum here. Notwithstanding this, geophysical survey in 2002 and recent excavations have identified archaeological remains associated with the tiltyard including parts of the metalled tiltyard surfacing. Also revealed was evidence of high status Tudor buildings along its western side, consistent with the position of the grandstand and buildings for the associated revelries. Remains of a brick building with double-struck pointing and buttresses have been identified as the banqueting house. High quality Tudor building materials including floor tiles and window glass imply buildings of some quality.

Laboratory (TQ 38783 77759)
A map of 1690s shows a building labelled 'the Laboratory' at the south end of the Tiltyard area, to the east of the Queen's House and abutting Back Lane. This building was in effect a successor to the Armoury located to the north-west of the King Charles Quarter and was important in the development of pyrotechnics. The laboratory was not long lived as its functions moved to the new Woolwich Arsenal in the early C18. Excavations by Time Team in 2002, immediately to the north of the Queen's House east colonnade, uncovered brick cellars of a complex believed to represent the laboratory.

Extent of Scheduled Area
The scheduling aims to protect the site of Greenwich Palace and its associated tiltyard, armoury, stables, great barn, friary church, jetty/landing stage and other ancillary buildings. It also includes earlier and later features such as Anglo-Saxon burials, a medieval manor house (which preceded the palace), an early C17 undercroft and a mid-C17 laboratory (which succeeded the armoury). The scheduling covers an area of approximately 10 hectares immediately south of the River Thames at Greenwich, incorporating part of the foreshore. It covers an area with a maximum width of 390m (south-west to north-east) and a maximum length of 430m (north-west to south-east). Wherever possible the boundary follows the external walls and railings of the former Greenwich Hospital in order to aid future management. Exceptions to this include an area of foreshore to the north-west of the King Charles Quarter, included to give protection to the remains of the Tudor jetty or landing stage. Other exceptions are a section of the Romney Road and an area of the National Maritime Museum grounds to the north of the Queen's House; both areas included in the scheduling to protect the remains of the Tudor tiltyard.

To ease future site management, the scheduling boundaries follow extant features which may not be directly related to the Tudor Palace. Standing buildings and monuments within the Greenwich Palace site, the majority of which are separately designated, are excluded from the Greenwich Palace scheduled monument; the ground beneath all these buildings is, however, included. The remains of the vaulted brick and stone undercroft of the palace, built in 1604, and still surviving beneath the present Queen Anne Quarter, are included in the scheduling.

All buildings (including guard shelters), access ramps, the river flood-barrier defence, modern walls, fencing and gates (both historic and modern), statuary (including monuments, anchors, cannon and art installations), street furniture (including signage, lamp posts, bollards, utility cabinets, dustbins, benches, drain and man-hole covers, car park barriers and machines, and bicycle racks), planters, flag poles, tarmac paths and modern surfaces are excluded from the scheduling; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included. The railway tunnel cutting, which crosses the southern half of the site, in front of the Queen's House, is also excluded from the scheduling.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The remains of the Tudor Greenwich Palace complex including tiltyard, armoury, friary and other associated buildings and structures, together with the remains of earlier royal houses, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and a C17 undercroft and laboratory, are scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Period and rarity: Greenwich Palace is a multi-period site incorporating archaeological remains from the Anglo-Saxon period to the C17. The site was closely connected with the English monarchy from at least the C9 to the C17. The Tudor Palace represents a unique royal establishment where history was made: the birth and marriage place of kings and queens, the site of the royal armoury, and the first permanent tiltyard in England which was the scene of tournaments designed to delight and amaze the spectator. It is a site of exceptional interest of both national and international significance (the latter reflected in World Heritage Site inscription);
* Documentation: documentary sources (including historic texts and the results of archaeological interventions) and iconographic material are numerous, and when combined with the archaeological evidence provide us with an unparalleled glimpse into the court life of the Tudor monarchy, in particular;
* Survival and potential: the archaeological survival at Greenwich Palace is particularly good. The lack of disturbance of parts of the site, particularly the lawns in and around the former Royal Hospital Buildings and in front of the Queen's House, means that archaeological remains of national importance survive relatively undisturbed, and in places just below the ground surface. The potential to further understand the site is therefore high, demonstrated most recently by the investigation of part of the chapel in 2006;
* Diversity and group value: the site incorporates the remains of multi-period and diverse components and structures which aid our understanding of the use of the site for Anglo-Saxon burials, through royal and ecclesiastical usage until the C17 and the technological innovations of the Laboratory. The palace site also has strong functional and spatial group value with the buildings of the former Royal Hospital, the listed buildings and monuments on the palace site, and with the Grade I registered Greenwich Park to its immediate south which in turn incorporates multi-period listed and scheduled buildings and sites.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bold, J, Greenwich: An Architectural History of the Royal Hospital for Seamen and the Queen's House, (2000)
Cherry, B, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: London 2: South, (1994)
Colvin, H M, Ransome, D R, Summerson, J, The History of the King's Works, (1975), Vols III-IV
Dillon, J (ed), Performance and Spectacle in Hall's Chronicle, (2002)
Doran, S, Starkey, D (eds.), Henry VIII: Man and Monarch, (2009)
Thurley, S, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England, (1993)
Fiorato, V, Heritage Assets within the Greenwich Palace Site: descriptions and bibliographies, 2011,
Museum of London Archaeology Service, London Olympics Equestrian Centre, Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site London, SE10, London Borough of Greenwich: Archaeological desk-based Assessment. , 2008,

Source: Historic England

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