Greenwich Palace and Castle

Has been described as a Possible Masonry Castle, and also as a Possible Palace (Royal)

There are no visible remains

NameGreenwich Palace and Castle
Alternative NamesGrenewych; Estgrenewich; Palace of Placentia
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityLondon Borough of Greenwich
1974 AuthorityGreater London
Civil ParishGreenwich

The site of Greenwich Palace or the Tudor Palace of Placentia, a royal palace built by Henry VII on the site of an early medieval manor house. The 15th century manor house was built in 1433-9 and various alterations were carried out in 1447-52. Henry VII carried out further work in 1500-1 creating the royal palace. Henry VIII was born at Greenwich palace on 28th June 1491 and during his reign, Greenwich Palace was on an equal standing with his other great palaces of Eltham, Richmond, Hampton Court and Oatlands. Five of his queens also held court at Greenwich. He built a recreational area at the palace which included stables, a tennis court, cockpit and a tiltyard for jousting. Here, Henry spent much time indulging in his favourite sports and pastimes. In the 17th century the Tudor palace was demolished to make way for a new palace. In 1616 a new palatial building, The Queen's House, was begun by James I to a design by Inigo Jones for Queen Anne of Denmark. In 1662 Charles II commissioned John Webb to design a new palace and to repair and enlarge the Queen's House. This resulted in the demolition of the Tudor palace and construction of King's House. This was the first phase of a large palace which was never completed. The King's House represented the last royal residence at Greenwich, as royal interest was now directed at Hampton Court. In the latter part of the 17th century the King's House and adjoining land was converted into a Naval Hospital. The original Tudor Greenwich Palace consisted of two brick and timber courts with a hedged garden. The Queen's accommodation of a great chamber, parlour and gallery looked over this garden. Excavations have uncovered the remains of a riverside range, the Royal Chapel and the undercroft of the Great Hall. A Time Team excavation in 2003 also found the foundations of Henry VIII's tiltyard

(PastScape summary for Greenwich Palace)

A manor house has been present on this site since the early medieval period, with documentary references to a house 'The Old Court' situated near the river. Under the ownership of the Abbot of Ghent (1268) it was described as having a court and accommodation suitable for visiting prelates. The house was demolished in 1433 when licences were granted to the owner, Humphery, Duke of Gloucester for the construction of a mansion 'crennelled and embattled' and enclosed with walls. A tower was also built (NAR no TQ 37 NE 5). By 1439 the building was completed. Extensive alterations were carried out by Robert Kettlewell (1447-52). The buildings were of brick and timber comprising of two courts; the Queen's accommodation included a great chamber, a parlour and a gallery overlooking the garden. The garden was hedged and contained an arbour. Many alterations took place during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, including it's name to Placentia, parts of which survive incorporated into one of the houses on Part Vista (NAR no. TQ 37 NE 37). A new riverside range was added, this was identified during the 1970-71 excavations. These buildings remained relatively unchanged until demolition in the 17th century to make way for a new palace which was never completed. (PastScape ref. RCHME; HKW; Dixon 1971)

Castle in Greenwich Park. It was constructed in 1433 on the site now occupied by the the Old Royal Observatory. This is a prominent location on a scarp edge, still known as Castle Hill in 1695. The castle was demolished when the Royal Observatory was constructed in 1675 and can be reconstructed only through contemporary illustrations and excavation. The castle was thought to originally comprise a moated tower. It was enlarged in 1525-26 to include a second tower and gate lodge. Further building work was undertaken in the early 17th century. An illustration dated to 1637 shows the castle as an elegant crenellated house, with tall brick chimneys and at least two towers. The Tudor gate house may be identifiable with a two or three storey building attached to one side of the main structure. An archaeological survey by RCHME field staff between 1993-94 located no earthworks or other features identified with the castle. (PastScape summary for Greenwich Castle)

Gatehouse Comments

The palace, on the river bank, and the 'castle' on the hill are clearly part of the same complex with the tower acting as a hunting lodge and viewing point for the deer park. How defensive the castle actually was may be open to question although it would have been clearly visible for miles particularly by ships on the very busy River Thames. At times the castle was used as the residence for the park ranger and as late as 1649 'soldiers were stationed in the castle to prevent deer being stolen from the Park.' (Webster, p. 12). This close to the large and (status) hungry population of London poaching of venison would have been a particular problem and the castle may always have served as a base for park keepers protecting the deer. These two distinct buildings within the Greenwich park complex may be the reason Humphrey Duck of Gloucester obtained two licences to crenellate, these were of similar but not identical wording one being for Grenewych the other for Estgrenewich. However, a more likely explanation of the second licence is the ending of Henry VI's minority and Humphrey taking particular care to establish good relations with the king. Within the Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ388773
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 32, 360, 388
  • Humphrys, Julian, 2006, The private life of palaces: fifteen stories from five amazing palaces (Historic Royal Palaces)
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 248
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Kent (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 45
  • Keevill, Graham D., 2000, Medieval Palaces, An Archaeology (Stroud; Tempus) p. 14
  • Aslet, Clive, 1999, The story of Greenwich (London: Fourth Estate)
  • Cooper, Nicholas, 1999, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) p. 87, 104, 112, 115
  • Thurley, Simon, 1993, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England (Yale University Press)
  • Thurley, Simon, 1991, 'Greenwich palace' in Starkey, David, 1945- (ed.), Henry VIII: a European court in England p. 20-25
  • Colvin, H.M., 1986, 'Royal Gardens in Medieval England' in Elisabeth MacDougall (ed) Medieval Gardens (Washington D.C.) p. 11, 16-17
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 238 (reject)
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1982, The history of the King's Works Vol. 4: 1485-1660 (part 2) (London) p. 96-123
  • Dixon, Philip, 1972, Excavations at Greenwich Palace 1970-1971: an interim report
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 949-50
  • RCHME, 1930, Inventory of Historic Monuments in London Vol. 5: East London (HMSO) p. 25, 26 online transcription
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1908, VCH Kent Vol. 1 p. 378- online copy
  • Webster, A.D., 1902, Greenwich Park; its history and associations (Greenwich) online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 120-8 online copy
  • Hasted, Edward, 1797 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 1 p. 372- online transcription
  • Lysons, Daniel, 1796, The Environs of London Vol. 4: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent p. 426- online transcription


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 250
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 47 online copy
  • Anthony van den Wyngaerde, c. 1543, Panorama of London online copy
  • Wyngaerde A. 1588. Grenochio (reproduced in Ref 6 Plate 1 and Ref 7 Plate 5)
  • Celia Fiennes, 1888, Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary (London: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press) Vision of Britain online transcription
  • Travers S., 1695, Survey of the Manor of East Greenwich (PRO Chancery Lane MR 253) [view copy]


  • Dixon, Philip, 2006, 'The Tudor palace at Greenwich' Court Historian Vol. 11:2 p. 105-11
  • Bowsher, Julian, 2006, 'The Chapel Royal at Greenwich Palace' Court Historian Vol. 11:2 p. 155-62
  • Coulson, Charles, 2007-8, 'On Crenellating, in Kent and Beyond - A Retrospection' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 21 p. 189-201 esp p. 199
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 320
  • Dixon, P., 1971, 'Greenwich Palace Excavations, 1970' London Archaeologist Vol. 1.10 p. 219-22 online copy
  • Anon, 5 Dec. 1970, 'Tudor Palace at Greenwich' Illustrated London News Vol. 257:6853 p. 8

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1907, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry VI (1429-36) Vol. 2 p. 250 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1907, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry VI (1436-41) Vol. 3 p. 74 online copy
  • E178/1151 (Survey of 34 Elizabeth) The National Archives reference


  • Time Team (Mike Aston et al), 2003, Feb 2 (1st broadcast), 'Greenwich London' Time Team TV Programme (Time Team, a Videotext/Picture House production for Channel 4) view online
  • RCHME, 1994, Greenwich Park: An Archaeological Survey (2 Vols)
  • Land Use Consultants, 1986, Greenwich Park: historical survey