Nonsuch Palace

Another in the occasional series on historical sites  on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …


Nonsuch Palace, near Ewell in Surrey, was originally built – although not completed – by Henry VIII between 1538-47, as an English Renaissance  rival to Francis I of France’s Chateau de Chambord, begun in 1519 (the Medieval settlement of Cuddington being demolished in the process).   In  1556, Mary I sold it to Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel.  And in 1580, on FitzAlan’s death, it passed to his son-in-law John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley (*), who in 1592 remitted possession to Elizabeth I, who is known to have stayed there on a number of occasions.  Subsequently,    in 1603, on Elizabeth’s death, it passed to James I, who granted it to his Queen, Anne of Denmark; and in 1625, on James’s death, to Charles I, who in turn granted it to his Queen, Henrietta Maria (only to see it temporarily seized by Parliamentary forces during the Civil War).  Eventually, the then-surviving buildings were  substantially demolished by Charles II’s mistress Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine, in 1682-83 – the proceeds of the sale of  salvaged building materials used by her to settle her gambling debts!



Archaeological excavations undertaken by A.W.G. Lowther in 1930 and Professor Martin Biddle in 1959-60 unearthed the remains of the Palace’s Banqueting House, situated in a prime elevated position overlooking the erstwhile deer park, now Nonsuch Park.   The remains consisted of an understorey and the lower part of the raised ground floor, with an external  brick wall that had been partially rebuilt in the nineteenth century (using some bricks salvaged from the original Tudor building).

(*) Lumley (d. 1609) is buried  in the sumptuous Lumley Chapel in the church of St Dunstan in nearby Cheam, alongside his wives Jane (nee Fitzalan) (d. 1579) and Elizabeth (nee Darcy) (d. 1617).

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