The Queen’s House (Greenwich)

Another in the series on historic secular buildings of London …

Greenwich was first recorded as Grenewic in 964, taking its    name from the Old English “grene”, and “wic”, meaning settlement. 

Greenwich Palace, also known at one time or another as  Bella Court and as Placentia, was built here by Henry V’s brother, Humphrey de Bohun, Duke of Gloucester, in 1426, and rebuilt by Henry VII between circa 1500-06.  The palace is notable as the birthplace of Henry VIII and of his daughters Mary and Elizabeth I.  Only some fragments survive.

Distant view of Queen’s House, with part of east wing of Royal Naval College at end of colonnade
Tulip Stairs

The so-called Queen’s House was  originally built by the Palladian architect Inigo Jones, between 1616-40.  It is one of the earliest Renaissance buildings in London, actually begun before, although not completed until after, the Banqueting House in Whitehall (see previous post).

Beard-off at Somerset House

It currently  houses the National Gallery of Naval Art, owned by the National Maritime Museum. One of the paintings on exhibit is of the Somerset House Conference, which brought about the end of the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604.

The Royal Naval College was built on the site of the substantially demolished Greenwich Palace by Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, between 1692-1728. It had to be built in two widely separated halves to allow the Queen’s House to the rear to remain in the view  from the river and waterfront (leading Samuel Johnson to describe it  as “too much detached to make one great whole”).  

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