Greenwich Park * (Greenwich)
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Greenwich Park's history dates back to pre-Roman times. After the Norman Conquest it became a large manor, which was inherited in 1427 by the Duke of Gloucester who enclosed the park in 1433. After his death it was taken by Henry VI's wife, and became the Manor of Plesaunce or Placentia and had associations with royalty until the early C18th. Henry VII built a royal palace here and the park was formally laid out for Charles II in the French style with a series of terraces and many trees planted, some of which remain. A great supporter of scientific research, Charles commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build the Royal Observatory here. Greenwich Meridian Line crosses the landscape, dividing the world into the east and west hemispheres. James II was the last monarch at Greenwich, his daughter Mary later donating the palace site for a hospital for sailors and the park was made available to pensioners at the Hospital. The public were first allowed into the park during the C18th.
- Site location:
- King William Walk/Crooms Hill/Maze Hill/Park Vista/Charlton Way, Greenwich
- Type of site:
- Public Park
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- 6am - dusk. Vehicular access 7am-dusk but no through traffic between 10am-4pm, and at weekends/bank holidays.
- Special conditions:
- no dogs in Flower Garden or Café
- Observatory Café; Pavilion Tea House + Refreshments Points in summer; toilets, car parking. Children's playground, children's boating lake, tennis courts, putting green, rugby and cricket pitch. Old Royal Observatory, Observatory Planetarium (by appointment)
- Bandstand Sunday concerts in summer; children's entertainment, summer holiday events
- Public transport:
- DLR: Cuttysark for Maritime Greenwich. Rail: Greenwich. Bus: 53, 54, 177, 180, 188, 199, 202, 286, 380, 386. Riverboat to Greenwich Pier
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/10/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.royalparks.org.uk/Greenwich-Park; www.friendsofgreenwichpark.org.uk
Full Site Description
Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
In 1997 Greenwich Town Centre and Greenwich Park was designated a World Heritage Site, which are sites deemed by UNESCO to be 'of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view'. The history of the site of Greenwich Park dates back to early settlement in pre-Roman times. South of The Avenue to the west of the Meridian Line is the remains of a C6th/C7th Anglo-Saxon barrow cemetery, and near Maze Hill Gate are remains of what might have been a Romano-Celtic temple built between 43-410 AD. The Danes occupied the area in the early C11th and built earthworks in what is now the park. After the Norman Conquest it became a large manor, which was inherited in 1427 by Humphry, the Duke of Gloucester, brother to Henry V and later Regent and protector to Henry VI before he came of age. Humphry enclosed the land for a park in 1433, building an observation tower on what is now the site of the Royal Observatory. Following his death in 1447, the estate was taken by Henry VI's wife Margaret of Anjou and it became known as the Manor of Plesaunce or Placentia, thereafter favoured by the Tudor monarchs. Henry VII rebuilt the manorhouse as a Palace, and this was where Henry VIII was born and later where he married two of his wives. His daughters Mary and Elizabeth were born here and his son Edward later died here.
In the park today is a remnant of an ancient tree known as Elizabeth's Oak, in fact a chestnut tree. It may date from the C12th and the trandition has it that Queen Elizabeth I picnicked near the tree and that her father and mother Anne Boleyn danced around it. Its hollow trunk was big enough to make a small room that may have been used to lock up people who misbehaved in the park. It died in the C19th and was then held up by ivy until 1991, when it fell over.
Greenwich is the oldest of London's deer parks and has been home to red and fallow deer since it was enclosed. Originally they wandered around the whole area but after it became a public park over time the deer were moved away from the more popular sections until they were confined to The Wilderness, which is near the Flower Garden, the herd now consisting of 16 fallow deer and 14 red deer.
In the C17th the Stuarts transformed the park, James I surrounding it with a 12ft high brick wall that partially survives today. He gave the park and palace to his wife Queen Anne, who in 1616 commissioned Inigo Jones to build a new palace, although she died before it was completed. A Palladian-style building now known as the Queen's House, it was completed in 1635 by which time Charles I had given Greenwich to his wife Henrietta-Maria. It is now within the National Maritime Museum Complex (q.v.). Charles II demolished the remains of the old Tudor Palace in the 1660s and commissioned a new palace on the site, but this was only finished at a much later date, the King having run into financial difficulties. However he remodelled the park landscape, advised by Andre le Notre, who was then the gardener to Louis XIV. His landscape scheme consisted of a series of grass terraces, known as the Great Steps, which were cut into the slope facing the river, lined with hawthorn hedges. The planting on the top terrace was laid out in pate d'oix pattern and the lower ground had very precise right angles and was very regular in form. Le Notre's plan for a large basin with two more fountains and parterre were not carried out, but by then he was working for Louis at Versailles, which may have explained why he was unable to travel to England.
The Great Storm of 1703 led to many trees on the upper ground being lost, the lower area not suffering to any great extent. A formal chestnut avenue and a semicircle of chestnuts inside Blackheath Gate, now known respectively as Blackheath Avenue and The Rounds, were planted, together with areas of woodland in what are now The Wilderness and Ranger's Field. Jubilee Avenue has been planted in recent years to the left of Le Notre's scheme, but in the view of some was wrongly laid out, the original avenue would have been lime, now having outer beech trees and inner turkey oak.
Charles II, a great supporter of scientific research and instrumental in the foundation of The Royal Society in 1661, commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build the Royal Observatory, which was then named Flamsteed House after the first Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed.
James II was the last monarch at Greenwich, his daughter Mary later donating the palace site for a hospital for sailors that became the Royal Naval Hospital then the Old Royal Naval College (q.v.), and the park was made available to pensioners at the Hospital. The park changed little in the Georgian era but one legacy of that time is the remains of a tiled plunge bath near Chesterfield Gate in the south-west corner of the park. This belonged to Caroline, estranged wife of King George IV, who lived at Montague House on the edge of Greenwich Park from 1798-1813. Although she was cleared of adultery her behaviour was deemed to be open to 'unfavourable interpretation' and in 1814 she left England for Europe; Montague House was demolished the following year.
During WWII anti-aircraft guns were installed in the Flower Garden, the tops of some of the trees cut to provide better firing lines to the enemy bombers who followed the line of the river to seek their targets.
The Rangers House dates from the time of Humphry, Duke of Gloucester, who lived here while his observation tower was being built and the extensive rose garden of 113 rose beds adjacent to the house was laid out in an area that was formerly his deer enclosure. Rangers House was redeveloped in 1995 by the Friends of Greenwich Park, pizzas in the rose garden in artificial stone are similar to those in Regent's Park (q.v.) and may have come from there as Webster, Parks Manager at the time at Regent's Park, had been at Greenwich Park.
In 1930 the statue of General James Wolfe (1727-59) by Tait Mackenzie was erected above the Great Steps escarpment. Wolfe's parents lived on the edge of Greenwich Park in Macartney House, and the statue commemorates Wolfe's victory over the French at Quebec, although he died in the battle. It was the gift of the Canadian people and was unveiled by the Marquis de Montcalm, a descendant of the defeated French Commander-in-Chief who also died in the battle.It was damaged by shrapnel in World War II. As a result of World Heritage Site status, the area behind the Wolfe Statue is to be reconfigured with more pedestrian space, less cars, and inscriptions in the pavement relating to Ptolemy's Planets. Giant steps that led down the escarpment from the Wolfe statue flanked by pine trees no longer exist.
The site of the Roman remains was first dug out by Webster in 1902 when it was accidentally discovered through routine works in the park. At that time it was thought to be remains of a villa and three floor surfaces were revealed, one of which was part of a tessellated pavement. Further excavations took place in 1978/9 and then in 1999/2000 work carried out as part of a Channel 4 'Time Team' programme revealed that the building was probably a Roman-Celtic temple, sited on the line of Watling Street.
Greenwich Park is one of the Royal Parks that hosted some of the key venues for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.
See NHLE Register Listing. Beryl Platts 'A History of Greenwich' 2nd ed. (Procter Press), 1986; Sue Swales, Meg Game, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Greenwich', Ecology Handbook 10 (London Ecology Unit), 1989; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); K D Clark, 'Greenwich and Woolwich in Old Photographs' (Alan Sutton) 1990.
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ388773 (539042,177232)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- Royal Parks Agency
- Site management:
- Landuse Consultants. Friends of Greenwich Park
- C15th; 1660s onwards
- Andre Le Notre (l1660s)
- Listed structures:
- LBI: Royal Observatory: The Transit House, Flamsteed House, Former Great Equatorial Building, wall & clock to right of entrance of Royal Observatory. LBII: St Mary's Gate, St Mary's Lodge, statues: William IV, General Wolfe; bandstand south of Great Cross Avenue, boundary wall of park, Royal Observatory South Building, Altazimuth Pavilion. Local list: Blackheath Gate Lodge
- On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:
- NHLE grade:
- Grade I
- Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:
- Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:
Local Authority Data
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
- On Local List:
- In Conservation Area:
- Conservation Area name:
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Yes - Metropolitan Importance with Blackheath
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Yes - Area of Special Character of Metropolitan Importance
- Other LA designation:
- World Heritage Site. Historic Landscape. Strategic View