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Historic England Research Records

Greenwich Castle

Hob Uid: 404327
Location :
Greater London Authority
Greenwich
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : TQ3885077350
Summary : 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.
More information : [TQ 38847733] GREENWICH CASTLE [AT] (Site of)(1)
The castle was constructed in 1433 by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. It was originally a moated tower, but was converted by Henry VIII into a double towered residence enclosed by a wooden fence with a gate lodge. During the Commonwealth it was used as a look-out post. It was demolished in 1675 for the construction of the Royal Observatory (TQ 37 NE 17) (2)

Recorded during the RCHME Greenwich Park Survey, Sep-1993 to Feb-1994 (3-7):

The structure known traditionally as Greenwich Castle stood on the site of the Royal Observatory, a prominent location on a scarp edge still known as Castle Hill in 1695 (3a). The castle was demolished when the Royal Observatory was constructed in 1675 and can be reconstructed only through contemporary illustrations.

Webster provides a summary of legends connected with the castle and suggests four broad phases in its history (4). The original castle was a stone tower, which Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, constructed in 1433 (5). An engraving of Duke Humphrey's tower shows a ruined stone keep, but this may be a romantic fantasy without any historical authority (4). After 1447, the manor house of Duke Humphrey passed into the hands of the royal families of Lancaster and York (6).

A second phase occurred in 1525-6, when the castle was 'newly repaired and builded' (7). Henry VIII is said to have substantially enlarged the castle, adding a second tower and gate lodge (4). However, Wyngaerde's view of Greenwich Palace, dated 1558, depicts the castle in the background as a square keep with only a single tower (3b). The general accuracy of Wyngaerde's illustrations of the palace at Greenwich have been confirmed by excavation (6).

Further building works were undertaken by the Park Ranger, Lord Northampton, in the early seventeenth century. An illustration dated to 1637 shows the 'castle' as an elegant crenellated dwelling 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 (4).

During the period of the Commonwealth, the castle was occupied by Parliamentarian soldiers, charged with preventing the theft of deer from the Park (4).

The site of the former castle is now occupied by the buildings of the Old Royal Observatory. No earthworks relating to the earlier structure were discovered on the slopes of Observatory Hill (3)

See survey plans at 1:1000 scale archived with record TQ 37 NE 69 (UID 610590), for general location of castle (3). (3-7)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Annotated Record Map
Source details : OS 1/1056 Date Unknown
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Source Number : 2
Source : Greenwich Park : historical survey
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Source : Greenwich Park: an archaeological survey. Detailed reports for the NMR
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Source : Greenwich: an architectural history of the Royal Hospital for Seamen and the Queen's Housei
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Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : RCHME: ROYAL PARKS PROJECT: Greenwich Park Survey Sep-93 to Feb-94
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Source Number : 3a
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Travers S. 1695. Survey of the Manor of East Greenwich (PRO Chancery Lane MR 253)
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Source Number : 3b
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Wyngaerde A. 1588. Grenochio (reproduced in Ref 6 Plate 1 and Ref 7 Plate 5)
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Source Number : 4
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Webster A D. 1902. Greenwich Park; its history and associations, 11-13
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Source Number : 5
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details : 1066-1485
Page(s) : 949
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Vol(s) : 2
Source Number : 6
Source : Excavations at Greenwich Palace 1970-1971: an interim report
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Source Number : 7
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 4 : 1485-1660 (Part 2)
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Page(s) : 101-2
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Source : Greenwich Park: an archaeological survey
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Constructed between 1433 and 1439
Monument End Date : 1439
Monument Start Date : 1433
Monument Type : Castle, Tower Keep, Watch Tower
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Remodelled in 1525-26
Monument End Date : 1526
Monument Start Date : 1525
Monument Type : Castle, Gate Lodge, Guest House
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Early C17 enlargment
Monument End Date : 1618
Monument Start Date : 1614
Monument Type : Castle, Gate Lodge, Guest House
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Demolished in 1675
Monument End Date : 1675
Monument Start Date : 1675
Monument Type : Castle, Gate Lodge
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 82423
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TQ 37 NE 5
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 404339
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 610921
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 610926
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 610929
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1169826
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: ROYAL PARKS PROJECT: GREENWICH PARK SURVEY
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1993-09-01
End Date : 1994-02-01
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: GREENWICH PROJECT
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1995-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31