Greenwich Park Revealed – restoring landscape heritage and bringing history to life
Greenwich Park is at the heart of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site and has always been associated with royalty. Greenwich was the birthplace of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I and Henry used the park as his hunting ground. The park also has a fascinating social history from the inspiring life of Ignatius Sancho, Britain's first black voter to the strange story of the Greenwich Time Lady.
The Royal Park's flagship new project, Greenwich Park Revealed will restore the park's historic landscape and bring its unique history to life.
17th century splendour – the Grand Ascent, Parterre and Tree Avenues
In the 17th century, King Charles II remodelled the park to a formal design by André Le Nôtre - gardener to Louis XIV of France and the landscape architect who designed the Palace of Versailles gardens. Henry VIII’s wild hunting ground was transformed into an impressive, Baroque landscape with grand gardens and sweeping tree avenues. Sadly, time has eroded this magnificent landscape and the trees are threatened by pests and diseases.
Greenwich Park Revealed will reinstate Le Notre’s original designs, restoring the park to a historically-accurate grandeur in keeping with its World Heritage Site status. Dying trees will be replanted with disease-resistant varieties, most of which are wildlife friendly species. The centrepiece will be the Grand Ascent – giant, grass steps cut into Castle Hill and the Parterre – raised tree-lined banks framing the view from the Queen’s House.
The Flower Garden – Edwardian charm
The Flower Garden was developed at the turn of the 20th century and would have featured permanent perennial planting rather than the temporary seasonal bedding we see today. Greenwich Park Revealed will adapt and celebrate this Edwardian design, using climate-change resistant, pollinator-friendly plants. The lake’s water quality and associated planting will also be improved.
One Tree Hill and Wolfe Statue viewpoints
Before the Observatory was built, One Tree Hill was the park’s main viewpoint and is the subject of many historic paintings. Now tourists flock to the General Wolfe Statue viewpoint, and this popular spot is being eroded.
Greenwich Park Revealed will open up the General Wolfe Statue area with new landscaping and it will enhance access to One Tree Hill by improving paths and seating, encouraging visitors to explore and enjoy this quiet, natural area.
Erected in 1891 with metal cast by the Coalbrookdale Company, this attractive, Grade II-listed structure is still used for summer concerts. We will renovate the bandstand and supply it with electricity – currently we use a petrol generator to provide power for musical equipment.
Interpreting Greenwich Park’s Hidden Histories
Greenwich Park’s 590-year history spans ancient civilizations, royal ownership, scientific advances that cemented Britain’s global power and World War 2. It is mentioned in Samuel Pepys Diary, is home to the Royal Observatory and surrounded by buildings of nationally important heritage. Neighbouring Blackheath was a rallying point for peasant uprisings and later, home to both slave traders and free slaves campaigning for abolition.
The park itself contains a Roman Temple, underground tunnels, Anglo-Saxon burial mounds, a Queen’s bath, ancient graffiti and a WW2 bomb shelter. However, most park visitors are not aware of this amazing heritage.
Greenwich Park Revealed will tell the park’s stories through interpretation activities such as audio trails, guided walks, cultural events and signage. It will also contribute to historical research through community archaeology digs, engaging students to map underground features, oral history projects and volunteer research.