skip to main content
The Royal Parks web site uses cookies. By browsing you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Read our cookie policy

Greenwich Park has the longest association with royalty, and has played an important role in London's history from the Romans to modern day.

Explore the rich history of Greenwich Park and learn about the people who shaped its development.

  1. The Romans

    1200

    The land at Greenwich has been used as a settlement since prehistoric times. Its close proximity to the River Thames and naturally dry ground made it an ideal location for communities throughout history, and today the park has remnants of several key periods of history including Roman, Anglo Saxon, Tudor and Stuart.

    The important Roman road Watling Street originally ran just to the south-west of Greenwich Park, and by the north-east boundary wall lies the site of a rare Romano-Celtic temple. Excavations over the years have shown the remains of this main temple and its associated precinct. Among the findings were rare ivories, inscriptions, and a large number of coins. The temple had tessellated flooring and painted plaster walls, which give us a better understanding of the building's use and status up to 400 AD. The excavations provided evidence of Roman occupation in this area for nearly 400 years.

    Find out more about the Roman remains and excavations at Greenwich Park.

  2. The Anglo-Saxons

    1300

    Greenwich became less important after the Romans left until the time of King Alfred (871-900). Listed among his possessions, it is understood that he gave the manor of “Grenevic”1 to his daughter Elstrudis. When her husband died in 918 the manor passed to the Abbey of St. Peter’s at Ghent, in Belgium.

    This Flemish connection lasted until the early 15th century when Henry V disallowed alien monasteries and priories and the Abbot of Ghent’s holding reverted back to the English. Throughout this period a house (known as “Old Court”) remained in the English King's possession.

    Today, on the western side of the park (near Croom’s Hill Gate) it is still possible to see a group of 31 tumuli (or barrows) dating from this Anglo-Saxon period. As one of only 40 barrow cemeteries left in England, each mound covers a single burial and some of the dead have been discovered to have been buried with their weapons.

    The barrows show signs of disturbance due to an exploratory excavation in 1784. Works for a new reservoir in 1844 resulted in the levelling of 12 barrows, and there has been further disturbance from tree roots. The place name ‘Greenwich’ emerged in the middle Anglo-Saxon
    period suggesting it was a wic or trading settlement, supporting the craft and maritime trades.


    1. Saxon for 'green village': Lysons op.cit p.427

    Find out more about the Anglo-Saxon Barrow Cemetery at Greenwich Park.

  3. Humphrey of Lancaster, Duke of Gloucester

    1428

    Until this time the importance of Greenwich Manor centred around its strategic position overlooking the main routes into London; the Thames and the Roman road from Dover. Duke Humphrey decided to make Greenwich a more important place in its own right.

    He demolished 'Old Court' and was given a licence to build a mansion1 (known then as Bella Court) which included an impressive library2. In 1433, Henry VI permitted him to enclose '200 acres of land, pasture, wood, heath, virses and gorse' to create the area that we now know as Greenwich Park.

    Little is known of the park’s appearance back then although it was enclosed by a wooden fence, bounded on the west by an existing road down Croom’s Hill, and to the east by a new road (now Maze Hill). Deer were first added to the site around 1510 to provide venison and instant sport for the aristocracy.

    Duke Humphrey also constructed a water supply between his new house and 'a certain fount called the Stockwell'3. In doing this he added to a system of underground conduits supplying water from the springs of Blackheath, which had existed from the 13th century. These conduits still exist and from time to time have been added to. They no longer supply water but for centuries have performed an 'important secondary function as land drains without which the low northern part of the park would become an unpleasant mire'.4

    In 1447 Duke Humphrey fell victim of the new faction surrounding the King. He was taken into custody and died suspiciously some days later. His Queen, Margaret of Anjou, then took over Bella Court and the park.


    1. Lysons, p429
    2. The Foundations of the Bodleian Library, Oxford
    3. Chron 1434
    4. ibid


    Additions to the park

    1433 Enclosure
    With permission from the king, Duke Humphrey created the park; enclosing local land with wooden fencing. Much of the original 200 acre site is incorporated into today's Greenwich Park.

  4. The Tudors

    1485

    Under the Tudors, Greenwich Palace established its status as the primary royal palace. It was the setting for King Henry VIII’s birth as well as his daughters Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. It became closely linked with the park as it grew to be used as an outdoor stage and hunting ground.

    Soon after his accession in 1485 Henry VII added a new brick front to the palace and renamed it “Placentia”. Some years later Henry VIII “bestowed great cost upon Greenwich and made it a pleasant, perfect and princely palace”1. He also converted Duke Humphrey’s Tower into “a commodious and pleasant residence including a double tower”2.

    For years the town glowed with pageantry and royal glamour and the park was used as a hunting ground, a royal playground and a setting for “Mayday Frolics”, outdoor banquets and tournaments.

    In 1486 the first keeper of the park was appointed, and in 1510 money was paid for deer to enstock Greenwich Park. Less than a decade later an additional 20 “Quick” deer were transferred from Eltham to Greenwich, and in 1520 a further 60 were added.

    In 1559 there was jousting before Queen Elizabeth I who “stood over the park gate” watching from the gallery of a little gate house. Located where the Queen’s House was later built, the gate house can be seen in Wyngaerde’s sketches of Greenwich (1558).  They show the rambling riverside palace “plentifully supplied with towers and gables” with the Tiltyard and Armoury. A fence surrounds the park which, on its northern slope is virtually bare of trees, and wooded on the highest ground. The earliest known representations of the park are said to have been done for Philip of Spain for espionage.

    Around this time German traveller Paul Hentzner spoke of the Queen’s beautiful park stocked with deer. And an anonymous painting showcased the view across the park from the east with the “commodious” tower on the hill looking down on Placentia Palace over pockets of natural woodland with deer, horsemen and dogs.3

    In the early years of the 17th century, Greenwich appears to have been neglected by royalty, but the presence of the Tudor monarchs had given Greenwich Palace and the park a lasting importance.


    1. Lambard Chron. 1510
    2. Chron. 1510
    3. Painting currently at the National Maritime Museum


    Additions to the park

    1510 Deer
    At the start of the 16th century the park's first generation of deer were brought in to provide meat and sport for the aristocracy.

  5. James I

    1603

    During James I‘s reign two significant happenings took place that greatly impacted the future of the park: the Queen’s House was sited between the old palace and park, so establishing the formal relationship between park, palace and river and setting the axis for the “Grand Plan” of the 1660’s; and a brick wall was built around the park (1619-1625) establishing its permanency, reinforcing the privacy of the royal domain, and making control of the deer much easier.

    Unlike his predecessors James I did not show a great interest in Greenwich Palace and focused his attention on the great house at Theobalds. In the early years of the 17th century the main streets of Greenwich were described as “loathsome, dangerous and infectious”.1 However, Henry Howard (later Duke of Northampton), who had been brought up in Greenwich and had a great affection for the place, seems to have established himself in Greenwich Castle which “he much enlarged and beautified”. He bought the keepership of the park from one Henry Lanman for £200, as well as acquiring other properties in the town. The King, perhaps suspicious of Howard’s territorial ambitions and keen to please his Queen, granted her “the capital messuage in East Greenwich called Greenwich House, with the Friars there, the gardens, orchards etc, with Greenwich Park and the houses and lodges within the park”. Howard, feeling badly done by, wrote:

    “The Queen says she will have the park in spite of me although I bought it with my own money...” and “ ...it might be that her Majesty will not find a servant to keep with so much tenderness as I have done, the ground and the deer and the little wood that is left there”.

    However, it appears that Queen Anne of Denmark’s interest in Greenwich centred mainly around the gardens of the palace. In 1617 John Chamberlain wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton: “The Queen is building somewhat at Greenwich ... it is said to be some curious device of Inigo Jones and will cost above 4000”. Jones' creation was a new house for the Queen in the form of a white Palladian villa which bridged the main Woolwich to Deptford Road along the park's northern boundary. Beside the rambling red brick Tudor Palace it must indeed have seemed curious. The Queen’s House was to be “a link between the gardens of Greenwich Palace and the royal park, it was the first essay in pure renaissance design in England”.2

    Sadly, Queen Anne died in 1619 before her house had got beyond the ground floor.


    1. Beryl Platts op.ci p.155
    2. Chettle op.cit p.25


    Additions to the park

    1616-1635 Queen's House
    A classical building designed by architect Inigo Jones for the wife of King James I.

    1619-1625 Exterior Wall
    When James I decided to improve the park one of the first things he did was to replace the fencing around its perimeter with a more imposing 12 foot high brick wall.

  6. Civil War and Commonwealth

    1642

    During the English Civil War, Roundhead soldiers were stationed in Greenwich Castle to prevent deer stealing. As far as can be told from scraps of evidence the park did not suffer theft during the Civil War or under the Commonwealth.

    After the War, at the dispersal of the Kings property, a speculative builder, John Parker of Hackney, was interested in buying the park “of 187 acres, materials of the lodge, white house, woods, 96 deer, stock of conies, rent of the priory, orchard etc. for £5, 778. l0s. ld”. For some reason the sale never took place, and the park (together with the castle and the Queen’s House) was reserved for the use of the Commonwealth.

    As a result the palace suffered decline; parts were let or sold in various lots, and between 1652 and 1654 it was used to hold Dutch naval prisoners. At the same time the town of Greenwich suffered from unemployment and poverty among those who had depended on the palace and court life for their livelihood. Among them were the sick and injured sailors discharged from the navy with no state provision who frequented the area.

  7. The Restoration of Charles II and The Grand Plan

    1661

    Between 1661 and 1669 Charles II’s vision of a new royal palace and park grand enough to rank with those of Europe began to take shape. The terraces around the flat grassed parterre to the south of the Queen’s House can be attributed to French landscape architect André Le Nôtre. The general layout of radiating avenues may be due to Sir William Boreman, but the palace was never to be completed; by 1669 work had stopped and Charles turned his attention to Hampton Court. For over 20 years Webb’s King’s House remained a shell and the Grand Plan remained incomplete.

    In 1660 Charles II had been restored as monarch after his long exile in France and Holland. He was inbued with continental ideas on art and planning and undoubtedly impressed by the splendour surrounding France's King Louis XIV (known as 'the Sun King'). “Impecunious as he was, the prospect was irresistible” ... and he embarked on projects to embellish his Restoration with French grandeur. Within a few weeks of his return, work had started on St. James’ s Park, with the help of “a skilfull person from Paris”, probably Andre Mollet, Le Nôtre’s assistant, who was appointed with Gabriel Mollet, as the King’s Gardeners in 1661. That year Charles visited his derelict palace at Greenwich, ordered it to be demolished and commissioned John Webb, pupil and relative of Inigo Jones, to design a new palace, and to repair and enlarge the Queen’s House.

    In August 1661 extension work started on the Queen’s House; in July 1662 the Queen mother, Henrietta Maria, landed in England and proceeded to Greenwich; the following summer work started on laying the foundations for the 4 comer pavilions planned by Webb. The first designs for the palace were done in 1662, his first idea being a courtyard open to the river with parallel blocks and a crosswing with a large domed central building, which would have cut off the Queen’s House on the central axis. In 1663 Pepys reported: “At Greenwich I observed the foundation laying of a very great
    house for the King which will cost a great deal of money”. But only the west block known as the King’s House or Charles II Block was built. Funds ran out and work stopped in 1669 as it did also on the Queen’s House, but it provided the starting point for the great baroque ensemble subsequently built
    up by Christopher Wren, Nicholas Hawksmoor, and John Vanbrugh.

    Meanwhile the park was being remodelled and replanted appropriately. In August 1661 Sir William Boreman petitioned the King to be able to undertake the planting of the park and between September 1661 and June 1662 Boreman’s accounts include the planting of 14 coppices, elms, birch, quicksetts,
    ivyberries, holly berries, digging and trenching, 600 elms for 7 walks, Chestnut trees from Lesnes Abbey, the formation of 12 “ascents” from the bottom to the top of the hill, filling part of the great pit, cutting and carrying turf. In April 1662 Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary “to Greenwich by water, Sir
    William Pen and I walked into the Parke where the King hath planted trees and made steps in the hill up to the Castle which is very magnificent”. No contemporary documents and no contemporary comment has come to light that mentions a designer for this layout of the park done between September 1661 and April 1662. The question remains unanswered although the “patte d’ oie” at the Blackheath gate suggests that Andre Mollet might have had a hand in it.1

    In May 1662 N. Batailler wrote to the Foreign Secretary Lionne: “The King of England, walking 2 days ago in St. James’s Park and talking of the alterations he hoped to make in his gardens, especially at Greenwich, notified that he would require the help of Le Nôtre, who was in charge of the (French) King’s Gardens and he begged me to write to His Majesty to ask that he would allow him to make the journey to England”. Louis XIV’s
    reply was “Although I have need of Le Nôtre continually who is very occupied at Fontainebleau, I will certainly allow him to make the journey to England since the King so desires”2

    The extent to which this permission was followed up, and the part played by Le Nôtre on the design of Greenwich Park have led to much speculation. In summary it is known that Le Nôtre was informed of the situation and the plans concerning the Queen’s Garden but, it is not clear if this was through
    drawings and explanations sent to him by his cousin Andre Mollet or by other means. There is no definite evidence that he was concerned with the entirity of Greenwich Park except as a setting for the Queen’s Garden. There is no contemporary evidence, either from public records or from
    the papers of the diariests Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn (who were closely interested and well-informed on events here at this time) that Le Nôtre actually visited Greenwich.

    Although there is no historical evidence of any visit by Le Nôtre, which could in the circumstances hardly have been made without being recorded, there is no question that he was somehow enabled to make a plan of the grass terraces and a parterre for the Queen’s House... “a charming garden
    with 3 fountains and formal flower beds framed by a curious terrace, in outline resembling a double broken architrave”.3 The plan, unsigned and undated gives the appearance of a working sketch, and shows the terrace ‘frame’ more or less as it was formed around the parterre. The Queen’s House is drawn with its 4 corner pavilions designed by Webb probably between 1662 and 1663 but never completed. At the top of the plan, at what would have been the foot of Greenwich Hill is a simple 7 arched feature or grotto. The plan is annotated in 2 hands, one of them said to be Le Nôtre’s giving instructions and dimensions for the formation of the terraces. “They will send for me as they did for the terrace (?) and I shall make a little sketch plan as was done for terraces ABC” .. indicates that either this was the second drawing he had been involved with or that this plan was being sent back for the second time, and that he expected to continue working on the scheme and possibly intended to visit.

    The layout of the adjoining southern part and the giant steps was by this time already accomplished. His involvement seems to have been limited to the Queen’s House Parterre and the planting of the walks on either side which were carried out between 1662 and 1665. His detailed proposals for the
    basins, fountains and flower beds were never realised. Possibly with reference to Greenwich, King Charles wrote to his sister Henriette at St. Cloud in October 1664 : “Pray lett Le Nostre go on with the model and only tell him this addition that I can bring water to the top of the hill, so that he might add much to the beauty of the descente by a cascade of water”. (It is most likely he was referring to Greenwich although it wasn’t mentioned by name).


    1. Andre Mollet: Le Jardin de Plaisir. 1651
    2. Amherst (1) p.186 / David Green . Cl.1956 pg.15
    3. David Green . Cl.1956 Le Nôtres plan found in Paris in 1955.

    Find out more about London's longest herbacious border, located in front of Queen's House.

  8. The Late 17th Century

    1669

    The Royal Palace remained unfulfilled but before a new use was found for the King’s House and the “Grand Plan” completed, Greenwich began to assume a new character independent of the court life that had previously given it identity. The park too acquired a new and dominant feature, Dr. Flamsteed’s House, designed by Wren not as a part of the 1660’s layout but replacing Duke Humphrey’s tower.

    By 1669 work on the park and the palace had come to a halt. Queen Henrietta Maria had left the Queen’s House and returned to France and Charles I is said to have turned his attention to Hampton Court as his principal palace. But others were interested in Greenwich; not only was it away from the plague-ridden city, but the beauty of the site and the elegance of the new park attracted speculative building on the “waste” around the park and Blackheath, and elegant houses were built along the western side. In 1672 Robert Hooke built the Gazebo on Crooms Hill for Sir William Hooker, Lord Mayor of London; it was built as a summer house tall enough to look over the park wall.

    In 1675 the King appointed the Reverend John Flamsteed as the first Astronomer Royal “in order to the finding out of the longitude of places for perfect navigation and astronomy”. The site chosen “for the observator’s habitation and a little for Pompe”1 was on Wren’s recommendation and to his design, on the foundations of Duke Humphrey’s Tower on the high point of the park. Its opening in 1676 was celebrated by a set of 12 etchings by Francis Place among which is the earliest known map2 of the replanned and replanted park.

    This plan shows the formal layout at its most complete; all the principal avenues, the ‘esplanade’ and terrace walks, the patte d’oie and 12 ascents. It appears that these ascents or “giant steps” had to be recut and reduced in number around this time; there are a number of anomalies in the plans and views of the park done between the 1680’ s and the early 1700s. There is one plan3 of between 1704 and 1720 which concentrates on the park and shows gaps in the avenues, perhaps a result of the great storm of 1703 or demonstrating the difficulties of tree establishment on the previous and
    exposed southern plateau.

    James II who succeeded Charles II in 1685 showed no interest in Greenwich for his own personal use but was ‘the first to suggest that the shell of the King’s House should be put to some other use. In 1687 it was reported in a newsletter:

    “the King has given his house at Greenwich to that of the Trinity, to be fitted for the service of impotent sea-commanders and others”.

    After the great English naval victory of La Hougue in 1692, the King’s House was fitted up as a temporary building for the sick and wounded. 2 years later, plans were laid to convert it into a hospital modelled on Les Invalides and the Hospital for army pensioners recently opened at Chelsea, with Sir Christopher Wren as principal architect. In 1696 Evelyn wrote: “with Sir Christopher Wren... I laid the first stone of the intended foundation... Mr. Flamsteed observing the punctual time by instruments”. In 1705 the Royal Hospital was opened for pensioners, 42 seamen were admitted and “provided with clothes, diet and lodging and a small allowance for pocket money”.4 By 1796 the inmates numbered 2,350.


    1. Wren
    2. The map appears to have been done by someone else but a copy is bound with the etchings in the Pepys Library, Campbridge.
    3. The plan is unsigned and undated, at the Greenwich Local History Library; referred to as the “Woodlands Plan”.
    4. Lysons op.cit. p.446


    Additions to the park

    1676 Flamsteed House
    The oldest of the observatory buildings in Greenwich Park, and built on the foundations of Duke Humphrey's tower.

    Find out more about Flamsteed House, built at the top of the hill on the site of Duke Humphrey's tower.

  9. The 18th Century and public pressure

    1700

    The Grand Plan was completed (between 1661 and 1664) for the benefit of pensioned sailors. These sailors (and the merchants and professional people attracted to live in “renaissance” Greenwich) were, early in the 18th century, given access to the park and enjoyed the maturing avenues, “the Esplanades, walks, vistas, and plantations and lines of that beautiful Park”.1

    From about 1700 passes into the park were being issued to local residents, and after the opening of the Royal Hospital in 1705, the seamen patients and their friends were probably given free access to it. Soon it became accessible to Londoners generally on holidays and became especially popular in mid May and mid October when the Greenwich Fair was held “always remarkable for its riotous and disreputable character”.2

    The Hanoverian monarchs apparently took little interest in the park and there is no evidence of any serious tree planting or replacement. But it was enormously popular especially on Fair days when... “great numbers of people come from London.. diverted themselves with running down the hill that fronts the palace.. .”1 and on quieter days 18th century prints show aged pensioners and disabled seamen strolling among the lofty trees, women and children with dogs chasing rabbits. Horace Walpole also was delighted by its beauty; in 1755 he wrote:

    “would you believe I had never been in Greenwich Park? I never had, and am transported. Even the glories of Richmond and Twickenham hide their diminished heads”.

    It has been said that the park suffered a century of neglect from 1730 but map evidence indicates that tree losses were made good. Late 18th century accounts indicate that although there were no major replanting schemes there was a considerable amount spent on general maintenance, and on the keeping of order in the park. In 1743 Lady Catherine Pelham was appointed Ranger and appears to have been concerned and active in her role.

    Accounts for 1787-8 describe the staffing of the park and their duties and indicate a continuous maintenance programme. It is difficult to establish exactly who was allowed into the park and when. By the 1780’s there were 8 gates “many are useless and have no checks on them”2 and there
    were many false keys in circulation, so obviously whatever the regulations, the controls were not very effective. It appears that all those living in the neighbourhood had the right to a key and that on special days and holidays the gates were opened to the general public with extra men to guard the entrances. In 1790 the underkeeper had to hire an extra man “to help withstand the violence of disorderly persons”.

    By the 1780s the deer, which according to the Headkeeper were becoming “in bred, small and unsound” were enclosed in the Wilderness during holiday times. No hay was grown in the park and all extra feeding had to be bought in. There was a proposal to cull them heavily and bring in new stock. It is not known if this was done. But somehow in spite of the great numbers of people visiting the park, the deer herd survived and remained at large in the park except for holidays, until Mr. Webster enclosed them in the Wilderness during the winter months for feeding and early summer for fawning. (They were finally permanently enclosed in the 1920’s.)


    1. Chron. 1730
    2. Chron. 1788


    Additions to the park

    1780 The Standard Reservoir Conduit House
    This Grade II* Listed small brick building located close to the King George Street gate holds a water tank and is part of the substantial network of known conduits that run under the park. This and Conduit Head are thought to have been designed by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, Clerk of Works at Greenwich, between 1698 and 1735.

  10. The 19th Century and the beginning of the public park

    1800

    The 19th century brought increasing pressures from public use. Encroachments on the boundaries, enclosures within the park and other threats against its integrity stimulated local public opinion into organised protest. At nearly 150 years old, the main structure of the park, its avenues and plantations, needed attention.

    In the first years of the 19th century in Greenwich, attention was focused on Caroline, Princess of Wales, who lived as Ranger of the park in Montague House. It was here that alleged indiscretions led to the “Delicate Investigation” into her behaviour. As far as the park was concerned there is no evidence that she involved herself in its administration, but for her own use and as an addition to the grounds of Montague House.

    In 1806 15 acres of the south west Wilderness was enclosed and from then known as the Ranger’s Field. The condition attached was that it would be restored to the park on the first vacancy in the office of Ranger. This however did not happen on the death of the last Ranger, Earl Canning in 1862, but was finally restored after several public appeals in 1897.

    Several other issues concerning the park aroused strong local feeling and resulted in organised protest to H.M.’s Office of Woods. The annual fairs were an increasing nuisance, and scenes commonly witnessed were "offending against the best feelings of Christian morality”. In 1825 the Parish petitioned unsuccessfully for the Fairs to be stopped. The Booths were set up and the 'shows' took place outside the park wall on ground allocated to them; but the Ranger, Princess Sophia seems to have had a certain sympathy for the Fairgoers and in 1831 ordered the park to be thrown open on Fair days.

    The concept of the park providing for an essential public need was well accepted by the parishioners of Greenwich. They held many protests against potential plans of encroachment on the park. By the 1850’s it was stated:

    “That as the public portion of the Royal Park has been so very much diminished, and the increase of population and buildings rendering it more important that the means in existence for the recreation of the public should be strictly preserved...” 3

    Their biggest triumph was the battle against a Railway Viaduct which was planned to run across the north of the park following the opening of the London to Greenwich Railway in 1837. As a result the railway was put in a vibration-proof tunnel under the park.


    1. Hawksmoor Chrin. 1728
    2. Webster op.cit. p.20
    3. Chron. 1857


    Additions to the park

    1806 Rangers Field
    An additional 15 acres of local land was added to the south west of the park grounds and known as Rangers Field.

    1821 St. Mary’s Lodge
    A Grade II listed slightly ornamental cottage located in the north-west corner of the park adjacent to St. Mary’s Gate. It was originally provided as residential accommodation for park staff. The small white building in the spirit of a cottage orné has been converted into the White House Cafe.

    1846 The Reservoir
    This structure was constructed by the Admiralty to convey water to Deptford Dock, the Victualling Yards and the Royal Naval Hospital. It was covered over in in 1871 and has subsequently developed considerable nature conservation interest.

    1850 Blackheath Gate (Superintendent’s) Lodge
    Lying on the east side of Blackheath Gate is a finely ornamented two-storey Victorian lodge. It features on Royal Greenwich’s List of Buildings of Local Architectural or Historic Interest (the ‘Local List’) and is currently let as a private tenancy.

    1863 The Rustic Fountain
    The park contains several ornamental fountains. The Rustic Fountain near Lovers’ Walk is known to have been
    in existence by 1863.

    1891 The Bandstand
    Erected in 1891 and cast by Coalbrookdale Company the bandstand includes some fine iron work and is a Grade II listed structure.

    1894 Drinking Fountain
    A pink granite drinking fountain was erected at the junction of Great Cross Avenue and Blackheath Avenue at the end of the 19th century.

  11. The 20th Century

    1900

    The 20th century saw three main themes in Greenwich Park: The improvement of facilities and the addition of amenities; the park gradually becoming recognised as an “historic” park; and the park management becoming involved with the restoration and conservation of its historic character. The century also saw conflict between the pressure of public use and access versus the quality of the environment.

    In the early twentieth century more lavatories were built (two such buildings have since been removed), games pitches and tennis courts were provided as well as a new refreshment kiosk. A child's playground was also added. Gates were repaired or replaced and parts of the park wall rebuilt.

    In the 1930’s Queen’s House became the National Maritime Museum and the park saw the construction of the boating lake. Against a background of rising tourism and historic interest (the Cutty Sark was opened to visitors in 1957), the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works looked at the park with a view to restoring its “historic” plan. Their report1 in 1964 concluded:

    “...every effort should now be made to restore the plan of the Park as nearly as possible to the layout shown in the 17th century print... Greenwich Park is still potentially the finest interpretation in England of a layout based on that grand European 17th century conception of design that governed also the grouping of the buildings leading to the river.”

    The integrity and quality of the park continued to be monitored by local groups. In 1959 the Greenwich Society was formed and successfully opposed a road improvement scheme through Crooms Hill. The Society helped to get Greenwich Park and Blackheath designated as the first Conservation Area in London in 1967. A proposed road across the north of the park was also dropped after local and national opposition. The Friends of Greenwich Park, established in 1992, played a major role in helping to protect the integrity of the park, including supporting several restoration projects. In 1993 the Rose Garden was redesigned with their support.

    The whole park, neighbouring properties and part of Greenwich town centre were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1997. The closure of the Royal Naval College and its conversion to a charitable trust provided a site for the University of Greenwich and Trinity Laban School of Music. Cutty Sark station opened in 1999 as part of the Docklands Light Railway and since then Greenwich has become a significant link to the Isle of Dogs financial centre.


    1. 7th report of the Advisory Committee on Forestry, 1964

    Additions to the park

    1906 Pavillion Café
    Located in the centre of the park the Pavillion Café was constructed in 1906 and is of architectural interest as its former counterparts in Hyde Park and Bushy Park (of similar vintage and design) have both long been removed. The Pavillion Café is an octagonal brick structure capped by a tall, octagonal peaked roof. The porch enclosure is formed by glazed doors between columns that support the corners of the porch roof. The building features on Royal Greenwich's list of Buildings of Local Architectural or Historic Interest (the 'Local List').

    1907 Public toilets
    The toilets adjacent to the Observatory Garden were originally constructed at the start of the century as a lower store house for the Observatory, but this was converted into public lavatories around 1950. The others were all purpose built buildings.

    1930 General Wolfe Statue
    The General Wolfe statue was erected in 1930 at the crest of the Giant Steps, midway between the Queen’s House and Blackheath Gate. It is Grade II listed and is the most significant statue in the park and an important part of the character of Greenwich.

    1938 Strologo Shelter
    A dark-stained rectangular wooden shelter, set on a concrete slab. With benches facing in four directions it is situated north of the junction of Blackheath Avenue and Bower Avenue.

    1950s Playground kiosk
    This octagonal brick kiosk was built in the 1950s and provides seasonal beverages and light refreshments.

    1966 Cricket Pavillion
    Originally built in 1966 the cricket pavillion was extensively refurbished in 2009 and provides important facilities for clubs when in the park.

    1979 Henry Moore’s ‘Standing Figure; Knife Edge’
    Erected in the late 1970s this is one of the few modern artefacts within the park. This sculpture is owned by the Henry Moore Foundation and on licence to The Royal Parks.

    Find out more about the Pavillion Café, its opening hours and current menus.

  12. The turn of the 21st Century

    2000

    In 2011 the Borough gifted the land of the Queen’s Orchard to The Royal Parks. Originally part of the 17th century park, the Greenwich Hospital estate sold it in 1976 to the local authority who maintained it as a public wildlife garden.

    In 2012 Greenwich Park hosted the Equestrian, Modern Pentathlon and Paralympic Equestrian events for the London Summer Olympics.

    To this day the park is still given a strong identity by the resilience of the “Grand Plan” design of the 17th century. The striking element of Greenwich is the fusion between the dramatic natural topography of the site and the formal artificial layout of its avenues. Its status as a Royal Park, as well as its relationship with the buildings within and adjoining the site give it special significance, as identified in the World Heritage Site Management Plan.


    Additions to the park

    2000 Drinking Fountain
    The Herb Garden fountain was donated by the Friends in 2000.

    2000 Millenium Sundial
    Designed by Chris Daniel, chairman of the British Sundial Society, this special sundial located next to the Greenwich Meridian tells the time as well as the direction of the sun.

    2011 The Queen's Orchard
    The space was re-integrated into the park after 35 years under local authority ownership.

    2013 Drinking Fountains
    Three drinking fountains, funded by Tiffany & Co via the Royal Parks Foundation were installed to replace older, utilitarian fountains at Blackheath Avenue, St. Marys Gate and Park Row Gate.

  13. Looking ahead and securing the park's future

    2019

    Greenwich Park Revealed is a major multi-million-pound project led by The Royal Parks charity to protect and enhance the historic natural landscape, for future generations.

    Increasing visitor footfall, new tree diseases and erosion of the 590-year-old historic landscape are putting a strain on Greenwich Park’s infrastructure, facilities and natural environment.

    The planned project will cater for a growing and diverse local population; protect and improve biodiversity; restore the historic integrity of the park’s 17th century design and create new opportunities for locals – through a new eco-friendly Learning Centre which will offer training, and an events, volunteering and apprenticeships programme.

    The Royal Parks will submit a bid, in August 2019, to The National Lottery for a £4.8million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to deliver the project having already been awarded initial funding to develop project proposals. The Royal Parks, and other funders and The Friends of Greenwich Park, will also contribute to the project. The results of the bid will be announced in early 2020.


    Additions to the park

    2019 Greenwich Park Playground
    Children's play facilities at the park received a boost when the playground was redesigned with a range of accessible and sensory features.

    2020 Learning Centre (proposed)
    It is hoped that this newly proposed building will serve as a new community ‘hub’ within the park, providing opportunities for training, learning, volunteering, events and activities. It will also include new public toilets, a changing place, drinking fountain, and an information point

    Find out more about Greenwich Park Revealed and the exciting projects which are regenerating and enhancing the park for the future.

Help us improve our website by completing a short survey

search