Henry VIII’s favourite palace uncovered in Greenwich in ‘hugely exciting’ find

Remains of Greenwich Palace found during renovations of the Painted Hall
Remains of Greenwich Palace found during renovations of the Painted Hall. Credit: Old Royal Naval College

Lost Tudor palace unearthed at site of Old Royal Naval College in London during renovations of Painted Hall

It was the birthplace of Henry VIII, and his favourite palace. But no-one knew what Greenwich Palace really looked like. Now the remains of the Palace of Placentia, as it was known then, have been uncovered by a team renovating the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich on the banks of the Thames.

Greenwich Palace was at the heart of Tudor life. It was Henry VIII’s main royal palace and the birthplace of his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, who went on to be queens. It had state apartments, a chapel, gardens and a place for jousting. Henry VIII often threw parties and banquets there.

Built in 1443, the palace fell into disrepair during the English Civil War and was demolished at the end of the seventeenth century. None of it exists above ground.

Greenwich Palace discovered at Old Royal Naval College
The team find remains of the Palace. Credit: Old Royal Naval College

Archaeologists have found the remains of a floor covered with lead-glazed tiles and a cellar with bricked niches, possibly for storing beehives. The tiled floor is likely to have been from a service range on the site of the kitchens, bake-house, brew-house or laundry room. The niches in the cellar are thought to have been bee holes for keeping hive baskets during the winter when the bee colonies were hibernating. In the summer, the niches may well have been used for keeping food and drink cool – rather like a larder.

“To find a trace of Greenwich Palace, arguably the most important of all the Tudor palaces, is hugely exciting,” said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England.

Greenwich Palace was built by Henry V’s brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in 1426 and rebuilt by Henry VIII in about 1500. It was demolished to make way for the Royal Naval College, built by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor between 1696 and 1728. The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College is being renovated. It will reopen in 2019.