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Greenwich through the ages

Greenwich has been the site of many prestigious buildings including a royal palace, the Royal Observatory and the Naval College.

Tudor Greenwich showing the Placentia.

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Tudor Greenwich showing the Placentia.
This drawing depicts Greenwich Park and the Tudor palace of Placentia. In 1427 the manor of Greenwich passed to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Regent of England. He started building a palace near the river, to be named Bella Court, and enclosed the rectangular area of land that now comprises the Old Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum, and Greenwich Park. When he died in 1447 the manor reverted to the Crown, and Bella Court became the residence of Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI. It was renamed the Palace of Placentia, and was to become the principal royal palace for the next two centuries. The palace was extensively rebuilt during the period, especially during the reign of Henry VII. Henry VIII was born at the palace in 1491, and spent most of his time there during his marriages to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.

Greenwich showing the first phase of the Queen's House.

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Greenwich showing the first phase of the Queen's House.
The Queen's House, Greenwich, was commissioned by Anne of Denmark, wife of James I who reigned between 1603 and 1625. In 1616 Anne enlisted Inigo Jones (1573-1652) to design a new pavillion for her at Greenwich. It was apparently a place of private retreat and hospitality and was also designed as a bridge over the Greenwich to Woolwich road, between the palace gardens and the Royal Park. Inigo Jones had risen to fame as a designer of court entertainments and had become Surveyor of the King's Works. Well versed in the latest developments in Italian architecture, he produced Britain's first bulding in the Palladian style. He was also responsible for the Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace.
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Stuart Greenwich showing the Queen's House and Placentia.

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Stuart Greenwich showing the Queen's House and Placentia.
The Tudor palace of Placentia, where the Old Royal Naval College now stands, was as important for the early Stuart kings as it had been for the Tudors. James I, who reigned from 1603 to 1625, often stayed there. Traditionally, James is said to have given the Manor of Greenwich to his queen, Anne of Denmark, to apologise for having sworn at her in public, after she accidentally shot one of his favourite dogs while hunting in 1614. This was fortunate for Greenwich because Anne commissioned the Queen's House, Britain's first building in the Palladian style.

Greenwich in the late 17th century.

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Greenwich in the late 17th century.
This view of Greenwich from the top of the hill in the Royal Park shows the buildings as they would have been in the 1660s. The Queen's House was completed in 1635. After succeeding to the throne in 1660, Charles II had planned another palace at Greenwich to replace Placentia, which he had demolished. Only one wing of this palace was ever completed. It was later modified and absorbed into the buildings of the Royal Hospital for Seamen.
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Greenwich in the early 19th century.

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Greenwich in the early 19th century.
This aspect from the top of the hill in Greenwich Royal Park shows the Queen's House, the Royal Naval College and the Royal Hospital School. The buildings are shown as they would have appeared in the early 19th century, after the addition of the East and West wings (1807) linked to the Queen's House by the collonnades (1809-11). Sailing ships still dominate the Thames, while the Isle of Dogs across the river is still largely untouched by commercial development.

Greenwich in the 20th century, showing the Cutty Sark with the city in the distance.

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Greenwich in the 20th century, showing the Cutty Sark with the city in the distance.
A view of Greenwich in modern times. The buildings of the Royal Hospital School and the Royal Naval College now form the National Maritime Museum and the University of Greenwich, but more modern buildings in the City now dominate the skyline.
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Find out more
Things to doWatch Maritime Greenwich change over time
Watch Maritime Greenwich change over time.
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StoriesMaritime Greenwich: A World Heritage Site
A unique historical landscape
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StoriesThe Royal Hospital for Seamen, Greenwich: 'A Refuge for All'
The foundation of the Greenwich Hospital and the Greenwich Royal Hospital School
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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