One Tree Hill
The view is taken from One Tree Hill, north-east of Observatory or Castle Hill in Greenwich Park. The view dates to about 1680. After the plague and subsequent Fire of London, the Charles II was anxious to establish a palace away from such potential dangers of the crowded City. The painting's intention is thus to reinforce the rebirth of the monarchy and position Greenwich, well outside the City, at the heart of the project.
The deer have been a feature of the Park since the reign of Henry VIII. The Park was used for hunting by a series of monarchs.
Giant steps built up the face of Observatory Hill in Charles II's remodelling of the Park in the 1660s.
The Queen's House
The Queen's House designed by Inigo Jones for Queen Anne of Denmark. It was a retreat connecting the Palace grounds with the hunting park. Building started in 1617. It was completed in about 1635 for Henrietta Maria, the French wife of Charles I. Vorsterman’s painting shows the East Bridge Room added in 1662, with its original central balcony over the walled roadway from Woolwich to London.
The two windows on the ground floor on the left of the Queen's House facing the Park belong to a studio where Dutch marine artists, Willem van de Velde the Elder and the Younger, worked from about 1675. Charles II and James Duke of York were their patrons.
From the base of Observatory Hill an avenue of trees leads down towards the walled road, with a parallel (western) avenue in the distance. Between the avenues, to the left of the Queen's House, is a path crossing the Park's lower parterre (ornamental flower garden). It is the former Roman road to London. In the 1660s the parterre was levelled from the Queen’s House up to the hill, in preparation for a formal that was never built.
The avenues of trees are part of the formal design for the Park made by André le Nôtre in the 1660s. Many of the Spanish Chestnut trees which were planted as part of this design survive today in the upper part of the Park.
Ruined Tudor Palace
The brick ruins of the Tudor Palace of Greenwich. Henry VIII's tournament yard towers, in process of demolition, are still visible. On the extreme right, by the river, is the west end of the former Palace chapel, later demolished in the 1690s. The Tudor palace was largely demolished by Charles II in the 1660s and 1670s to make way for a new one.
Charles II’s new palace
The first range of Charles II’s new palace, John Webb's unfinished wing of 1664-69, is immediately behind the tournament tower ruins. From 1696 this wing was incorporated as the eastern range of the new King Charles Court of Greenwich Hospital, with the King William, Queen Anne and Queen Mary courts completed between then and 1751.
The medieval church towers of St Alfege, Greenwich, and St Nicholas, Deptford.
City of London
London is visible on the horizon with the towers and spires of several churches built after the Great Fire of 1666. The memorial to the fire, the Monument, completed in 1676, is also clearly visible, as is the Tower of London, the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral, and further left, Westminster.
The River Thames
The River Thames also features prominently in the composition. Several ships, including sprit-rigged royal yachts, are shown off Greenwich, firing salutes.
The affluently dressed gentleman and lady with a small dog, walking on the pathway on the left, together with the group behind them on the right and many grand private houses flanking the Park, reinforce Greenwich as a place for the powerful, wealthy and leisured.
The sunburst on the left underscores its purpose of showing an emerging Greenwich with the capital beyond, under the favour of the restored House of Stuart. In this golden evening glow, the presence of the Observatory high on the left, looking down on the Thames and its shipping, also alludes to Charles II's enlightened patronage of science in support of England's growing maritime power.
In the distance to the left warships can be seen laid up off the Royal Dockyard at Deptford. These elements position Greenwich as a manifestation of the restored monarchy - a place of royal parkland and high-status buildings identified with the Crown.