The north and south façades are 115 feet in length: the east and
west 117 feet. On the south side of the roadway the building is
of two storeys; (fn. 1) north of the roadway the ground falls to the
river, and here there is a brick-vaulted basement and a terrace the
full length of the building, with double curving flights of steps ead ing
to the gardens.
The house is built of brick, faced with rusticated stone up to the firstfloor level on the north and south sides, with corresponding rustication
in the brick facing of the east and west sides and the elevations to the
roadway. Above the string-course all the external walls are of plain
brickwork; the window-dressings and the main cornice are of stone.
Above the cornice the parapet is formed of a stone balustrade on the
two main façades, the remainder being of brick. The plinth is of
Kentish rag, the main facing of Portland stone.
From investigations made in 1933 it is evident that the brick facing
was at first covered with a thin coating of lime, lined out with stone
jointing. (fn. 2) This agrees with the earliest references to the building,
in which it is sometimes called the White House, and with paintings of
the second half of the seventeenth century, in which the whole building
appears of a startling whiteness in contrast with the red brick of the
old palace (Plates 10 and 11). The bricks were porous, however, and
before the end of the seventeenth century the external walls had been
rendered with plaster. To form a key for this rendering the stone and
brick were hacked, so that any attempt to revert to the original
facing is impossible.
The retaining wall of the terrace, faced with Portland stone, has a
double offset at the bottom, now partially buried owing to the rise
in the general level of the garden. (fn. 3) In the centre, between the curving
flights of steps, a semicircular-headed doorway with architrave and
key-stone leads directly to the cellars through a second doorway, under
the main wall of the house, of rusticated stone. The balustrade of the
terrace is divided by square pedestals into bays.
The North Front
The middle portion of the north front, embracing the three windows
of the hall, projects slightly, making of the whole front a composition
in three bays. In the original design the sill-line of the ground-floor
windows of the rooms on either side of the hall was higher, and the
mullioned and transomed window-frames were glazed with lead lights.
The three middle openings led as casement doors on to the terrace.
On the first floor iron balconies projected in front of the flanking
windows, and the conical roof of the octagonal lantern above the
circular stairs, carried well above the line of the parapet with a window
in each face, was plainly visible. The present sash-windows date from
1708. The four outer window-openings have one voussoir on either
side of a projecting key-stone; the three middle openings have two.
The cement rendering has brought the face of the blocks too far
forward, so that in some instances it projects slightly beyond the stone
The seven windows on the first floor have moulded stone sills, architraves with ears at the bottom, and cornices resting directly on the
architrave at the heads. The middle window-head is semicircular,
and above it is a marble tablet with the inscription: Henrica Maria Regina 1635
An Ionic entablature crowns the façade, with a balustraded parapet.
The roofs are lead-covered flats, broken only by the slightly loftier
roof over the hall and the octagonal pent-house above the circular
stairs, now invisible from below. The chimney-stacks are of brick,
rendered like the walls, and have recessed angles and stone moulded
caps. The sunk panels on the faces of the stacks were cut during the
occupation of the house by the Governors of the Hospital between
1710 and 1729.
The East and West Fronts
The east and west elevations are similar in their general lines to the
north elevation, a slightly projecting centre embracing three windows,
flanked by two windows on either side. On the ground-floor level
a Doric colonnade abuts on the centre of each façade. The spacing of
the windows is not pleasing, but this is due to the alteration of 1662.
Before that date these fronts showed as the ends of two ranges of
building projecting 45 feet in front of the segmental arch of the bridge
(cf. Plate 16). Each of Webb's new connecting rooms on the first
floor was built as an independent structure carried on 14-inch brickwork built against the north and south sides of the roadway, and on
the east and west, spanning the roadway, by an elliptical arch 11 feet
in width flanked by square-headed openings with small windows above
them. Three windows on the first floor were centred over these openings,
and from the middle one an iron balcony projected (Plate 11).
These balconies had already been removed in 1781. The only
variation in architectural detail from the north elevation is the
substitution of a brick parapet for the balustraded parapet above the
The colonnades of the Doric order, each more than 170 feet in length,
linking the Queen's House with the two earliest portions of the school
buildings, were put up in 1809–11 to form covered playgrounds. They
mark the line of the old road, but at the time when they were built the
level of the ground had risen, so that when the road through the
Queen's House was reopened, it was necessary to insert steps to lead
from the level of the colonnades to the old road level outside the east
and west approaches to the house.
Under the east and west bridges the positions of the wing-walls and
inner piers (which were removed during the nineteenth-century
alterations) have been marked in stone on the pavements. (fn. 4) The side
passages, for foot traffic, were low, and in the thickness of the north
and south walls narrow staircases were contrived to give access to small
rooms above (Plate 23), whose floor-line is marked on the cement
rendering of the side walls. The inner reveals of the small windows
lighting these mezzanine rooms can be seen. Half-way up the north and
south walls are the openings giving access to the stairs (long since
removed) and here also can be seen the mutilated heads of the windows
which opened on to the roadway before Webb's bridges were built.
The present large segmental arches which carry the inner sides of these
bridges, copied from Inigo Jones's arch, date from the nineteenth
The façades facing the roadway follow the same general lines as those
already described, except that the stone dressings of the first-floor
windows are omitted. The room above the middle bridge had originally only one window on each face: the flanking ones were inserted in
the nineteenth century. The arch itself is faced with stone with a
moulded label, and a plinth of Kentish rag is carried round below the
arch and the length of the building on each side.
Under the middle bridge the solid brickwork forming an abutment for
the vault was cut away and the vault removed when the "middle
salon" was built at the end of the seventeenth century. The stone
plinth was found below the later floor when the brickwork was replaced
in 1935 to receive the vault; and in the base of the apse in the great
hall, uncovered at the same time, were found two marble paving tiles
in situ, providing a guide to the floor level of the apse and of the roadway itself. The windows of the ground-floor rooms opening on to the
roadway were found behind the later plaster. In some instances the
sills had been lowered, but it was decided to revert to the original line.
The window on the south side, west of the middle bridge, was built as
a dummy, the brickwork of the wall behind the rebate for the wooden
frame carrying through with no trace of internal reveals (cf. plans
on Plate 14 and Plate 29).
The corbel-course carrying the slightly projecting chimney-stacks of
the outer bridges was found buried in the brickwork of the nineteenthcentury vault over the roadway. The cutting away of the piers below
for the insertion of the segmental arches had caused a serious settlement of the wall above in each case, due to the complete absence of
bond between Webb's work and the older walling. The deflection
of the stone string-course is very obvious.
The South Front
In the design of this façade facing the open spaces of the park, Inigo
Jones gave full play to his knowledge of Italian architecture. The three
divisions of the façade, with the slightly projecting centre, recur, but
here there are nine openings on the ground floor. A wide central
doorway and two narrow windows on either side are grouped closely
together. Above them is the Ionic loggia of five bays. The central
intercolumniation is widened to correspond with the doorway below;
the bases of the columns rest on low plinth blocks; between the
columns are set stone balustrades, and these balusters are repeated
below the sills of the flanking windows of the façade. Above the
entablature the balustraded parapet repeats the treatment of the north
On this façade the injury done to Inigo Jones's design in 1708 by the
lowering of the sills of the ground-floor windows is more apparent than
elsewhere. Not only do these windows now compete in importance,
as they do on the other fronts, with the upper ones, destroying the
architectural function of the rusticated ground-floor walling—that of
a podium carrying the more elegant upper storey; but the closer
spacing of the windows below the loggia now produces a feeling of
weakness in the design, which was painfully accentuated by the
removal of the stone balustrades between the columns in the early
nineteenth century (cf. Plate 15 and Plates 33 and 34). The discovery
of John James's drawing of this front in the Library of Worcester
College, Oxford, allowed of a faithful reproduction of the balustrades
in 1935 (cf. p. 73 and Fig. 6). Considerations of internal comfort
precluded any thought of raising the sills to their old level. (fn. 5) The
sashes and frames date from 1708, except for the "sash door," which
was altered in 1936 from a pair of glazed doors to its present form—
a reversion to the sash door made in 1708.
The hall (Plates 37 to 51) is a cube of forty feet in length, breadth
and height. Jones accepted the rules of proportion laid down by
Palladio: (fn. 6) here and at Wilton House he used the single cube;
at Wilton again, and at the Banqueting House in Whitehall, he used
the double cube. The floor of black and white marble, echoing in its
design the lines of the ceiling, was laid by Nicholas Stone and Gabriel
Stacey in 1636–7. Stacey was paid a total sum of £147 10s. od. by
Stone for his share in the work. (fn. 7) East and west are doorways framed
by panelled pilasters of Portland stone with semicircular heads. In
the middle of the south wall is a semi-dome crowning an apse, within
which are steps leading down to a small doorway opening on to the
roadway under the middle bridge. At some time in the early eighteenth
century this apse was cut through to form a wide doorway leading to
the "middle salon" built under the bridge when the roadway was
diverted (cf. p. 48). When the oak architrave and fanlight shown in
Plate 37 were removed to examine the condition of the brickwork,
the springing of the semi-dome was revealed. Further investigation
showed that below the modern floor was the base of the apse, and two
small marble paving-tiles, still in position, proved that the steps
descending to the road level were within the apse. As the "middle
salon" had been destroyed in the nineteenth century, and it was
imperative to open up once more the roadway which was the pivot
of the whole design of Inigo Jones's building, it was determined to
reconstruct the apse and semi-dome. There are hints in the accounts
that the apse was lined with marble; but no drawings have been
found to show its treatment, and no decorative restoration has been
attempted. On either side are windows, long blocked by the brick
vaults of classrooms, which preserve the original sill-line of the groundfloor windows of the house. These openings are now filled with such
mullioned and transomed frames as were once in all the windows;
the position of the transome and the size of the panes in the lead glazing
being determined by reference to the few remaining examples of
casement windows dating from the seventeenth century, to a drawing
in the Smithson collection (Plate 19), to the Note-books of Sir Roger
Pratt, and to the glazier's accounts from 1660 to 1708. The north
wall is pierced by three large openings which were originally casement doors opening on to the terrace. The sills of the two side ones
were raised in 1708, when the present sash window frames, panelled
linings and architraves were inserted. The original arrangement of
three door openings is met with frequently in work of the French
At the first-floor level a gallery, carried on oak cantilever brackets of
console form, surrounds the hall. The details of the brackets and
balusters closely resemble those of the gallery of the Banqueting Hall,
Whitehall, and were almost exactly reproduced in the gallery of the
saloon at Lees Court, Kent, a house now no longer, unfortunately,
existing, attributed to Inigo Jones. The oak cantilevers, tailed into the
brickwork of the walls, had been examined in 1925, when it was found
that in many cases the ends had rotted completely away. It was
necessary to reinforce the gallery with steel, and renew some of the
joists. The painted and gilded decoration of the brackets and balustrade is original, save for slight inevitable retouching. It was hidden
under some twenty-four coats of paint (Plates 39 and 40), which were
removed with infinite patience and skill by the artists in the service
of H.M. Office of Works, and forms a most valuable example of the
decorative treatment of the period. The resemblance, already noted,
between this balustrade and that in the Banqueting Hall calls up a
vision of what may some day be revealed beneath the thick and
dingy paint which covers the woodwork in Whitehall.
In the south wall of the gallery are two windows, looking on to the
roadway, and a central doorway framed in Portland stone, with a
pulvinated frieze, a cornice supported by console brackets, and a broken
pediment from which rises a cartouche displaying the Royal Stuart
arms (Plate 42). This stone doorcase, like all the others in the hall,
had been thickly covered with dark brown paint. The four doorways
in the side walls are finished with stone architraves and entablatures.
The north wall has three windows, the middle one having a semicircular head. These windows have no internal linings or architraves.
The sash frames date from 1708; those on the south, which were of
later date, had been so mutilated that the sashes had to be renewed.
The frieze and cornice of the hall, and the enriched beams of the
ceiling, are of pine. The frieze is carved with a wave pattern, the
soffits of the beams with a guilloche. The nine panels of the ceiling are
of plaster, replacing the canvas panels painted by Gentileschi which
were removed to Marlborough House (Plates 86 and 87 and
Appendix II), but the spandrels which enclose the circular panels
are of wood (Plate 49). (fn. 8)
When the repairs to the house were undertaken by H.M. Office of
Works in 1934 a report was drawn up outlining the history of the house
as far as it was then known, and suggesting lines of investigation. One
of these was the search for the original colour scheme used in the hall.
The first result of this investigation, carried out in June 1934, was the
uncovering of the painted enrichment of the balustrade, already
described. The next experiment was to clean parts of the ceiling panels.
It was known from de Piles's Art of Painting that ceilings in the house
had been painted by Gentileschi, and one example of painting on
plaster (the Queen's bedroom) had survived. But the only trace of
colour on the panels was a uniform grey-blue, under many coats of
white. Horace Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting suggested another line
of investigation which is described in Appendix II. The experimental
cleaning of the woodwork of the north-west corner of the ceiling,
however, yielded gratifying results in the summer of 1935: the whole
of the carved enrichment was found to be gilded, against a grey-green
background, and the spandrel-pieces painted with acanthus scrolls in
gold and green (Plates 43 to 49). The cleaning of the whole ceiling was
then undertaken, and completed with the minimum of retouching, and
no regilding except on the pendants. The frames of the painted canvas
panels probably supplied the missing members of the cornices, for
there are no remains of such members behind the plaster; but some
ten inches above the lathing there still exists closely jointed boarding,
painted blue on the underside. It is possible that this was exposed for
a time, until the painted canvas panels were completed and fixed in
position. It was decided that the boarding was no longer in a sufficiently sound condition to be exposed, and the plaster was therefore
retained and painted blue.
The ten pedestals carved in 1637 to carry statues, which stood in this
hall, have already been mentioned (p. 34).
A description of the house published in 1886 states: "A curious old
ornamented stove of china about eight feet high stands in the hall,
bearing a medallion head of Charles II." (fn. 9) This has completely
disappeared, but a flue was found cut in the brickwork of the east
wall—an alteration perhaps carried out in the late seventeenth
N.E. and N. W. Parlours
On either side of the hall, facing the terrace, are parlours. During the
nineteenth century these were divided by partitions and mezzanine
floors into small rooms; new fireplaces were made, and flues cut
into the walls. These blemishes were removed, but nothing remains
of Jones's work save the proportions of the rooms. The sashwindows date from 1708. The lowering of the sills which was effected
at the same time has made the rooms pleasanter inside. The windowlinings and architraves are of the same date; the chimney-pieces are
modern, (fn. 10) but the fireplace openings are original.
The stone surround of the original fireplace opening is modern; the
section of the moulding is based on one in Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire. The door and window openings show the original plaster splays.
The remains of a window-opening, blocked in 1662, were found in the
The Round Stairs
In designing these stairs Jones may have had in mind two notes which
he made in his copy of Palladio. In one he wrote: "In thes stayres yt
haue vacuum in ye middell deuide ye Diamiter in to 4 Partes giue 2 to
ye steps and 2 to ye vacuum." (fn. 11) In the other, against the description
of the Villa Capra, he wrote: "The staires ar Parted wth a raille of iorne
so that you see through the part vnderneath and so euery waie . . ." (fn. 12)
The stairs are continued beyond the first floor to the roof, and have
a continuous balustrade of wrought iron (or iorne in their designer's
own spelling) of remarkable beauty (Plates 52 to 55) consisting of
square vertical bars separating scrolls bearing leaves and tulip flowers.
On the landings are double scrolls. The design is vigorous, and the
craftsmanship admirable. The scrolls are flat, but the tips of the leaves
and the flowers are hammered to a thinner section. The stair treads are
of stone, with moulded soffits, except for the flight leading down to the
cellars, which may not form part of the original stair.
The Back Stairs
The service staircase forms part of Jones's plan, but the stair itself dates
from the early nineteenth century. There appears to have been a
change of plan when building work was resumed for Henrietta-Maria,
for in the cellars this quarter of the building repeats the arrangement
of two small rooms with angle fireplaces. The back stairs are
mentioned, however, on a design undoubtedly drawn by Jones.
N. W. Cabinet
This room retains an interesting fragment of seventeenth-century
painting on the plaster jambs and head of the doorway in the north
wall. It can be seen by opening a hinged panel in the lining, and
consists of painting and graining on the plaster in "walnut tree
colour." The chimney-piece is of carved pine, and was moved
from the Queen's drawing-room when the original fireplace of that
room was opened out in 1935. Its frieze is decorated with a head
of Hercules, wearing the skin of the Nemean lion, which forms swags
on either side. Naval emblems lend colour to the statement made by
L'Estrange that this chimney-piece was brought from the Royal
Hospital. (fn. 13) The partition separating this room from the service
staircase blocks half the window lighting the stairs from the roadway.
This awkward construction is shown on all early plans of the house,
and has therefore been retained.
The South Passage
The south block of the house (always referred to in the accounts as
"the park side") is entered from the roadway by a door under the
middle bridge, similar to that leading to the hall, and opening into
a similar apse. The springing of the semi-dome was found when the
early eighteenth-century linings were removed from the wide opening
cut through the wall, but the excavation of cellars in the nineteenth
century had destroyed all trace of the foundations of the apse. The
necessary reconstruction, therefore, followed the evidence found in the
corresponding apse of the hall. The four doorways have Portland
stone architraves, finished on the heads with a curious cavetto moulding.
At the south end of the passage an opening 6 feet wide and 13 feet
6 inches high leads into the south vestibule. Doors must once have
hung in this opening, for the upper hinge-pins remain. (fn. 14) (fn. 15) The marble
floor was laid in 1936, in place of a tiled floor.
The South Vestibule or Orangery
This is inevitably a compromise between the tastes of the seventeenth
and the eighteenth centuries. When the house was granted to the Royal
Naval Asylum this vestibule was divided into a central passage and
two rooms. Doors were cut in the north wall, and fireplaces built
against the east and west walls. The partitions were removed in 1934,
and the plaster stripped from the north wall, revealing mutilated
traces of the original window-openings. The Portland stone stringcourse, forming the sills of the windows, had been cut through, but
pieces of it remained. The brick reveals of these windows were also
found, and the marks of the stone architraves. Behind the fireplaces
in the east and west walls were found the remains of the doorways, and
behind the linings of two of the south windows were found marks of
the original sills, at the same height as those in the north wall, so
confirming the original sill-level of all the ground-floor windows.
As these south windows all retained the sash-frames, linings and
architraves made in 1708, it was decided to leave that wall untouched,
except for the replacing of the central " sash door." The other walls
were repaired and brought back to their original design, mullioned and
transomed window-frames, such as once filled all the windows of the
house, being fitted in the north wall. The black and white marble
floor was laid in 1936 in place of a deal floor (Plate 56).
The S. E. Room
This room was once the kitchen, but in 1721 Sir John Jennings, the
newly appointed Governor of the Royal Hospital and Keeper of
Greenwich Park, complained of the smell of cooking, and persuaded
the Commissioners to turn this room into a dining-room and build
a new kitchen outside the house. Sir John Vanbrugh probably supervised the alteration. At some slightly earlier date the doorway to the
Orangery had been filled in and a fireplace built against it. (fn. 16) The black
marble surround, with its unusual bolection moulding, might well be
his design. (fn. 17) This was found in the room, fitted to a later fireplace,
and thickly coated with paint. The ceiling, with its oblong panel and
deep cove, also part of the same remodelling of the room, had been
cut by an inserted partition, but was almost intact. When this partition
was removed, a section of oak fielded panelling, two feet wide, was
found still in position; the partition had been built against it, and at
a later date all the remainder of the panelling had been removed.
The Bake-house and Service Rooms
The small rooms on the north of the dining-room were service rooms.
One is marked "Bake house" on the plan reproduced on Plate 24.
One of them was probably the "buffet," fitted up with marble tables
and shelves in 1708–9 (cf. pp. 49–51). The Portland stone door-cases
were found buried in later plaster, and were repaired where the stone
The S. W. Parlour
This room had retained, beneath canvas and wallpaper, its eighteenthcentury panelling on three walls. It is the room where the Dutch
painters worked (cf. p. 46). The fireplace wall had been badly mutilated by the division of the room into two, and the cutting of doorways
and flues in the brickwork. The fireplace opening is original, but the
marble surround is new, and the panelling and cornice on this wall are
also new (Plate 57).
S. W. Cabinet Rooms; The South Staircase
These rooms are complete reconstructions. The original rooms were
gutted in the nineteenth century to form a dining-room for the residence
in this quarter of the house (Plate 27). The position of the partition
wall and the lines of the angle fireplaces were found behind modern
plaster and under the floor, and the rooms were accordingly reformed
on Jones's plan. The window opening on to the roadway, in the inner
room, was found more or less intact, and the stone door-case of the
doorway opening into the staircase hall had survived with little damage.
This staircase forms part of Jones's design, but the stone treads belong
to a later reconstruction, as is proved by the awkward junction of the
upper flight with the first-floor landing. The wrought-iron balustrade
was brought from Pembroke House in 1936 to replace the cast-iron
balusters and heavy handrail of the nineteenth century (cf. Survey of
London, Vol. XIII, Plate 73). The marble floor was laid in 1936 in
place of a tiled floor, but a few squares of the original black and white
marble paving were found in position. The windows looking into
the Orangery have already been described. Traces of the sloping sills
were found during the repairs. The first floor landing retains a Portland stone door-case with frieze, cornice and broken pediment of
Jones's design (Plates 70 and 71). The plaster barrel vault is a late
embellishment, and may be the work of William Newton, who
assisted "Athenian" Stuart in the designs for the Greenwich
Hospital Chapel, and was appointed Clerk of the Works in 1782.
Very poor modern paintings which filled the panels of the vault have
now been removed (Plate 72).
The First Floor
The Queen's Drawing-room
The Queen's cabinet, still one of the most richly ornamented rooms in
the house (Plate 60), would have been still more splendid had the full
scheme of decoration been carried out. The story of the negotiations
between Sir Balthazar Gerbier, King Charles's agent in the Netherlands,
and Jakob Jordaens, for the painting of canvases for the walls and
ceiling, is given in Sainsbury's Unpublished Papers, and has already been
mentioned. Some of the paintings were executed and sent to England,
but they were dispersed with the rest of the king's pictures, and even
the subject of the paintings is not known. (fn. 18) The letters that passed
between England and the Netherlands in 1639 and 1640 only indicated,
as far as they have been preserved, that some of the ceiling panels might
be painted by Rubens with cupids holding garlands of roses; and
although the death of the greater artist left Jordaens in undisputed
possession of the field, it is probable that the canvases he did complete
and send to England were all intended for the walls and not for the
ceiling of the cabinet.
The entablature, with its deep and richly decorated frieze, and the
beams framing the panels of the ceiling, are executed entirely in
pine (Plates 58 and 59). In the interstices of the carving were found
traces of blue pigment which had formed the background of the gilded
enrichment. The acanthus scrolls of the frieze link together the golden
fleurs-de-lys of France and elaborate cartouches bearing the crowned
monogram of King Charles and Queen Henrietta-Maria (Fig. 1). The
soffits of the beams are carved with festoons of fruit and flowers in high
relief, of the most delicate execution, with masks at each intersection.
Each moulded member of the cornices is carved with its appropriate
enrichment, gilded on a tinted background. The painting of the gold
stars on a blue ground on the canvas panels was executed in 1936;
the remainder of the colour decoration of the ceiling was touched up
from the traces of the original work.
The windows have wooden architraves terminating on the moulded
dado rail, which is broken forward into pedestals to receive them. The
same treatment is found at Wilton House. The dado is plain (it was
probably treated with applied panel moulds) and the skirting has
a deep moulding. The window frames, dado and skirting date
from the early eighteenth century; the original design included
a long balcony on to which the two north windows opened.
The fireplace wall had been drastically altered for the insertion of
extra flues in the nineteenth century. The fireplace opening is as
nearly as could be ascertained the size of the original one. The
chimney-piece of Portland stone was made in 1935 to replace the smaller
one now in a room on the ground floor. Inigo Jones's design for the
chimney-piece cannot be identified. The one reproduced on Plate 17
may have been made for this room.
On either side of the chimney-breast, and on the opposite wall, were
formerly pilasters resting on the dado-rail, with a cartouche and mask
at the head rising above the architrave of the main entablature, and
festoons of fruit and flowers in high relief, tied with knots of ribbon,
dependent from them. These may have formed part of an original
scheme of decoration such as still remains in the state drawing-rooms
of Wilton House; but the cartouches and masks are of much later
date than the festoons, which had been framed in a later moulding.
Undoubtedly the scheme of decoration carried out or projected for
this room was a series of pictures set as panels between wide stiles and
rails of wood, with the pendant festoons at recurrent intervals, perhaps
below each fleur-de-lys in the frieze. In view of the wholesale restoration which would have been involved in any attempt to reproduce this
scheme, and the insuperable difficulty of the disappearance of the
pictures which formed an integral part of it, the pilasters have been
carefully preserved, but not replaced on the walls.
The N.E. Cabinet
The next room, called by Jones "the cabinet room behind the round
stairs," retains the original carved woodwork of its cornice and ceiling
(Plate 61). When the repairs were carried out in 1934–5 it was found
that the brickwork of the corner fireplace had not been set out at an
angle of 45 degrees, and, in consequence, the wall line had been
corrected by battens, lathed and plastered, above the fireplace opening.
Even this correction, however, was not quite accurate, and the enriched
beams of the ceiling do not intersect symmetrically with the cornice
above the chimney-piece (Plates 62 to 64).
The only colour found on the frieze, cornice and false beams, when the
successive coats of paint and whitewash were removed, was a biscuit
colour in two shades. The plaster panels had been renewed, but there
is no evidence that the original panels were of painted canvas.
Inigo Jones's design for the chimney-piece of this room is one of the
most beautiful of those which have been preserved (Fig. 4). It was
executed in white marble, and perhaps contained, in the frame above
the mantelshelf, one of the paintings of Diana and Actæon mentioned in
the Inventory of pictures at Greenwich. (fn. 19) The present chimney-piece
is modern, but the opening is the same size as that shown on Jones's
The East Bridge Room
This room, finished in 1662 as the King's Presence Chamber, joins the
two eastern wings of the original building. When the plaster was
stripped from the walls during the repairs, the two blocked windows of
the adjoining cabinet rooms, which had once opened on to the roadway, were found above the doorways in the north and south walls.
There were large fractures caused by the cutting of the doorways,
aggravated later by the cutting of new openings nearer to the external
walls. Just below the enriched plaster of the ceiling was the architrave
of the external cornice of Jones's building. The ceiling (Plates 65 to
67) is the work of John Grove, a craftsman who was appointed
Master Plasterer in 1662 and later worked for Wren on the plasterwork of some of the City churches as well as at Greenwich Hospital. (fn. 20)
The Portland stone door-cases were found buried in later plaster, and
in the brickwork were the wrought-iron fixings for the panelling with
which Webb lined the walls. The east and west walls, 2 feet 6 inches
thick, were not bonded into the earlier brickwork, and were further
weakened by bond timbers which had almost completely decayed.
These were cut out, the cavities filled with brickwork, and reinforced
concrete ties were inserted to bind the later walls to the earlier ones.
The chimney-piece is modern. No trace of seventeenth-century colour
was found on the ceiling, but a very poor modern painting was washed
off. The centre window originally opened on to a balcony.
The S.E. Cabinet
This room, small as it is, had been divided in the nineteenth century by
an inserted floor and partitions into two bedrooms, a staircase, and a
water-closet. The eighteenth-century panelling and cornice had been
mutilated, but not beyond repair, and the bolection-moulded marble
surround of the fireplace had been painted over. A good deal of
structural consolidation was required before the panelling could be
repaired and replaced. The two doorways, north and south, had been
moved nearer to the outside wall, but the brickwork of the splayed
jambs was found, and the original doorways were opened. The two
small rooms adjoining (on the west) have little architectural interest.
The stone bolection-moulded surround to the fireplace, in the first
room, was found in situ.
S.E. Bedroom (The King's Bedchamber)
This room, and the corresponding south-west chamber, were altered
by Webb in 1662 by the insertion of a partition, cutting off one window
on the south wall, to form a bedroom and closet. The coved ceiling
was formed at the same time; a floor inserted in the closet and the
inner cabinet room behind it to form mezzanine rooms; and a staircase
built to give access to these "new gained" rooms. These alterations
had historic interest, but they seriously injured Inigo Jones's planning.
To quote from the report drawn up for H.M. Office of Works in 1934:
"Considering this plan [of 1662] from the architectural point of view,
one is confronted with a series of anti-climaxes. The dignified sequence
of rooms in the eastern range terminates in a room whose proportions
do not accord with those of any preceding room: not large enough to
form a logical contrast to the panelled cabinet room, square in plan
where the architectural scheme demands an oblong, presenting an
awkwardness of wall and window spacing so gross that the elaboration
of cornice, cove and ceiling only accentuates the discord. In place of
a dignified and beautiful progression culminating in the loggia which
forms the central feature of the design of the south front, there is now
a collection of small, ill-planned rooms and passages." After very
careful consideration of the claims of Jones's original planning as
against the historic interest of alterations made by Jones's pupil and
successor, it was decided to remove the intrusive partitions and throw
open the corner rooms to the central loggia.
With the removal of the partition it became necessary to continue the
cove of the ceiling round the western end of the room. The centre
panel was cut into four sections, lowered on to a scaffold, and refixed
in the middle of the new oblong ceiling. The original opening of the
fireplace, altered in the nineteenth century, was found, and a new stone
chimney-piece designed for it. The double doors opening on to the
loggia, which had been plastered over, were repaired. The wroughtiron bar used to secure them on the inside was still in position.
In 1615, before the Queen's House was begun, Jones had noted that
the central loggia, forming " a frontispiece in the midst," was the
greatest ornament a house could have. On this he lavished all his
architectural skill and all his knowledge of classic design. The Ionic
capitals are carefully detailed and delicately carved: the floor is of
black and white marble squares laid diagonally; the doorways
opening on to it are set off with stone architraves, cornices supported
by console brackets, and broken pediments; the window openings
have stone dressings, and between the columns are graceful balustrades.
It was found that the wooden joists supporting the floor were completely
rotten. The marble paving was taken up, a reinforced concrete floor
waterproofed with asphalte was formed, and the paving relaid. Some
of the marble had become "sugary," and had to be discarded. The
stonework of the doorways was cleaned of paint, the columns and their
capitals washed free from soot. The hardest problem to solve was the
exact design of the stone balustrade, which had been removed at the
beginning of the nineteenth century—an "improvement" duly welcomed in a letter to the Gentleman's Magazine. Fortunately, a search
through the portfolios of unidentified drawings in the library of Worcester College, Oxford, brought to light a carefully executed measured
drawing of the south front of the house, made by James of Greenwich,
who shared with Nicholas Hawksmoor the office of Clerk of the Works
of the Royal Hospital. From this it was possible to ascertain the
exact details of the balustrades, and they were accordingly replaced
(Plates 68 and 69).
The S.W. Bedroom
The story of this room is a repetition of that of the south-east, or King's
Chamber. The same considerations led to the same treatment—the
removal of the 1662 partitions and the reversion to Inigo Jones's plan.
The coved ceiling was extended to cover the whole room, and the
square panel in the middle reformed as an oblong. The fireplace
opening is original, the chimney-piece modern. The north wall of the
room, at some date subsequent to Webb's alterations, had been
straightened out with studding and plaster, burying the stone doorcase on the left of the fireplace. When the studding was removed the
stone architrave was found almost intact.
The S. W. Cabinet Rooms
These two rooms had been gutted when the rooms below were altered.
They were reformed in 1935. The bolection-moulded surround of the
fireplace in the inner room was once in Harrington House, Craig's
Court. The mezzanine floors were removed and the ceilings lowered
to correspond with the height of the north-east cabinet room. (fn. 21)
The West Bridge Room
Like the east bridge, this is Webb's addition to the house in 1662.
The enriched plaster ceiling, by John Grove, is a fine piece of workmanship, but lacks the refinement of the carved woodwork of Jones's
ceilings (Plates 73 to 75). The chimney-piece is new. Outside the
middle window was a balcony, removed before the colonnades were
built. The two stone door-cases were found when the plaster was
stripped from the walls. The southern one had been badly mutilated.
On one jamb of the northern doorway was found a note, written in
ink, that " ... was to be let out at the gate. 9th July 1743."
The N. W. Cabinet
Jones's design for the chimney-piece in "the room next the back
stair " has been preserved (Fig. 5); nothing of the room itself has
survived the alterations of the nineteenth century. Decay in the main
timbers necessitated the insertion of a reinforced concrete floor in
1934–5. An inserted mezzanine floor was removed, and the east wall
replaced on its original line. The positions of the original ceiling
joists were found and the new ceiling was formed at the old level.
The marble chimney-piece was moved into this room from the adjoining Queen's bedroom.
The Queen's Bedroom
The skirting, dado and rail of the Queen's Bedroom correspond with
those in the drawing-room, as do the architraves and panelled linings
of the windows. The marble chimney-piece was made in 1936 to
fit the large opening of the original fireplace. The cornice is of plaster,
and from it springs a deep plaster cove enclosing a large, rectangular
panel. The cornice, like the walls and woodwork, was painted a dark
brown. It was only when a section of the moulded plaster was cleaned
in 1936 that the painted and gilded enrichment of the cornice was
discovered. The cove is painted in tempera with architectural arabesques, grotesques, amorini, panels with scrolls and masks, much in
the manner of the decorative paintings of the Roman Empire (Frontispiece). At each end is a cartouche, supported by amorini and
surmounted by a crown, displaying the lilies of France (Plates 79 and
80). At the side are the arms of England impaling the arms of
France (Plate 78). Above the chimney-breast is the inscription,
Henrica Maria Regina (Plates 81 and 82).
The oblong panel of the ceiling is surrounded by a moulding enclosing
a deep border subdivided into compartments filled with painted scrolls,
arabesques, and figures, which in turn surround an oblong panel at
each end of which is another border of painted plaster with grotesques
on either side of the monogram HMCR (Plate 83). These decorations
are all of one date, and bear so strong a likeness to other known
designs drawn by Inigo Jones that they may safely be ascribed to
the years when Henrietta herself inspired the decoration of the house.
In each corner of the outer border is a cartouche displaying devices
of palm trees, lilies and a flaming globe; twined round their stems
are scrolls bearing the words Mutua fecunditas—spes reipublicae—ardet
aeternum—cum odore candor.
The central panel, painted in oil on plaster, is of later date. Its history
has never been discovered. Conception and composition point to the
eighteenth rather than the seventeenth century. It represents Aurora,
accompanied by the Zephyrs, dispersing the shades of night (Plate
77). In the absence of definite evidence of authorship, the supposition
that the panel was painted in the studio of Sir James Thornhill in
1731–2 may stand. (fn. 22) That no portion of the ceiling-painting is the
work of Orazio Gentileschi is a dictum in which all the experts who
have been consulted agree.
In 1853 this ceiling was reported to be much damaged. Fifty years
later its condition was deplorable. (fn. 23) The dampness and impurity of the
atmosphere and the constant changes of temperature which caused
moisture to condense on the surface had separated the film of colour
from the plaster. An attempt was made to cure the trouble between
1907 and 1909, but when an examination was made by H.M. Office of
Works in 1925 it was found that the whole surface was disintegrating.
Innumerable pieces of the paint film were hanging like curled leaves,
ready to fall at a touch; many had already fallen (Plate 76). Advice
was sought from chemical experts, and experiments were made in
consolidating the surface and reattaching the paint film to the plaster.
Finally, the treatment of the whole ceiling was undertaken by H.M.
Office of Works and carried through in two years. The colours have
darkened in the course of three centuries, and much of the gaiety
and sparkle has gone, but a rich and mellow beauty of colour and
design remains. A careful watch is kept on the ceiling, that any signs
of injurious action may be investigated at once.
The Middle Bridge
Drastic alterations in the nineteenth century destroyed all but the bare
skeleton of the connecting bridge of Inigo Jones's building. So many
walls, partitions, floors, stairs, baths and lavatory basins filled the
room in 1933 that no photographic record of its condition could be
obtained (cf. plan, Plate 27). Of the six windows, two only, the
middle ones on each side, are original; the remaining four are insertions of nineteenth-century date. The stone architrave of the south
door has been repaired: the rather heavy plaster cornice is not original.
Before 1662 the windows commanded a view east and west along the
road below, but the outer bridges have reduced the room to the importance of a mere passage.
The South Corridor
The door at the south end opens into a short corridor leading to the
loggia. The barrel vault springing from a plaster cornice was found
over part of the passage and continued with new plaster in 1935–6.
In each flank wall are two doorways with stone architraves. Two are
original; the two at the north end of the passage are reproductions.
The brick rebates for the stone surrounds were found behind the later
plaster in both cases. The doors at the south end open on to the loggia
and afford a vista through its columns from the gallery of the hall to
the green slopes of the park.
Brick-vaulted cellars extend under the northern portion of the house.
They are approached by a passage under the north terrace,
and lit by windows in the east and west external walls and others
opening into small areas in the terrace paving. Blocked windows are
traceable in the south wall (which formed the north boundary of the
roadway), but these were blocked when the passage was formed which
was extended under the colonnades in 1880 to connect the east school
block, through the Queen's House, with the western range of buildings.
The round stairs are now continued down from the ground floor, but
it is not certain that this is the original plan. (fn. 24) Two other staircases
were formed in the nineteenth century which have been removed
(Plate 27). There are no architectural features beyond the brick vaults.
Two cellars of later date exist below the east part of the north terrace,
and other cellars were formed under the southern portion of the house
to increase the accommodation of the various official residences during
the nineteenth century.
The Queen's Garden
Fig. 7. Design for a fountain in a wall.
Samuel Pepys, seeking relaxation in country air from his busy life in
London and in Westminster, took boat to Greenwich. So had the
Tudor monarchs visited their riverside palace. Travellers landing at
Dover rode through Canterbury along the Dover road to Blackheath.
If they were guests of the King, they lay at Greenwich, and thence
were rowed to Whitehall or to Westminster: for the roads were bad,
and journeys might be unexpectedly interrupted. On the 2nd of July
1639 Henry Dewell, Surveyor-General of His Majesty's Highways,
wrote to the Council: "In obedience to your instructions, I certify
that Richard Canning, of Newington, Surrey, last summer, by carts
conveyed great store of bricks and other heavy carriage over his
Majesty's bridges, and in the private way between Lambeth and
Greenwich, until one of the bridges was broken. His Majesty, passing
in his coach that way to Greenwich, was stopped by reason of the bridge
being broken, and constrained to come on foot over, while the coach
came dangerously over after. Canning refusing to mend or repair the
same, I was constrained to lay out my own money, and with great
care performed it myself. All which I leave to your Lordships'
consideration." (fn. 25) It was far pleasanter to be rowed down the Thames
in a state barge—such a barge as that which was made for the Queen
in 1639 at a cost of £475 15s. 6d. (fn. 26) She must often have made the
journey from Whitehall or from her own palace of Denmark House
during the short three years of peace that followed, and, landing at the
river stairs, have hurried—small, dark, vivacious—with short, quick
steps across the courtyards of the great palace to the gardens. There,
looking past the long range of the Tiltyard buildings, she would see her
own White House backed by the green slopes of the park. She might
linger in the garden—the Queen's Garden that was named from her—
for she loved flowers, and years before had written to her mother
asking that some fruit-trees and flowers should be sent to her from
France. (fn. 27) Mr. Surveyor had designed an Italian gateway for this
garden, much like the one which was built at Beaufort House, Chelsea,
and afterwards moved to Chiswick; and a fountain in the wall, also
in the Italian manner (Fig. 7), but not so elaborate as the Medici
fountain in the gardens of the Queen's old home in France, the
Luxembourg Palace. There was a "statue pouring water from a cornu
copiae," and a grotto (fn. 28) . On the west of the garden lay the orchards
behind the Friary, bounded on the south by the brick wall which
marked the line of the road from Deptford to Woolwich. Beyond the
road, the park rose steeply to Blackheath in the natural irregularity of
Kentish countryside, for it was not until the Queen's return to England
after the long exile that Monsieur Lenôtre designed the formal avenues
which still, sadly depleted, centre on the south front of the Queen's
John Tradescant had become the Queen's gardener after the
death of the Duke of Buckingham, and was succeeded by his son. (fn. 29)
On the 13th of March 1639 the keepership of "the Queen's Garden at
Greenwich, with the fee of 4d. per diem and 22s. 6d. per annum for
60 years if they so long live" was granted to Hugh Henn and Harry
Henn his brother. (fn. 30)
In 1635–6 the brick walls of the garden were repaired and "newe
Gatewayes of bricke and stone" were erected on either side of the
new building. (fn. 31) Two years later the "stone steps going vp into the
Arbor in the Garden" were relaid; posts were set up "in the high
way neere the new building to preserve the sellar windowes from the
Carts"; post and rail fences were "sett acrosse the highwaies and
in the ffriers Rode," and John Prestwood, Carpenter, was paid
"for framing and making Tenn Timber seats for the Gardens . . .
at xls. the peece." (fn. 32) In 1638–9 the "seat round about the Chestnut
tree" was painted green; the "railes" in the garden were painted
"blew in oile"; and the "Terrass walke before the new
buildings" was repaved with 2,010 feet of Purbeck paving. (fn. 33) (Cf.
It is possible that the lay-out of the Queen's garden did not differ
widely then from that shown on the survey made in 1693, although in
those intervening years the old palace of red brick had been pulled
down and the King's House had risen on the site of the Friary.
Probably a long, straight path, crossed at right angles by other
paths between great beds of trees and flowers, led then, as in 1693, to
the double flight of curving steps in the middle of the terrace of the
Queen's House. It was Charles II who made the New Road in 1663, (fn. 34)
dividing the garden from the site of the Friary, when he decided to pull
down the ruins of the great palace and build the more convenient,
modern house whose plan he had sketched for Evelyn on the 24th of
January 1662. (fn. 35) (fn. 36)
So closely interwoven with the design and with the history of the
Queen's House was the approach from the river through the Queen's
Garden, that when Charles II's unfinished palace and the ground
around it were given by King William III and Queen Mary to the
newly founded Royal Hospital for Seamen, the Queen insisted that
no building should intrude on the vista from the Queen's House to
the Thames. In vain did Sir Christopher Wren bring forward Webb's
uncompleted scheme for Charles II's palace, and plead that the Queen's
House was too small in scale to close the vista when viewed from the
river. (fn. 37) Scheme after scheme for a central domed feature between the
flanking blocks of the hospital buildings was rejected; the Queen's
House must be open to the river. There is, among the Wren drawings
in the library of All Souls, a plan showing the colonnades of the
Hospital carried right up to the house (Plate 23); but this plan, too,
was rejected, for the southern part of the Queen's Garden was not
included in the land granted to the Hospital. Surveys made in 1694
and 1695 mark "The way Reserved out of the grant to the Hospital
being in bredth 115 foot" (Plate 22); and so, on the 7th of May
1697, the Commissioners of the Fabric, meeting in Scotland Yard,
ordered "That the bounds of the whole ground given to the hospitall
be fenced in; leaving the ground, reserved for a visto to the Queen's
house, only set of with a raile: and that the Clarke of the works do
take care of it." (fn. 38) The Commissioners and their architects still hoped
that the house and garden would be added to them, and it is not until
October 1711 that the Hospital accounts record that Edward Strong,
Mason, was paid for "day work done by him in making a Clear
Vista through the works on ye. middle line of ye, Qu: House." (fn. 39)
Meanwhile, the Earl of Dorset was made Ranger of Greenwich Park
in 1690. In 1697 the Earl of Romney bought the Earl of Dorset's
interest in the house, the gardens and the park, and took advantage of the new division of the garden to close the old public road
through the house and divert it to form a division between the
Queen's House and the Hospital. (fn. 40) The plan of 1728 and another
of slightly later date (Plate 25) show these changes. Kip's View
(Plate 13), although it includes certain buildings which were never
erected and omits others which then existed, may yet give an accurate
picture of the Queen's garden, with its wide central walk and its
fountain, and the new garden laid out over the old road. There are
numerous references in the hospital accounts to the repair of this
fountain, while the Queen's House was occupied by the Governor of
the Royal Hospital. (fn. 41) There were trees round it, and a walk paved
with bricks. (fn. 42) It was fed from a cistern in the east court of the
Queen's House, and was surrounded by "rails and lattice work"; (fn. 43)
and in April 1715 John Apthorp, Founder, was paid £1 10s. od.
for "a Brass Figure of a Mermaid Gilded to Spout Water in the
Fountain in the Governours North Garden." (fn. 44) The central walk was
gravelled, and there was turf at the side of it. In April 1712 Nicholas
Hawksmoor, the Clerk of the Works to the Hospital, charges in the
accounts for "taking up Cockle Shels for ye. Gardens of ye. Qu: Ho:"
and for "cartage of 7 Loads of Cockleshels from the water-side to
the Qu: House at 18d. p Load." (fn. 45) At this time the under-gardener
was paid at the rate of 1s. 8d. a day, while "weeding women" were
employed at 8d. a day. Under the date of the 25th of November 1721
the Minutes of the Directors' Meeting contain the following note:
"Humphrey Bowen the Gardener delivered in a Bill of Plants and
other things supplyed to the Garden of the Queens house between Novr.
1717 and Decr. 1718 amounting to £42: 18: 04; It was resolved that
£10 shall be abated from the Bill, and the Steward is to pay him the
remainder and charge it in his bookes." (fn. 46) It seems to have been a
forced discount for cash. On the 14th of November 1724 Bowen
presented a more modest bill of £7: 00: 11 for fruit-trees, flowers,
etc., planted in the garden "these three years past." (fn. 47) But between
1708 and 1726 the Directors spent £7,846 9s. 6d. on the house, park
and gardens. (fn. 48) The Hospital was under contract with the gardener
to "take care of the Garden of the Queens house, and to find it with
seed &c. for £125 a year." (fn. 49) In 1729 it was resolved that, as the Crown
had obviously no intention of parting with the house and garden,
the Governor of the Hospital should cease to reside there. The
house was therefore "put upon the Establishment of the Kings
Works." (fn. 50)
The next alteration was the closing of the Fryers road and the making
of a new road to the west of it, between the ground used as the Governor's garden and the Burying-ground of the Hospital. Until the
nineteenth century the Governor retained his garden, while the
Queen's garden gradually assumed the form of a "jardin anglais"
with serpentine paths and kidney-shaped beds. The Romney road
was repaired (under the advice of Mr. McAdam) and widened at
the expense of the garden, which was shut off from it by a new
brick wall 12 feet high. To compensate the Crown for this loss of
ground, the latest "New Road" was closed and its site included in
the garden. In 1843 it was resolved to build in the middle of the
Queen's garden a model ship to assist in the training of the children in
the school (Plate 26). This remained for ninety-two years, blocking the
vista and completely dwarfing the Queen's House. The flower beds
gave way to asphalte; the colonnades linking the house with the two
blocks of the school buildings covered the Earl of Romney's new
gardens, but emphasised anew the line of the old roadway. The
Governor's garden gave place to the gymnasium and the west block
of the school buildings. Only the trees which lined the Romney
road and a shrubbery below the north terrace of the house marked
with fresh green each spring the place of the Queen's garden.
On the south side the house gave directly on to the park (Plates 10
and 12). At the end of the seventeenth century an enclosure was made
of light fencing, as may be seen on the survey of 1693; this was later
extended to embrace the whole southern line of the property (Plate 25).
The present brick wall and ha-ha are of still later date.
It was here that on the 20th of January 1557 "the Queen's Grace's
pensioners did muster in bright harness . . . for there stood the
Queen's Grace on high, and my lord Cardinal and divers other lords
and ladies . . . and there came a tumbler and played many
pretty feats afore the Queen and my lord Cardinal, that her grace
did laugh heartily; and so her grace did thank them all for their
pain. . . ." (fn. 51)
The scene was the gatehouse with its balcony where now the Queen's
House stands with the white columns of the Ionic loggia; and the
Queen's Grace was not Elizabeth, who, indeed, watched from that very
balcony the mustering of her loyal subjects on many occasions, but her
elder sister Mary. There are few recorded scenes of so happy and so
pastoral a nature in the life of Mary Tudor, and because the place is
here, although the scene has changed, it shall be linked with the
happiest days of that later queen, called Mary by her husband and
his subjects, for whom this House of Delight was so finished and
furnished that it far surpassed all other of that kind in England.