The remains of part of Greenwich’s old Tudor Palace have been discovered in the basement of the Old Royal Naval College’s famous Painted Hall.

 

Archaeologists document the Tudor finds beneath the Painted Hall shortly after their excavation

Long lost under the Wren built Royal Naval College, the early Greenwich Palace had a scale comparable to Hampton Court Palace, with the advantage of a riverside setting overlooking the empty fields of the Isle of Dog.

The palace comprised everything from state apartments, courtyards, a chapel, gardens, a substantial tiltyard for jousting with a five-storey tower for viewing, and was at the very heart of Tudor cultural life and intrigue.

Preparation of the basement for a new visitor centre below the Painted Hall led to the discovery of two rooms of the Tudor palace by a team working for Pre-Construct Archeology, including a floor featuring lead-glazed tiles. Being set back from the river, these are likely to be from the servants area, possibly where the kitchens, bakehouse, brewhouse and laundry were.

One of the rooms was clearly subterranean and contains a series of unusual niches, which archaeologists believe may be ‘bee boles’ for the keeping of skeps (hive baskets) during the winter months when the bee colonies are hibernating. Bee boles have occasionally been found in historic garden walls, but it is very rare to find them internally, making this find even more significant. The niches were probably used for keeping food and drink cool in the summer months when the skeps were outside.

Nothing of Greenwich Palace survives above ground today. It fell into disrepair during the civil war years and was eventually replaced following the restoration of the Monarchy.

Discussions are now underway over the possibility of displaying the Tudor archaeology within what will be the new Painted Hall visitor centre, although a further £2 million is necessary to complete the project.

The Tudor finds sit beneath the Undercroft of the Painted Hall

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3 comments on “Tudor Palace remains found in Greenwich
  1. Am says:

    This might be a bit of a stupid question, but since you mentioned only one room was clearly subterranean, how did the other one get underground? I was watching a program about underground London last week, and wondered this same thing when it came to certain structures. How is so much of medieval London below ground? Were many structures in flood plains, or were they filled in later and built over?

    • Ian Visits says:

      Lots of build up over the years as old buildings were built on the rubble of older buildings. Graves overflowed with the dead. And west london was largely built up by having the 1st floor turned into the ground floor for many houses.

  2. John Townsend says:

    Without more information being available I am sceptical about the holes being bee boles. Honey bees don’t ‘hibernate’ in winter and need access to the outside on warmer days. In addition skeps in outside bee boles usually work fine during winter – so why the effort to move them? Moving bees has to be done under certain conditions otherwise they will fly back to their original site.

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