The Queen's House was built, for Anne of Denmark, wife of King James I, as an adjunct to the Tudor Palace of Greenwich, previously known, before its redevelopment by Henry VII as the Palace of Placentia, which was a rambling, mainly red-brick building in a more vernacular style. It was supposedly a gift from the king to apologise for swearing in front of her after she had accidentally killed one of his favourite dogs during a hunt. The Palace would have presented a dramatic contrast of appearance to the newer, white-painted House, although the latter was much smaller and really a modern version of an older tradition of private 'garden houses', not a public building, and one used only by the queen's privileged inner circle. Construction of the house began in 1616 but work on the house stopped in April 1618 when Anne became ill and died the next year. Work restarted when the house was given to the queen consort Henrietta Maria in 1629 by King Charles I, and the house was structurally complete by 1635. However, the House's original use was short – no more than seven years – before the English Civil War began in 1642 and swept away the court culture from which it sprang. Of its interiors, three ceilings and some wall decorations survive in part, but no interior remains in its original state. This process began as early as 1662, when masons removed a niche and term figures and a chimneypiece. The Queen's House, though it was scarcely being used, provided the distant focal centre for Sir Christopher Wren's Greenwich Hospital, with a logic and grandeur that has seemed inevitable to architectural historians but in fact depended on Mary II's insistence that the vista to the water from the Queen's House not be impaired.
In 1570 Andrea Palladio, one of Italy’s greatest and most imitated architects explained his theories in his Four Books on Architecture. In the 1600s, English architect Jones brought Palladio’s ideas to England, so beginning a new style of beautifully proportioned, symmetrical buildings called ‘palladian’. The new house was such a novelty that people called it ‘The White House’. Jones ensured that the house cleverly bridged the main Woolwich to Deptford road. He used classical (Ionic) orders, and geometrically measured spaces to create a structure of harmonious proportions. For example the Great Hall is a 12 m (40 ft) cube, and the design of its marble floor matches the composition of squares and circles on its ceiling. In 1619, Jones went on to use a double cube device when designing the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall, and again at Wilton House in 1649. It was not until the 18th century that Jones’s ideas were taken up by Lord Burlington, Colen Campbell and William Kent, resulting in the Georgian style that is familiar in towns and cities all over the country. Inigo Jones’s genius created an English Palladianism which influenced and inspired later architects in the classical tradition.
From 1806 the House itself was the centre of what, from 1892, became the Royal Hospital School for the sons of seamen. This necessitated new accommodation wings, and a flanking pair to east and west were added and connected to the House by colonnades from 1807 (designed by London Docks architect Daniel Asher Alexander), with further surviving extensions up to 1876. In 1933 the school moved to Holbrook, Suffolk. Its Greenwich buildings, including the House, were converted and restored to become the new National Maritime Museum (NMM), created by Act of Parliament in 1934 and opened in 1937. In preparation for its 400th anniversary in 2016, the Queen’s House is currently closed for renovation, re-opening July 2016. All floors of the Queen's House have lift access. Please note that if you are visiting the Queen’s House with a mobility scooter you may need to seek assistance from staff. This is because some models of scooter do not fit in the lift and ramps will be required if visiting the Great Hall and the Orangery. Ask at the information desk upon arrival. The Visitor Assistants are trained in disability awareness and a number of our staff are trained to give pre-booked audio described tours. Guide dogs and assistance dogs are welcome. Audio guides are available for special exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House.
Location : Queen’s House, Romney Road, Greenwich SE10 9NF
Transport: Cutty Sark (DLR). Greenwich Pier (by boat). London Buses routes 129, 177, 180, 188, 286, 386 and N1 stop nearby.
Opening Times: (From July 2016) Daily 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Free.
Tel: 020 8312 6608