Inigo Jones, Part 2, The Queen’s House, Greenwich
JOHANNES KIP. 1752 painting showing royal hospital with Queen House in the
distance. Probably painted from the same view-point as the later Canaletto –
Isle of Dogs.
The site of the Queen’s House at Greenwich is thought to have formed part of a
recognisable estate as far back as the 8th century; it would therefore be wrong
to view it in isolation.
The site at Greenwich has been associated with monarchs for many hundreds of
years from 871 AD when Alfred the Great inherited Greenwich from his father
Ethulwulf, to 1491 when Henry VIII used the palace at Greenwich – as a popular
residence – ‘a rural retreat from the heat and stench of central London’; to
James I. who settled the manor of greenwich on his queen in 1613.
See the hand-out for a more comprehensive list.
Refer Johannes Kip 1752 slide.
The park itself is a medieval creation which today covers 190 acres of landscape
which has been carefully manicured since the early 15c.
In 1433 Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester obtained a licence to enclose the land as a
park; this resulted in the building of a 12′ high brick wall measuring over 2
miles in length.
At the site of the Queens House, the wall was built on both sides of the road.
Following the re-siting of the road to the North in 1697-9 the walls abutting
the Queens House became redundant for all but the containment of deer within the
Due to an overlay of the Blackheath by the Greenwich beds, there are several
natural sources of water within the park. The Duke of Gloucester built an
aqueduct 1434 to utilise this natural resource.
The park has been open to the public since 1705, although altered, it retains
some of the strong formal lines of 17century layout.
The first part of 17c saw considerable activity in the park and Royal Palace
with the creation of new gardens and the building of the Queens House.
Queen Anne of Denmark
In the first decades of the 17th century, during Queen Anne’s time, ‘the gardens
had been an artifice of masonry, planting, grotto and water features’. Salomon
de Caus, a designer from the Low Countries, was employed to develop the garden.
De Caus was a member of Prince Henry’s Court from 1610 – 1612. At Greenwich he
was involved in extensive re-planning of the gardens. A ‘new garden’ later known
as the ‘Queens garden’ was created. By 1612 the gardens comprised new orchard,
lodge and grotto. A plan of 1694, in Bold, shows the garden as being to the N.W.
of the House with a tilt yard occupying the N.E. section, a path divided them.
Queen Henrietta Maria
By 1635 building work on the Queen’s House was almost complete allowing work to
be done outside the house. 1637 Henrietta Maria paid '1,500 for extensive garden
work to be carried out. The mannerist garden created for Queen Anne was not
fashionable enough for Henrietta Maria. She was influenced by French garden
design. A terrace was constructed and paved between 1635-6 on the North side of
the house. This provided a viewing-point for the gardens. The two new iron
balconies installed on the North side outside the bedchamber and cabinet may
also have been added to provide additional viewing points overlooking the
The Queen sent to France for fruit trees and flowers. During the same year, a
wall-mounted fountain of French design was installed (John Webb later changed
the Tuscan features of the fountain to Ionic – maybe in keeping with the Loggia)
The Queens House building; influences
It is repeatedly written that the Queen’s House constitutes the ‘first essay in
pure renaissance design in England’. It was designed by Inigo Jones soon after
the last of his study tours to Italy in 1613-14 and offerered an opportunity to
give form to his dreams of architectural design. Although the Queen’s House was
intended to be a Renaissance building, and there are a number of Italian
borrowings, Jones was too good an architect to rely on one source.
The details of plan and elevation derive from Jones studies of Andrea Palladio
and Vincenzo Scamozzi.
The chief influence is thought to be Vincenzo Scamozzi (1552-1616), the most
important of Palladios Italian followers who Jones met and from whom he acquired
an extensive collection of architectural drawings.
SLIDE – VILLA POGGIO
Lorenzo de Medici’s villa at Poggio a Caiano near Florence (finished by Giuliano
da Sangallo in 1485) has a similar plan shape. The Medici villa also has an open
colonnade like that built into the park front at Greenwich.
The oblong plan is also similar in shape to the villa Aldobrandini, (no slide)
incorporating a cube hall and circular stairway. The whole effect of the
building is long and low with no gravitation to the centre.
SLIDE – 20th CENTURY SECTION – CHETTLE
SLIDE – Plan showing the 5 PHASES
The Queen’s House, designed by Inigo Jones, was constructed on either side of
the Deptford to Woolwich roadway on the site of an old gate-house. It became
known as Jones ‘curious devise’ which later writers called the ‘House of
Delight’. It comprised 2 buildings united by a covered bridge of stone. Due to
the circumstance of the public road, It is in effect a ‘double house’ , with the
northern half in the garden, the southern half in the park. Apparently the idea
of building over or above a road was unusual but not unique. Jones did not
intend to make anything spectacular out of the bridge.
The Queen’s House took many years to complete. This makes any discussion about
the chronology of building rather complex task. John Bold’s plan helps one to
understand how the building progressed.
A brief chronology is as follows:
– In 1613 James I. formally granted the manor and palace of Greenwich to Queen
Anne of Denmark. In 1616 the foundations were laid. Very soon after this she
began to plan improvements in association with Simon Basil the Surveyor of the
Kings Works. The project was not only initiated by Anne but owes a lot to her
ideas, she showed an interest in the most up-to-date architectural ideas from
– In 1615 Simon Basil died and Jones was appointed Surveyor of the Kings Works
having already been Surveyor to Henry Prince of Wales until 1612.
– 1616 Jones prepared at least 2 prototypes for Queen Anne. He also drew a side
elevation showing the road passing under the centre of the house. In essence, an
‘H’ shaped house.
In the October of 1616 work began and continued for 18 months. The former
gate-house that stood over the park gate was demolished, foundations dug, stone,
bricks and timber assembled.
– 1617 – Work of the Queens House began.
– 1617-19 the North Building comprising ground floor and basement, and the South
building with just a ground floor were erected. In this first phase 2 separate
buildings were built, one each side of the road. They were unconnected at this
stage. REFER TO THE FIRST PHASE OF THE PLAN.
– 1619 – Queen Anne died therefore building as planned was not finished and ten
years were to pass before work commenced again. Following Anne’s death, the
House was given to Prince Charles who retained it after his accession in 1625.
– 1629 – Greenwich Palace was given to Queen Henrietta Maria. Charles I. granted
possession after his accession and their marriage. Henrietta, the daughter of
Henry IV and Maria de’ Medici grew up in a court that was strongly influenced by
Italian culture; she commissioned Inigo Jones to complete the building work.
– 1629-30 – work resumed on the Queens House. New building must have taken place
in that year perhaps in preparation for the second floor. REFER TO THE SECOND
PHASE OF THE PLAN
– 1629 – 1638 an upper storey was added to each building
– 1635 – It is reported that the Queen went to see completion in May when it was
– 1636 – much of the carving was executed.
– 1637 – Jones made 2 designs for chimney breasts.
– 1638 – final payment made to Wickes which marks completion of the main
– 1661 – the North side terrace was added.
SLIDE – NORTH FACADE
The house measures 115′ in length on North and South sides. 117′ in length, East
and West sides.
The north facade is of two storey elevation over a basement storey. It is
composed of 3 bays. This effect is created by a slight projection of the middle
portion, which also marks out the width of the Great hall. The two outer bays
have 2 window openings each side making 7 windows in all at each level. In the
original design the sill-line of the ground floor windows of the rooms on either
side of the Hall was higher than now. They had mullioned and transomed window
frames glazed with lead lights.
The 7 windows on the first floor have moulded stone sills and architraves.
Cornices rest directly on the architrave at the heads. The middle window is
semi-circular in shape; above it is a marble tablet with the inscription ‘HENRICA
MARIA REGINA 1635’ engraved into it. The 4 outer windows have one voussoir on
either side of a projecting keystone. The 3 middle openings have 2.
On the first floor, iron balconies projected in front of the flanking windows,
these added to the charm of the piano nobile. From the North front could also be
seen the corniced roof of an octagonal lantern that rose above the interior
Positioned centrally, between a curving flight of steps is a semi-circular
headed doorway of rusticated stone with architrave and key stone that leads
straight to the cellars through a second doorway under the main wall of the
house. This basement is brick-vaulted and runs the full length of the building.
It is possible that it was initially left unfinished, and then relegated as a
storage area when the building was commissioned in the 1630s. It should be noted
that the circular tulip stair began at ground floor level. Therefore there was
no internal stairway from the basement to the ground floor. It may be thought
that the entry to the ground floor was intended by way of a stone or wooden
external staircase rising from the garden in straight flights to either side of
the entrance door. There are no traces of these stairs which may have been
wooden constructions. THEY APPEAR ON THE FIRST PHASE OF PLAN.
The original conformation of the steps seemed imitative of Pratolino. When
built, they curved round to face each other, framing the door into the basement,
but are now in horseshoe form.
An Ionic entablature with balustraded parapet crowns the facade of the North.
SLIDE – SOUTH FACADE
The south facade faces the open spaces of the park, in its design, Inigo Jones
gave full play to his knowledge of Renaissance architecture. His notes allude to
Scamozzi’s villa Molini near Padua as a source of study for the park front. The
south facade consists of 2 tiers; there is no basement storey but the 3 bay
pattern seen on the North facade recurs.
The ground floor has nine openings, a wide central doorway and two narrow
windows on either side are grouped closely together. In the upper tier Jones has
incorporated in his design a 5 bay Italian loggia using the Ionic order. It
occupies the entire width of the central bay. This first floor loggia was almost
certainly the first to appear in England. The loggia links the public to
private, inner to outer, has a symbolic as well as architectural function. SLIDE
INTERIOR OF LOGGIA.
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 facade. Above the entablature the balustraded parapet
repeats the treatment of the north front.
In 1708 lowering of sills of ground floor windows is more apparent than
elsewhere. These windows now compete in importance as 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
or piano nobile.
Facade E. and W.
The East and West elevations are similar to the North in general line, a
slightly projecting centre embracing 3 windows, flanked by 2 windows on either
side. Before the addition of the Doric colonnades, the East and West fronts
showed as the ends of 2 ranges of building projecting 45′ in front of the
segmental arch of the bridge.
The roofs are lead covered flats.
Chimney stacks brick rendered and have recessed angles.
The house is built of brick, faced with rusticated stone up to first floor level
on the N. and S. sides with corresponding rustication in the brick-facing of the
E. and W. sides and the elevations to the roadway.
Above the string-course all external walls are of plain brickwork. Window
dressings and main cornice are of stone. Above the cornice the parapet is formed
of a stone balustrade on the two main facades. The plinth is of Kentish Rag, the
main facing of Portland Stone. The retaining wall of the terrace is faced with
portland stone and has a double offset at the bottom – now partially buried.
The brick facing was at first covered with a thin coating of lime lined-out with
stone jointing. This made the house appear of a startling whiteness.
SLIDE – GREAT HALL
REFER TO HAND OUT SHOWING PLAN WITH ROOMS WRITTEN IN
In the first phase of construction the Queens House would not need kitchen and
utility rooms since these were in adjacent buildings.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall functioned as grand reception area for those entering, before
climbing the Tulip stairs to the piano nobile and as such provides a
centre-piece of the Queen’s House. (It should be noted that an equivalently
grand single-story hall was also intended for Anne of Denmark).
The form it takes is of a 40′ cube occupying 2 storeys reflecting Jones
enthusiasm for the cube and double cube rooms. It has a cantilevered gallery at
first floor level that surrounds the hall. Details of the brackets and balusters
closely resemble those of the gallery of the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall.
Wooden brackets resemble the masque stage sets for ‘Britannia Triumphans’ of
1638. The frieze and cornice of the Hall and the enriched beams of the ceiling
are of pine. The floor, laid by Nicholas Stone and Gabriel Stacey in 1636-7 is
of black and white marble. When finished in 1630s the Queen’s House ceiling and
gallery were painted white with gilded enrichment.
SLIDE – GREAT HALL CEILING PANELS
Ceiling panels were to be completed with paintings by Orazio Gentileschi who
came to London in 1626 at the invitation of Charles I. The decoration was
comprised of nine canvasses of the Allegory of Peace and the Arts under the
English Crown in celebration of Charles I. reign (now in Marlborough House).
In the south wall of the gallery are two windows looking on to the roadway and a
central doorway framed in Portland stone. The four doorways in the side walls
are finished with stone architraves and entablatures. In the middle of the south
wall is a semi-dome crowning an apse, within which are steps leading to the
middle salon built under the bridge when the roadway was diverted.
A chief function of the Great Hall was as sculpture gallery. In 1638-9 workmen
were employed to prepare settings for antique statues. Zachary Taylor made 10
carved pedestals to receive marble statues. John Hooker was paid to turn 15
great pedestals of olive timbers with bases and capitals at the same time.
The statues were brought to Greenwich from other palaces, some from Oatlands.
Some were from the former Gonzaga collection from Mantua.
The finest works included Bacchus and Sabena, Adonis, Apollo, Perseus, Diana,
Jupiter and Venus.
The most important sculpture to be housed in the niche of the Great Hall was by
Gian lorenzo Bernini; a bust of Charles I. Van Dyck’s triple portrait is
believed to have provided the model. The original was destroyed by the Whitehall
fire of 1698.
SLIDE – TULIP STAIRCASE
The Great Hall provides access to the tulip staircase. This was the first
geometric, self-supporting spiral stair to be built in Britain, a departure from
masonry design. It is thought to be modelled on one by Palladio. Jones would
have been familiar with precedents at Andrea Palladio’s Convento della Carita.
The stairs were completed c1635 at the height of the European tulip craze. The
stairs are continued beyond the first floor to the polygonal turret which
accessed the leads. It has a continuous balustrade of wrought iron of remarkable
beauty consisting of square vertical bars separating scrolls bearing leaves and
tulip flowers with double scrolls on the landings. (The extension to the
basement is 19c).
Bedchamber 1st floor west side N.Front
If completed the Queen’s bedchamber would have been distinguished as one of the
most magnificent of the decorative schemes devised by Inigo Jones and Henrietta
Maria; embodying in permanent form the legend of choice of the Caroline Court –
Cupid and Psyche. Mottoes and angles of the ceiling spell out an appropriate,
idealised message for a Stuart bed chamber. 'Mutual fruitfulness, the hope of
the state burns forever with pure fragrance'. A theme central to divinely
ordained rulers of a perfect state.
All paintings are intact except the central panel. in 1637 Guido Reni was to
design a symbolic work for the bed-chamber. First choice of subject was Cephalus
and Aurora but as it depicted a rape it was thought unsuitable. Second choice
was Bacchus and Ariadne. The central panel now contains an Aurora – painter
SLIDE – GUIDO RENI – EXAMPLE ONLY of an Aurora painted for Casino rospiglion in
The ceiling coving was painted by either John de Critz or Matthew Gooderick. It
is thought to have been influenced by Caprarola and Palazzo Te.
SLIDE – CORNICE SECTION
The anti-room leading from the bedchamber was thought to function as a private
chapel for Henrietta Maria, a practicing Catholic.
Queens withdrawing room – East side North front
This room would have embodied in permanent form the legend of the Caroline Court
– Cupid and Psyche and was one of the most richly ornamented rooms in the house.
SLIDE – CEILING OF WITHDRAWING ROOM
Painter likely to have been Jakob Jordaens; the intention was for 22 paintings
to cover ceiling and walls but only 8 were completed; they were installed in the
Letters that passed between England and the Netherlands in 1639 and 1640
indicated that some of the ceiling panels might be painted by Rubens with cupids
holding garlands of roses.
The room was already richly hung with paintings e.g. Gentileschis Lot and his
Daughters (since moved to the great Hall.) Artemisia’s Tarquin and Lucretia. Van
Dyck’s portrait of the Archduchess Isobella and a large Flora.
SLIDE – ORAZIO GENTILESCHI EXAMPLE ONLY ‘Rest on Flight to Egypt’ (slide not
SLIDE – CHIMNEY PIECE – POSSIBLY FOR QUEENS BEDROOM
17th century French design is evident in the chimney piece and overmantle of
Henrietta Maria’s house. Italian designs were not available due to the climate –
no demand in Italy. Inigo Jones designed one in 1637 ‘for the room next to the
back stairs’ – likely to be the Queen’s anti-room/chapel and another ‘for
Greenwich’. They come from ‘Architectural book for Chimney’s’ by Jean Barget
published in 1633. Another was for the bedchamber and another for the Cabinet
room behind the tulip stairs.
Intention and function for the Queens House;
General initial function
At the outset the new building was required to fulfil the same function as the
Tudor Gate-house that it was replacing, that is to span a public right of way.
Being formed of an ‘H’ it may have been perceived as belonging to the tradition
of the ‘devise’ as a visual symbol. The most important characteristic of the
‘devise’ was an ingenuity of form and plan, as such they were often built as
lodges or retreats. But although ‘curious’, the Queen’s House did not belong
with this tradition. The completed Queens House is thought to represent not a
transition in architectural style but a perfect embodiment of a change in
fashion, a move away from the medieval palace toward provision of an intimate,
secluded space; now considered to be one of the most remarkable domestic
buildings of its time in England.
The ideas and intention of Queen Anne and Henrietta Maria were of the greatest
importance in evolving the design of the Queens House, but the needs of Queen
Anne were different to those of Henrietta Maria for whom it was finished.
It was unfinished when Queen Anne died and this has led to conjecture as to the
intended purpose, but it is thought that a dual function was intended – a place
of reflection and retreat, and to serve a ceremonial role as an entertainment
Its intended purpose changed during the course of its long period of
construction and decoration and for Henrietta Maria’s it was a secret house
where she could retire comfortably for extended periods.
Paradoxically, while the new grander route into the building via a stepped
terrace is in keeping with Anne’s intended desire to combine public and private
uses in her house, it is not so appropriate for Henrietta to use it as a private