An illustration of Queen's House in Greenwich, an example of the first Palladian architecture in London Click the image to enlarge

...arguably the most important building in the entire canon of British architectural history.

— Jane Sidell of Historic England

Learn more about Queen's House below...

History

The Queen's House was one of the earliest if not the first building in Britain to be built in a purely classical style; it was also Inigo Jones' first commission after returning from his travels around Italy. The building was initially for Queen Anne of Denmark, James I's wife, and was to act as both a summer house and a link house to the original Palace of Placentia (Greenwich Palace). However, only three years after construction began, Queen Anne died and work was halted for 10 years until 1929 when Charles I gave the house to his queen, Henrietta Maria, and the building was finally finished in 1635.

The use of the house was short-lived though as the English Civil War started in 1642 and much of the building's interior was stripped. Charles II did try to restore the house, but in the later years of his reign he'd lost interest and concentrated more on his palace at Winchester. From the end of the 17th century to the 19th century, the house was hardly used, although restoration work and additions had been made.

During the 19th century, the house was divided into five residences for the officers of the Royal Hospital School before it became part of the National Maritime Museum in the 1930s. More recently, the Queen's House was closed for refurbishment and reopened in October 2016, as a gallery to display large marine and portrait paintings from the 17th to 20th centuries.

Did you know?

The Queen's House and its unobstructed view of the Thames is a Scheduled Monument. When Christopher Wren was commissioned to design the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC), Queen Mary II requested that the House could still be seen from the Thames and vice versa; Wren's final designs encompassed the Queen's House by placing two grand 'courts' on either side to frame the building.

The architecture

Built of brick and faced with Portland stone, the Queen's House consists of two storeys with the north and south façades being 35m in length and the east and west façades being half a metre longer. The north façade, which is the most recognisable and faces the river, has three sections: a middle section which slightly protrudes out with three window bays and a terrace with curving steps, and two sections on either side each with two window bays. The south façade also has three sections, however, an Ionic loggia of five bays spans the middle section of the second storey. The east and west façades are connected to the additional wings of the house via long colonnades.

In terms of architectural decoration, the first storey is rusticated — where the edges of the masonry blocks are cut at angle to make them appear more prominent and give a textured look; each window bay consists of a sash window with voussoirs above; an Ionic entablature runs round the top of the second storey and a balustraded parapet sits around the top of the building.

As you enter the Queen's House, you immediately stand in the Great Hall which is cube-shaped and measures a little over 12m in height, length, and width — proportions inspired by Palladio's works and that can often be seen throughout Inigo Jones' designs. Another Palladio-inspired feature is The Tulip Stairs, a continous balustrade of wrought iron with leaves and tulip flowers and is the first unsupported helical stairs to be built in England.

See images of Queen's House