Greenwich Park is no ordinary park, it takes you on a journey through parts of our royal and scientific past that no other park can equal, this is a quick guide for those who have not been fortunate enough to visit this magnificent location.
With its magnificent views from the top of the park you can see the City of London, the Docklands and of course the River Thames and is the setting for several historic buildings, including the Old Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House.
Henry VIII introduced deer to the park and in the early 1600’s when the park was laid out in the French style, many trees were planted, some of which remain today. After James I gave the palace and the park to his wife, Queen Anne, she commissioned Inigo Jones to design a special home which became known as the Queen’s House.
Charles II’s whose great interest in science resulted in the founding of The Royal Society in 1661. This led to the building of The Royal Observatory by Sir Christopher Wren, calling it Flamsteed House after the first Royal Astronomer John Flamsteed. This is now part of the National Maritime Museum.
During World War II, there were anti-aircraft guns in the Flower Garden and the tips of some of the trees were cut off to widen the field of fire. Evidence of this can still be seen in the truncated shape of some of the trees. After the war, the park was restored to its former glory.
There has been a settlement on this site since Roman times, but Greenwich has always been strongly associated with royalty. Since the land was inherited in 1427 by the Duke of Gloucester, brother of Henry V, generations of monarchs have taken this magnificent park to their hearts.
Greenwich Park is not flat like most of the other Royal Parks and has been used to provide a wide range of landscapes to provide a setting for numerous and diverse uses from an observatory to a deer park. In the northern part of the park closest to Greenwich Town Centre you can see the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House which faces towards the Old Naval College to the north.
The Rose Garden which is located on the eastern side of the park and forms the backdrop to the Ranger’s House. This is an elegant Georgian villa which was originally the residence of the Park Ranger. It now belongs to English Heritage and houses the Wernher Collection, which is a collection of works of art amassed by diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912).
The Rose Garden was originally planted in 1960-61 and was enlarged and replanted in 1993-4 at which time it was enclosed on a yew hedge. The beds are laid out in a semi-circular design and planted with predominantly hybrid tea and floribunda roses, the rose garden peaks in flowering during June and July.
Another garden well worth visiting is the Flower Garden which was laid out in the late 1890’s. As one of the horticultural show pieces of Greenwich Park the Flower Garden has magnificent Cedar trees and Tulip trees set in fine lawns with seasonal beds of spring and summer flowers that are the classic Edwardian Garden. The Flower Garden is situated close to the lake and deer park.
The Herb Garden is located close to the St. Mary’s gate entrance to the park and beside St. Mary’s Lodge, it has an ornate pattern of box hedges that surrounds a central fountain, these are planted up with a wide variety of culinary herbs, this quiet corner of Greenwich Park offers an escape for park visitors.
The Queen’s Orchard is an enclosed area of approximately 0.3 hectares where fruit and vegetables are grown. It is located in the north-eastern corner of Greenwich Park. The Queen’s Orchard has a variety of heritage fruit trees that dates back to the 1500’s. The Queen’s Orchard has two ponds, a formal pond at the centre of the vegetable area and an informal pond by the fruit tree meadow.
The Queen’s Orchard has been part of Greenwich Park since the 17th century. It has been restored to its former glory with help from local volunteers and members of Greenwich Park Friends Group, in 2011 a variety of fruit trees were planted, with the earliest dating back to the 1500’s, pathways and planting beds were restored using timber and brick and two ponds were installed, a formal pond at the centre of the vegetable area and an informal pond by the fruit tree meadow. The Orchard’s name was found on records dating back to 1693 and has been incorporated into the new decorative gate.
The Queen’s Orchard now hosts ‘Meet the Expert Days’, where past and present Royal Parks staff are on hand to draw on their wealth of experience to help you with any allotment related questions and queries you may have.