When you think of infamous English monarchs who is the first to come to mind? Henry VIII?
Henry VIII is popularly known for marrying six times and executing two of his wives and his split from Rome. But those things shouldn’t be all that we remember of him. Henry VIII was actually considered one of the most prolific builders in the history of the English monarchy. I won’t argue or disagree that Edward I was THE most prolific builder. But today we’re focusing on Henry.
In this article we’ll provide a list of castles and palaces that Henry VIII built. Included are some some that he made significant additions to. As an example, Hampton Court Palace – it was Cardinal Wolsey’s property before him but Henry made substantial additions to it to make it suitable to house nearly 1,000 court members.
This list may be missing some — if you see something missing, please comment below and I will add them.
Below are the palaces or castles that Henry VIII built from the earth up — or that he built major additions to making them part of his Tudor legacy (in no particular order):
Pendennis Castle, located in Falmouth, Cornwall, England was built by King Henry VIII between 1539 and 1545 to guard and defend from the perceived French and Spanish threat. During the time that Pendennis Castle was being built Henry VIII married and divorced Anne of Cleves (1540), married and beheaded Katherine Howard (1540-1541) and married Catherine Parr (1543). He was a busy guy with building AND wives.
St. James Palace
St. James Palace was constructed between 1531 and 1536 and was secondary in Henry’s interest to Whitehall Palace. It was a smaller residence to help escape formal court life.
Mainly built with red-brick, the palace’s architecture is primarily in the Tudor style. The most recognizable feature is north gatehouse; It is decorated with the initials H.A. for Henry and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
St. James Palace was remodeled in 1544 (some time after Henry VIII married Catherine Parr) and the ceilings were painted by Hans Holbein; St. James was described as a “pleasant royal house.”
Henry’s son, Henry FitzRoy, died at St. James Palace as did his daughter Queen Mary I. It is said that his other daughter Queen Elizabeth I spent the night in St. James Palace while awaiting the Spanish Armada.
In 1538, Henry VIII acquired Oatlands and rebuilt it for Anne of Cleves. In 1540 he married his fifth wife, Katherine Howard there.
Oatlands Palace is where Queen Mary I retreated after her phantom pregnancy. It is when she moved from Hampton Court (which housed the nursery and nursery staff) that her subjects knew there would be no child.
Little remains of Oatlands Palace, near Weybridge in Surrey, where Henry VIII loved to go hunting.
The birth of Henry VIII’s legitimate son, Prince Edward, led directly to the destruction of the manor of Cuddington. To celebrate both the securing of the succession and the arrival of the 30th year of his reign, Henry decided to build a palace which would have no equal – hence the name, Nonsuch. None such palace would compare. It was said to be quite beautiful, and honestly like nothing England had seen before.
Building for Nonsuch began in 1538. It was the greatest of Henry VIII’s building enterprises – it took nine years to build and was completed at a cost of at least £24,000, a phenomenal amount for that time. Henry died before the palace was completed.
“In the 15th century, the Archbishops of York built as their London base a palace named York Place, which stood on the site of Inigo Jones’ Banqueting House. When Cardinal Wolsey became Archbishop of York in 1514, he extended the palace, which, like Hampton Court, another of Wolsey’s splendid residences, attracted the covetous eye of Henry VIII. In the late 1520’s his reputation failing and desperately trying to retain the King’s favour, Wolsey gave York Place to Henry. Renamed Whitehall Palace it became Henry VIII’s principal royal residence.” – Quoted from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain
Henry VIII further improved the building to his liking by adding a Privy Gallery, a bowling alley, a tilt yard, a cockpit and real tennis courts. Hans Holbein painted many of the ceilings as well.
As per the book, London, Volume 1 (Page 339, Edited by Charles Knight), Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII were married at Whitehall Palace on 25 January 1533.
Beaulieu Palace was the first palace Henry VIII built as King of England. In 1516, just a month before the birth of his daughter Mary, Henry ordered construction to begin.
Beaulieu Palace was a favorite for Queen Mary I – her father, Henry VIII granted Mary the palace in his will. Beaulieu Palace is also where Mary I declared (before the sacrament) that she would marry Philip.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace, from the beginning, was not built by Henry VIII – Henry received it from Wolsey in 1528. Once Henry owned Hampton Court Palace he began expanding to house his large court. He might as well have built it because the additions were major – Henry VIII spent £62,000 (approximately £18 million today) on Hampton Court in just ten years!
“Henry Vlll built the low-lying artillery fort of Deal Castle, in Kent, as one of a string of coastal fortifications built around England’s south coast in the later 1530s and early 1540s. Following his break with the Church of Rome, he feared invasion by the armies of a Franco-Spanish Catholic alliance brokered by the Pope.” – The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.360)
In 18 months, Henry built three forts – one at Sandown, one at Deal and one at Walmer to cover that part of the English coast. They were built using press-ganged labor and stone from local religious houses that were suppressed by Henry’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Notice how from above Deal Castle looks like the Tudor Rose. Henry VIII was in his late 40’s when he build these forts. Anne of Cleves is said to have stayed at Deal Castle after her long voyage from Europe on her way to London to meet her future husband.
Completed in 1539, Sandsfoot Castle, historically as Weymouth Castle was built by Henry VIII ‘to provide in conjunction with Portland Castle a defence for shipping in the safe anchorage of ‘Portland Roads’ (Portland Harbour)’. – http://www.sandsfootcastle.org.uk/
This castle had two storeys plus a basement. It was built to protect against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain, by Charles Phillips
Video: Time Team Special 40 (2009) – Henry VIII’s Lost Palaces
London, Volume 1 (Page 339, Edited by Charles Knight)