Site Analysis Part 1: Land Use

To inform the placement of the folly I collected some information about the historical and modern land use of the Greenwich Park site.

1st Century AD
The earliest known man made structure on the site is the remains of a Romano-Celtic temple, which would have been in use until the 4th century. There was also a Roman road, Watling Street (London to Dover), which ran through the site. The temple may have been part of a military post by the road.

500s AD
Anglo-saxon burial mounds are present on the site dating from this period.

Roman ruins site, burial mounds, Watling Street

871 – 1414 AD
King Alfred inherited Greenwich. His daughter later presented it to the Abbey of St Peter at Ghent in 918. In 1414 the land reverted back to King Henry V.

The park was enclosed with a fence, making it the first enclosed royal park. At the time it contained 200 acres of scrub land, pasture, wood, heath and gorze. During the Medieval period, some of the park had been used as pastures for sheep, cattle and pigs. The enclosed park became a royal retreat for the Tudors.

Henry VIII introduced deer to the park for royal hunts.

The Queen’s House was commissioned. It originally bridged the road from Deptford to Woolwich, to allow the royals to get to the park without interacting with the public.

The park, previously a Renaissance style garden, was landscaped into formal gardens in a semi-Baroque style by Charles II, with a grass parterre designed by Andre Le Notre and a network of avenues. There was also a flight of giant steps leading up Observatory Hill, continuing the axis of the masterplan.

A hint of the giant steps in the hill can still be seen in certain conditions.

Royal Observatory commissioned.

The park began to be opened to the public for certain events like fairs, and an event where the public would gather to ‘tumble’ down the Giant Steps and hill. By this time the formal garden and avenues had become unpopular, and instead Serpentine spaces were in fashion.


The park was permanently opened for public use. From the Serpentine style spaces a more Gardenesque style arose. The green space was preserved as a refuge during the Industrial Revolution.

Landscape typologies

The Meridian was established. It was adopted after an international conference in 1884.

Mid 1900s
The view of London from the park made it a perfect strategic location to accommodate anti-aircraft stations during World War II, used to attack planes attempting to follow the Thames into London.

The park is used for recreation, and contributes significantly to Greenwich’s tourism industry.

While there has been some military and agricultural use of the park site, for the large majority of its history it has been used for recreational purposes, whether royal or public. This sets a good precedent for placing follies on the site, which would add to the tourism industry in Greenwich and be somewhat reminiscent of the large public fairs of the 1700s.




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