Nostalgia: Havering Palace - Going, Going, Gone

10:09 06 June 2013

Havering-atte-Bower (photo: Essex Hundred Books)

Havering-atte-Bower (photo: Essex Hundred Books)


On September 23, 1828, the dilapidated remains of the Royal Manor at Havering-atte-Bower were sold at public auction.

The successful bidder was Hugh McIntosh, who had made his fortune from excavating the East India and London Docks. After more than 800 years, from the time of Edward the Confessor before the Norman Conquest, the special connection between Havering-atte-Bower and the Crown was severed.

Havering-atte-Bower was once the site of one of the most prestigious and luxurious royal residences in England. Situated 350 feet above sea level, the palace had at least 26 rooms, a chapel, extensive kitchens, a gatehouse and a large inner court yard.

It was originally sited beside the Village Green and surrounded by 1,300 acres of parkland and forest within the former Royal Liberty of Havering - which also included the parishes of Romford and Hornchurch. The palace had commanding views west towards London and south towards the River Thames and Kent.

The first royal connection comes from a legend that records the returning of a ring in Havering to Edward the Confessor after he supposedly gave it to St John the Evangelist, disguised as a beggar or a pilgrim.

Following the defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hasting in 1066 the manor passed to William the Conqueror. Thereafter for 600 years royalty were regular visitors to Havering.

King Edward III made over 30 visits and frequently stayed for weeks at a time. Henry VIII took a particular liking to the area. He held court there and considered the hunting excellent.

Queen Elizabeth I carried on the Tudor tradition of coming to Havering. The palace was usually her first or second stop on her “Progressions” into the Eastern counties.

At the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588, preparations were made for the royal palace to serve as a strategic command post should enemy forces land in Eastern England.

Charles I was the last monarch to stay at Havering and following his execution the palace began to deteriorate. Oliver Cromwell’s austere regime had little love for vast royal residences. In Cromwell’s view there were too many royal palaces which cost a fortune to upkeep.

By 1650 Havering Palace was described in a survey as “a confused heap of ruinous decayed old buildings”. Two years later the park was sold off in two lots.

Much of the best woodland was cut down to provide timber for building ships for the navy.

Although the monarchy had been restored under Charles II, the monarch never again returned to reside in Havering. Over the next 100 years parcels of land from the former royal estate were leased or sold off. The palace buildings were continually vandalised and salvageable material was removed for use elsewhere. New stately houses sprang up on the former royal lands.

In 1938 Essex County Council bought a large area of the once royal estate and the three public parks: Havering Country Park, Bedfords Park and Pyrgo Park.

They are all that remain of the former hunting grounds enjoyed by monarchs throughout the ages.

Extracted from London’s Metropolitan Essex – Going, Going, Gone by Andrew Summers and John Debenham.

(c) Essex Hundred Publications


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