Greenwich Castle or Duke Humphrey's Tower

 View of Greenwich, Dutch School c.1630


Greenwich Castle was an ornate castle that dominated the park’s skyline from 1437 to 1675 before being replaced by the Royal Observatory.

When Humphrey Duke of Gloucester fenced in the park in 1437, he was given permission by Henry VI to build a castle ‘anew’ on the highest point. Humphrey called his castle ‘Mirefleur’, and it was initially a quite modest tower. However, by the time Henry VIII ascended the throne, it had become the perfect hunting lodge and was substantially enlarged with a gatehouse, new towers, and a moat. These improvements gave rise to it being called Greenwich Castle. 

Henry VIII, who lived in the palace at Greenwich, made good use of it and even kept a mistress there for several years. Henry Howard, who built the Trinity Hospital Alms House on the banks of the Thames, lived in the castle from 1605. He made many improvements to it and surrounded it with a garden. 

By 1642, the castle was being used as a military base by Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Soldiers continued to be stationed there during the Republic, and they spent much of their time preventing the poaching of deer and other park property.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Greenwich Castle had been used by the army for many years and rendered uninhabitable. Charles II was fond of Greenwich and quickly ordered extensive repairs and landscaping in the park, but the castle was viewed as little more than a romantic ruin. When Charles II abandoned his development of Greenwich Park, he chose the site of the castle for his new observatory. The castle was demolished in 1675, and in 1676 John Flamsteed, Astronomer Royal, moved into the Observatory.