Duke Humphrey’s Tower
“We have some nice pictures of the Palace of Placentia, but do we know what Duke Humphrey’s Tower looked like?”
The Phantom replies:
Yes. The most famous picture is the one above, part of a drawing by Antony Van Wyngaerde in 1558 or the whole palace at Greenwich. Duke Humphrey’s Tower is on the hill at the back.
For anyone who doesn’t know the story of the tower that was there before the Royal Observatory, here’s the first part of something I wrote about it a good six years ago, with the background to the story. I thought I wrote the second part but I can’t find my way around my own archives and the bit where it gets gussied up as a girlie boudoir by Margaret of Anjou, used as a posh prison in Tudor times, for masques in the Jacobean era, target practice in the Civil War and finally as builders’ rubble in Charles’s day seems to be missing – someday maybe I’ll go back to it.
But back to the pictures. There are plenty that have it in the background:
but I only know of one that actually has the tower as the subject, by the delightfully-named Wenceslaus Holler, and even that’s probably part of a bigger picture (if it is I’ve never seen the whole):
Of course Holler was etching in the 17th century so it’s clearly less of the defensive tower Humph would have built and more of a residential palace by the time he was around.
There is a possiblity of another picture of it, which I’m very excited about. A few years ago a ‘lost’ 17th Century panorama of Greenwich was rediscovered in the library of Duke/Lord/ Can’t remember. It’s currently being made into a book with the original drawings juxtaposed with the equivalent modern scene by Peter Kent, with the history stuff by Neil Rhind and Julian Watson. It’s taking bloomin’ ages and I’m twisting myself into agonies waiting for it but it should be out soon. It’s of the Thames – but surely the artist wouldn’t have left out Duke Humphreys’ gaff on the hill?
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