Nonsuch Palace

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A contemporary woodcut of Nonsuch Palace.

Nonsuch Palace was a Tudor royal palace that was built by Henry VIII in Surrey, on the location of Cuddington, near Epsom (the church and village of Cuddington were destroyed to create the plot for the palace). The palace was broken up in the late 17th century, and parts were incorporated into other buildings. No trace of the palace remains on its site, but some pieces are held by the British Museum.

Nonsuch Palace was arguably the greatest of Henry VIII's building projects. Building work began on 22 April 1538, at the start of Henry's 30th year of reign and only six months after the birth of his son, later Edward VI. The palace was designed to be a celebration of the power and the grandeur of the Tudor dynasty, built to rival Francis I's Chambord. Unlike most of Henry's palaces, Nonsuch was not an adaptation of an old building; he choose to build a new palace in this location because it was near to one of his main hunting grounds. The palace took nine years to build and cost at least 24,000 (a king's ransom at the time) due to its rich ornamentation. It was a key work in the introduction of elements of renaissance design to England.

Only about three contemporary images of the palace survive, and they do not reveal very much about either the layout or the details of the building. The site was excavated in 1959-60. This was a key event in the history of archaeology in the UK. It was one of the first post-Medieval sites to be excavated, and attracted over 60,000 visitors during the work. The plan of the palace was quite simple with inner and outer courtyards, each with a fortified gatehouse. To the north, it was fortified in a medieval style, but the southern face had ornate Renaissance decoration, with tall octagonal towers at each end. The exterior and outer courtyard were quite plain, but the inner courtyard was decorated with breathtaking stucco panels moulded in high relief.

The palace was incomplete when Henry VIII died in 1547. In 1556 Queen Mary I sold it to the 12th Earl of Arundel. It returned to royal hands in the 1590s, and remained royal property until 1670, when Charles II gave it to his mistress, Barbara Castlemaine. She had it demolished from 1682 onwards.

The palace lay to the west side of Nonsuch Park and should not be confused with Nonsuch Mansion, which is at the east of the park.

See also

  • Nonsuch
  • The fictional city of Ankh-Morpork has a Nonesuch Street, likely named after this palace

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