“Well I remember as a boy my first acquaintance with a room hung with faded greenery at Queen Elizabeth’s Lodge… and the impression of romance that it had upon me!… yes, that was more than upholstery, believe me.”
William Morris, ‘The Lesser Arts of Life’, 1882
On the surface, Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge on the outskirts of Epping Forest is plainer and smaller than its larger Tudor palace cousins dotted along the Thames. It’s certainly smaller, but look closer and you’ll find subtle details that mark it out as a unique Tudor monument.
Commissioned by Henry VIII, the Hunting Lodge was built in 1543. Typically of Henry, it was built to be grander than anything that had come before: it was known as the ‘Great Standing’, owing to the fact that it was the only three-floor standing in England. But there’s no evidence that Great Harry ever visited: possibly because his health was deteriorating rapidly by this time.
After the king died, the building passed through the royal family. Queen Elizabeth is said to have ridden her horse up the stairs to celebrate after the Spanish Armada victory. While there’s no evidence that Elizabeth ever visited either, we do know that the temporary access to the lodge was used as a gift to nobles and visiting foreign dignitaries.
Windows were likely added in the 17th century when the lodge was used for the Manor Court. This use continued until 1851, and the building was turned into a natural history museum before being taken over by the City of London (who own Epping Forest) in the 1960s.
It’s refreshing to go to a historic building that has just been left as it is – no fancy exhibits have been shoved in corners to fill the room and each area stands as steadfastly unapologetic as the woman (and her family) for whom the building is named. The atmosphere and essence of this simple place (that was, after all, only used as a temporary residence) have been kept intact.
Experience the atmosphere of a Tudor kitchen downstairs (complete with an Elizabethan fireplace) in the servants’ quarters, before making your way up the stairs (built purposefully shallow so that the Tudor nobility could climb up in a dignified fashion) to the rooms where the upper classes would have watched the hunt.
Notice how the doors to each room are higher than the ones downstairs to indicate the raised status of those using them. As you peer out of the first-floor windows to the forest below, look out for the symbols etched into the woodwork to ward off evil. The fireplace on the first floor is Tudor, as indicated by the roses on either side.
When you reach the second floor, look up to see the beams shaped like antlers – these are purely decorative to indicate the purpose of the building.
Opening hours: 10am-5pm daily (including bank holidays)
Nearest station: Chingford
More information: Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge page on the City of London website.