Nonsuch Palace at Old London Bridge in 1577 from a circa 1910 Churchman's Cigarettes card
Detail of the Palace from an early 17th century Flemish painting, today in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
House & Family History: During the last years of his life, Nonsuch was Henry VIII's favorite building project. The king's memories of the building erected in 1520 at Guisnes, France, for the Field of the Cloth of Gold prompted him to try to recreate that magical place more permanently at Nonsuch. The Palace was designed to be a celebration of the power and grandeur of the Tudor dynasty--physical evidence that England was a major player in European politics. It was also almost certainly built to rival Francis I's Château de Chambord. Henry could never forget his beating at the hands of the French king at a wrestling match held at the Field of the Cloth of Gold; Nonsuch would rise as his rival palace, one that he hoped would outshine Chambord. Work began in 1538, but was not complete when Henry died in 1547, though most of the Palace was habitable. Nonsuch was approximately 355 feet by 170 feet and contained two courtyards, with stone for the Palace brought from Merton Priory. The Palace cost at least £24,356 by the end of 1545 (approximately £138 million in 2012 values using the labour value commodity index) and is important in architectural history as one of the first buildings in England to show the influence of Italian Renaissance architecture. In 1556 the Palace was finished by the Earl of Arundel; the earl's son-in-law, Lord Lumley, sold Nonsuch to Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. The Palace was one of the favorite residences Elizabeth, but, after her death, it declined in favor as a royal residence; the Palace was demolished between 1682 and 1688. Some of the painted paneling and other fixtures were taken to nearby Loseley Park during the demolition. Virtually nothing remains today of the Palace, though excavations in 1959-60 recovered the complete plan and many details of the decoration. During the excavations carved fragments were found in the foundations, including a large 14th century boss, today in the Museum of London. The site of the Palace lies in today's Nonsuch Park; its remains are near Cherry Orchard Farm.
Collections: The Hall at Loseley Park contains a marble table on alabaster supports with the Tudor rose and the Scottish thistle that was made for Henry VIII and came from Nonsuch Palace. The paneling in the Great Hall at Loseley also came from Nonsuch.
Garden & Outbuildings: According to Pevsner's "The Buildings of England: Surrey," the name of the 911-acre Worcester Park comes from one of the two parks of Nonsuch Palace.
Title: Buildings of England: Surrey, The
Author: Nairn, Ian; Pevsner; Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (Reviser)
Year Published: 1971
Reference: pgs. 383-387, 539
Publisher: London: Penguin Books
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Treasure Houses of Britain, The - SOFTBACK
Author: Jackson-Stops, Gervase (Editor)
Year Published: 1985
Reference: pg. 409
Publisher: Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art (New Haven: Yale University Press)
Book Type: Softback
House Listed: Demolished
Park Listed: Not Listed
Past Seat of: King Henry VIII, 16th century. John Lumley, 4th Baron Lumley, 16th century. Henry FitzAlan, 12th or 19th Earl of Arundel, 16th century. Queen Elizabeth I, 16th-17th centuries.
Current Ownership Type: Demolished
Primary Current Ownership Use: Demolished
House Open to Public: No
Historic Houses Member: No