King Henry VIII’s Mound is a possible round barrow, with subsequent reuse as a landscape feature documented from the C17 onwards. As of 2019, the site forms a viewing platform for the protected view of St Paul’s Cathedral from Richmond Park.
Reasons for Designation
King Henry VIII’s Mound, Richmond Park, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: a possible round barrow, later reused as a belvedere, which survives well as a substantial earthen mound;
* Rarity: round barrows are rare in Greater London;
* Period: this site has several documented phases of use, and is particularly representative of the mortuary practices of the Bronze Age, as well as post-medieval landscaping;
* Potential: the mound retains the potential to contribute to our understanding of the social organisation and burial practices of the country's Bronze Age population, as well as our understanding of post-medieval designed landscapes;
* Documentation: historic mapping and antiquarian finds and observations provide evidence for the interpretation of the monument.
Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. Some rare examples also occur in the Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods. They were constructed as earthen mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. Round barrows can vary in size from 5m to over 50m in diameter and 6m in height, and occur either in isolation or grouped together forming cemeteries, which typically consist of between five and 30 barrows in a variety of forms that have accumulated over many generations. Groups of barrows are sometimes found in association with other monuments that are also often assumed to have served ritual purposes, including avenues, cursuses, henges, mortuary enclosures and stone and timber circles. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are an estimated 30,000 surviving examples nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of Britain. Usually occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.
This example is found in Richmond Park, an area with a long tradition of hunting, which probably dates back to the C14 when the area was part of the Manor of Sheen. A royal palace was built here and became popular with Henry VII who named the estate Richmond after his earldom in Yorkshire. Both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I are known to have hunted here, but it was not until the reign of Charles I (1625-49) that the area was imparked and the New Park was created. Today the park is managed by the Royal Parks Agency and was designated as a Grade I Registered Park and Garden in 1987.
The name of the site is derived from a legend that King Henry VIII waited at this spot for a signal from the Tower of London, which would signify that his wife Anne Boleyn had been executed for treason. Although this story is believed to be untrue, the mound has a long history of use, with an ornamental function documented from the early C17. The mound is present on Elias Allen’s map of 1630, then known as ‘Kings Standinge’. Standings are platforms which provide a view of the hunt for those not involved, and this would appear to be an ideal location for such a structure. The 1720 Knyff and Kip perspective of Richmond Park shows a flat-topped conical mound. Rocque’s map of 1741-45 also shows the mound, with an avenue connecting it to Oliver’s Mound c600m to the east, another purported barrow which was destroyed by gravel digging in 1834. A ha-ha was constructed abutting the east side of the mound in 1792. The summit also had a summerhouse until the early C19. The discovery of a large quantity of ashes in the early C19 is also documented by Edward Jesse in 1835, although they were not necessarily of human origin. The Greater London HER records that three human skeletons were found about 3ft below the surface by labourers digging near the mound in 1834. The archaeologist Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford noted an associated ditch, and suggested that the mound may have been a motte.
In 1995, the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England carried out archaeological survey work in Richmond Park, which included King Henry VIII’s Mound. They concluded that there is little to confirm a prehistoric origin, aside from its scarp-edge location and the discovery of the ashes mentioned above. Nevertheless, although it is not currently possible to categorically confirm a prehistoric origin for King Henry VIII’s Mound, the form of the monument, its location and the associated documentation make this a strong possibility. The subsequent reuse adds further to the potential for enhancing our understanding of post-medieval standings and belvederes and their function within a designed landscape, as well as our understanding of Bronze Age mortuary practices. The summit now forms a viewing platform for the protected view of St Paul’s Cathedral. Two interpretation panels are present which suggest prehistoric origins for the mound. The site is in the north-west corner of the park, and the surrounding area is landscaped and managed as the gardens of Pembroke Lodge, which are open to the public.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: a possible round barrow, reused as a landscape feature from at least the C17, situated in a prominent location on the scarp-edge overlooking the Thames to the west. At c57m elevation this is also the highest point in Richmond Park.
DESCRIPTION: King Henry VIII’s mound is a roughly circular, flat-topped earthwork. Modern paths surround the mound on all sides, with a curved concrete and gravel path leading to the summit, accessed by a ramp to the south or a short flight of stairs to the west. This area now forms a viewing platform which also has modern landscaping and fencing. The mound is roughly 6m high from the path at the base on the south-west. From the east, the mound is approached from flat ground and would appear to be approximately 1.5m high, with the summit planted by trees on this side. The diameter of the summit is approximately 20m, but the full extent of the mound is not entirely clear owing to the alterations which have occurred over the centuries.
This mound may be associated with two further mounds, possibly long barrows, which are located 1.09km (Scheduled Monument) and 1.12km to the south and also situated along the same scarp edge.
EXCLUSIONS: the modern paths, stairs and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath all these is, however, included.