Panoramic view of King Henry's Mound
King Henry's Mound, panorama towards Ham House © AndyScott CC BY-SA
King Henry's Mound, panorama towards Ham House © AndyScott CC BY-SA

Ancient Burial Mounds in London’s Richmond Park Protected

King Henry VIII’s Mound in Richmond Park, London has been protected as a scheduled monument, due to its national archaeological and historic importance, along with a second site in the Royal Park. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has given protection to the sites on London History Day, 31 May, on the advice of Historic England.

King Henry VIII’s Mound is likely to be a prehistoric round barrow, rare in Greater London. It later was reused as a landscape feature documented from the early 17th century onwards.

The name of the site comes from a legend that King Henry VIII waited at this spot on 19 May 1536 for a signal from the Tower of London, which would signify that his wife Anne Boleyn had been executed for treason and he would be able to marry Lady Jane Seymour. Although this story is now considered apocryphal, we do know the mound has had a long history; it was recorded as ‘Kings Standinge’ on a map of 1630. 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 area now known as Richmond Park has a long tradition of hunting, probably dating back to the 14th century. 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.

Today, the summit forms a viewing platform for the protected view of St Paul’s Cathedral from Richmond Park. Windsor Castle can be seen from the mound, and it looks over Whitehall. The park is managed by the Royal Parks Agency and was protected as a Grade I Registered Park and Garden in 1987.

The King Henry VIII mound has been an important part of the landscape of Richmond Park for centuries, and while part of its story may only be legend, it is fitting that we are protecting the site for future generations.

Nigel Huddleston, Heritage Minister

King Henry’s Mound is rare feature of London’s prehistoric landscape, and once overlooked trees and grassy plains where today the whole city lies before you from its summit. It illustrates both change and continuity, and has clearly been a special place for thousands of years. It clearly merits the protection being conferred on it today.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive Historic England

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 site has national archaeological and historic importance, enhanced by its reuse as a viewing platform. It has the potential to help our understanding of post-medieval standings and their function within a designed landscape, as well as our understanding of Bronze Age mortuary practices.

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. 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.

Second mound protected

Another feature, thought to be even older than King Henry VII’s Mound has also been protected as a scheduled monument. Located in the west of Richmond Park, approximately 60m west of Queens Road, is a possible long barrow which survives well as a substantial earth mound.

Long barrows are very rare in the Greater London area. They are a physical representation of the mortuary practices of the Neolithic period. Long barrows were constructed as earth or dry stone mounds with flanking ditches and acted as funerary monuments during the Early and Middle Neolithic periods (3800-2400 BC). They represent the burial places of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving visibly in the present landscape.

The naturalist Edward Jesse appears to mention this mound in 1835, stating that there are “two or three ancient British barrows” in this area. John Beighton, writing in 1887 also references a “steep mound, in which have been found ancient weapons of war”. Although it is not currently possible to categorically confirm a prehistoric origin for this mound, the form of the monument, its location and good level of survival strongly suggest it is a long barrow.

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