The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 5 Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park in Roman times

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The modern history of Greenwich Park may be said to begin in Duke Humphrey's time, but it was a favourite resort long before that. Situated on the high ground above the marshy banks of the river, and near the Watling Street between London and Dover, Greenwich was found suitable for country residence in Roman times. On one of the hills in the Park, with a commanding view over the river, the remains of a Roman villa have been excavated. Over 300 coins were found, dating from 35 B.C. to A.D. 423. Bronzes, pottery, a tesselated pavement, and the remains of painted plaster were discovered, showing that it must have been a villa of "taste and elegance," and there were indications that the final destruction of this charming abode was by fire. A peep into the past might reveal the last of its Roman occupants flying before the barbarian Jute. Doubtless in its prime there would be a garden near the villa-perhaps a faint imitation of those Roman gardens like Pliny's. There, "in front of the portico," was "a sort of terrace, embellished with various figures and bounded with a box-hedge," which descended "by an easy slope, adorned with the representation of divers animals in box," to a soft lawn. There were shady trees and a splashing fountain, and sunny walks to form "a very pleasing contrast," where the air was "perfumed with roses." The slopes of Greenwich may have presented such a scene in the days when Roman galleys rowed up the Thames. [It is now thought more probable that the remains are of a Roman temple, rather than a residential villa. TT]