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The first royal palace
Established early in the seventh century by Sigeberht the Little (King of Essex 617-53).  It was a barn-like building of wood: no indication of its location remains.

The second royal palace
The first Pyrgo was built around 946 about one and a half miles east of Havering village, originally as a hunting lodge.  Over the following 800 years or so it became the home of a great number of dowager queens of England and other royal persons. 
The third royal palace
Built by Edward the Confessor in 1060 (and where he died in January 1066).  It was used by many monarchs, notably John, Henry III, Henry VI, Elizabeth and James I, many of whom made significant additions to it.  The last sovereign to use it was Charles I on 15th November 1631, after which it fell into decay.  Plans of the ground and first floors were drawn up in 1534 by Lord Burghley.
Built mainly of Kentish ragstone it was quarried by neighbouring owners after it ceased being used and notably in 1729 by…

The fourth royal palace
Bower House was built for John Baynes, using stone from the Royal Palace, including an angel bust corbel stone bearing the arms of Edward III.  The only royal personage recorded as using Bower House was Mary, consort of George V.

The other building in Havering of special note is the Round House, built in 1792 in the shape of a massive tea caddy (complete with a nob ‘handle’ on the roof) for William Sheldon.  


Bower House

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The Round House

People in the Havering story


Joan, Princess of North Wales, an illegitimate daughter of King John, married Llewelyn the Great in 1206.   After her widowhood she retired to Pyrgo, where she had been largely brought up, until her death in 1237.

Isabella of France married Edward II in 1308.  In 1318 the royal couple gave feasts at Havering Palace to celebrate the birth of a princess.  By 1330 Edward III wanted his pushy mother out of the way and she spent many of her declining years at Pyrgo in ‘honourable confinement’, where she took the habit of Santa Clara, until her death in 1358.

Isabella of Valois, the second queen of Richard II (whom she married in 1396 when aged 7), was widowed at 10.  She was imprisoned at Pyrgo until being repatriated in 1406 and marrying Charles of Angoleme. She died in childbirth in 1409.


Joanna of Navarre, the queen of Henry IV, was accused of witchcraft and died, disgraced, at Pyrgo in 1437.  Her ghost was said to haunt the palace.


Elizabeth Widville (Woodville) married Sir John Grey, owner of Pyrgo, who was killed at the Battle of St Albans in 1461.  She then married Edward IV, whom she petitioned to restore her first husband’s forfeited land in Havering.

Elizabeth of York, queen of Henry VII, died at Pyrgo in 1503, attributed to grief on the death of her eldest son, Prince Arthur.


Richard Cox, Bishop of Ely 1559, and Anthony Cooke of Gidea Hall were tutors to Prince Edward (VI), the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey (daughter of the house) at Pyrgo between 1544 to 1550.

Edward VI’s mother, Jane Seymour, died 10 days after his birth and the baby was taken to the Royal Palace to be wet-nursed.  He spent most of his childhood there.  He was a finished Greek, Latin and French scholar, a lutenist and amateur astronomer.  He became king aged 10. He approved the Book of Common Prayer while in residence at Havering in 1552, but contracted tuberculosis and died the following year.

Elizabeth I, having been brought up largely in Havering, was a frequent visitor.  She is reputed to have stayed in the Royal Palace the night before she delivered the ‘I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman’ speech at Tilbury. 

Had the Armada reached the English Channel, the Royal Palace had been prepared as a major Command Post.


Dame Anne Tipping (nee Cooke) founded the School in 1724. It was rebuilt in 1837 and again in 1891.

Jane Seymour


Insight into the History of Havering-atte Bower

Extract from a talk by Ian Wilkes, Chairman, Havering Museum Ltd

Despite all the stories that abound concerning Edward the Confessor and the generous giving of a ring to a beggar, the word Havering comes from the Saxon for Goat’s Pasture and the word Bower refers to the palace in the village

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The first record of the village is from when Sigeburt the Good built a wooden palace in AD 600.    Many of the historical details from then on have been gleaned from The Yearly Record of Pyrgo Park by Montague Brown, published in 1888.   And, as Ian reminded us, Havering had two palaces, that at Pyrgo being for the Dowager Queens and more queens died here than anywhere else in Britain, though they may be buried in more exalted places.  Edward the Confessor built the palace that was situated at the back of the church and which survived until the 1600s.

Kings Edward III and John both spent much time in Havering-atte-Bower and one lady who died at Pyrgo was Joan, illegitimate daughter of King John.   Richard II married Isabella of Valois when she was just 7 years old, but Richard died three years later.   Isabella, who was regarded as a nuisance to the next king, was dispatched to Pyrgo where she lived until she was to return to France.   She married the knight (her cousin Charles, Duke of Orleans), who was sent to collect her but sadly died in childbirth at the age of 19.   What a sad but extraordinarily filled short life.


Lord John Grey bought Pyrgo from the Crown, but the royal connections continued.   One of the queens of Henry VIII was Jane Seymour.   She died, but the babe was sent to Pyrgo.   King Edward VI, who authorised the Book of Common Prayer before he died still only 16, the future queens Mary and Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey were schoolchildren at Pyrgo, amazingly all at the same time.   James I also stayed at Havering and produced another bible.

When the Spanish Armada threatened England in 1588, Elizabeth addressed the troops at Tilbury before they set sail.   She stayed in Havering Palace the night before.    But the last king to stay in the village was Charles I in 1631.  He had gone to meet his mother-in-law (who he did not like) to bring her to the palace but she found it so uninviting that she went instead to stay at Gidea Hall.   Charles may have been not unhappy as he returned to Havering for the night.

The other centres in the borough developed for a variety of reasons.  Durolitum (i.e. Romford) lay halfway between the Roman Castras at Mile End and Chelmsford and was founded in AD55.   It was probably at Haere Street (now signed as Main Road was Hare Street) in Gidea Park.   Hornchurch was a centre for leather tanning, Collier Row for charcoal production.   Charcoal was essential in the days of wood fires.   It would stay alight overnight, which was vital before the advent of matches.

Rainham’s fortunes were built on rhubarb. After the Roman legionnaires came to the end of their employment, they were allowed to set up home in their country of origin or the one in which they served before retirement.  Some lived at Rainham and brought rhubarb from Rome, rhubarb being very healthy to add to a meat and bread diet.   Of course the Romans left Britain eventually, but their rhubarb escaped and found a good habitat around the marshes.


One thousand years later it was known to be vital to health and the king wished to have it wherever in the country he might be. So the traders of Romford Market had to be persuaded to bring it to the king wherever he was.  

Travel in those times was expensive due to the steep tolls levied at many places, so the king had to grant them the ability to travel toll free, hence the Liberty of Havering – a tremendous asset and very special in the country, there being just four such.

Aerial reconnaissance of apparent underground circular foundations under the cricket pitch would possibly not be Roman in origin, but signs of an Iron Age fort.   Consequently, our history may be even older than we have realised.


The Havering Ring: A National Treasure

Like many 19th century finds in The British Museum’s collections, the only recorded circumstances of discovery is the phrase in the register ‘Found at Havering-atte-Bower, Essex’.

We can say more about the ring and the gem, gold and nicolo paste respectively and both dating to the fourth century, and much more about the subject matter of the intaglio: the finely-cut scene is of a famous and very ancient bit of pagan mythology – the hero Bellerophon riding the winged horse Pegasus and spearing the monster Chimaera (whose front part was a lion, back part a snake and middle a she-goat). 

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The spearhead is thrust into the lion’s mouth and, as is often the case, the she-goat’s head can just be made out rising from the monster’s back. The legend was well-known and the scene is common in classical art way back into early Greek imagery but as far as I am aware this is the only example of it on a gem from Roman Britain. It is even more interesting because the imagery was adapted by early Christians as a symbol of the triumph of Good over Evil and the scene is found in Christian contexts in several places in Britain – at the villas of Lullingstone and Frampton and, most famously, in the lesser panel of the ‘Christ’ mosaic from Hinton St Mary, Dorset. So, tantalisingly, the wearer of the Havering ring may have been a devout pagan or just as likely a devout Christian.

The ring was purchased from a NF Davey in 1869. It is a 4th Century ring, and is currently in the British Museum.



Havering-atte-Bower - Installed in 1860

Part of the railing finials, and some loose fragments of paint from other areas, were sent by Nigel Oxley, Historic Buildings Officer, of the London Borough of Havering,

The paint is very degraded, but the surviving fragments show a thick build-up of layers.