Nonsuch Palace site | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Nonsuch Palace site

Luke Tomes

09 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Nonsuch Palace site

Nonsuch Palace was one of Henry VIII’s largest building projects. It stood for nearly 150 years, from 1538-1682/83. The remains of the site consists of 700 acres of green open space in what is now Nonsuch Park, near Cheam on the boundaries of the borough of Epsom and Ewell in Surrey.

History of Nonsuch Palace

Nonsuch Palace was commissioned in April 1538 by Henry VIII to celebrate the birth of his son, Edward VI (securing his family’s succession) and the advent of his 30 years as King. A symbol of power, he also wanted to outshine his rival, King Francois I of France, and his palace ‘Château de Chambord’.

Although originally conceived as a royal hunting lodge, ultimately a completely new royal palace was built – on the site of a village called Cuddington, which was completely levelled to make way for Henry’s new vision to create a palace with no equal, hence its name “None Such”.

The palace was designed by the same people (Christopher Dickenson and William Clement) that had built Hampton Court Palace, and was incredibly expensive – financed from the money claimed from the dissolution of the monasteries.

It’s said that Henry VIII only visited Nonsuch three times (the work was still incomplete by the time of his death in 1547). Edward showed little interest in the palace, and in 1556, Queen Mary I sold it to Henry FitzAlan, the 19th Earl of Arundel.

Elizabeth I was a frequent visitor to Nonsuch, and in 1585, Nonsuch Palace hosted the Treaty of Nonsuch, signed by Elizabeth and the Dutch rebels fighting against Spanish rule. King Philip II of Spain viewed this treaty as a declaration of war, and three years later, he launched the Spanish Armada.

After Charles II gifted the palace to his mistress, Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine, but from around 1680 onwards she completely dismantled it to pay off her gambling debts.

In 1959, the site was excavated by a team of archaeologists led by Professor Martin Biddle. Digging was mostly carried out by university students and primary school from the local area. The team discovered a countless number of artefacts that gave insight into the lives of those who had been and lived at Nonsuch Palace centuries prior.

Nonsuch Palace Site today

Although some elements were used in other buildings (such as nearby Loseley Park), today no physical traces above ground of the palace, gardens or parks remain. Be careful not to confuse Nonsuch Palace with Nonsuch Mansion, at the east of the park, nor its associated banqueting hall ruin whose foundations are still visible to the south east of the palace site.

An extremely popular location for locals to exercise or take their pets on a walk, the magnificent history of the Tudor palace which once stood there is all too often forgotten.

Getting to Nonsuch Palace Site

The Nonsuch Palace site is surround by the stations of Stoneleigh, Cheam, Ewell West and Ewell East. If arriving by car, the nearest road is the A24 / London Road, and there are 4 car-parks available throughout the park. There are two main entrances to the park, either from Cheam town centre or from London Road on the south west side of the park.