Queen's House refurbishment
In 2016, we will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Queen’s House. As part of our preparations, the house will be closed to visitors from 27 July 2015 and will reopen, transformed, on 4 July 2016. Come back and discover the extraordinary people and events that are key to understanding this iconic building's creation, its history and its significance today. Find out more about the refurbishment project.
The whole of the Queen's House is of major architectural importance. England’s first Classical building, finished in 1638, it was designed by Inigo Jones, following study in Italy of Roman and Renaissance architecture. Of its original splendour all that now survives is the 'grotesque’-style painted ceiling of the Queen’s Presence Chamber, the ironwork of the famous Tulip Stairs, the painted woodwork of the Great Hall and its finely-laid marble floor.
The Great Hall
The first room that visitors would have come into was the visually-stunning Great Hall, a huge perfect cube (40 x 40 ft) that rises through the centre of the House’s north side. The design of the whole House and the Great Hall in particular reflects Renaissance ideals of mathematical, classical proportion and harmony. Probably the most striking feature of the Great Hall is the geometrically-patterned black-and-white marble floor, laid in 1635. The wooden balcony running around the Great Hall at first floor level was sometimes used by musicians.
Under the patronage of Charles I, the arts in Britain flourished. The Italian painter Orazio Gentileschi was commissioned to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall. This series of nine paintings, Allegory of Peace and the Arts under the English Crown, shows the female figure of Peace surrounded by 23 other women holding objects alluding to subjects that include astronomy, victory, reason, music and arithmetic. Removed in the early 18th century, the paintings (somewhat altered) now fill the hall ceiling of Marlborough House, London.
The 'grotesque'-style painted ceiling in the Queen's Bedchamber (floor two of the House) remains and has recently been restored.
The magnificent Great Hall and other rooms in the Queen's House can be booked for a variety of corporate or private events including weddings. Find out more about venue hire.
The Tulip Stairs
The elegant Tulip Stairs in the Queen's House are the first geometric self-supporting spiral stair in Britain. Although called the 'tulip' stairs, it is thought that the stylized flowers in the wrought-iron balustrade are actually fleurs-de-lis, as this was the emblem of the Bourbon family of which Queen Henrietta Maria (wife of Charles I) was a member.
The Queen's House ghost
The Tulip Stairs are also the location of the Rev R. W. Hardy's famous 'ghost' photograph taken on 19 June 1966, which when developed revealed what appear to be two or three shrouded figures on the staircase. Find out more about the Queen’s House ghost.