The remains of King Edward III's manor house in Rotherhithe

London is renowned for its iconic landmarks and grand palaces, but amidst the splendor lies lesser-known treasures. Rotherhithe Manor House, with its roots dating back to the 12th century, offers a glimpse into the fascinating history of the English monarchy. Built under the patronage of King Edward III in the 14th century, this architectural marvel stands testament to a period of building fervor and royal opulence.

The Origin of Rotherhithe Manor House

The history of Rotherhithe Manor House can be traced back to 1127 when Henry I granted a portion of the manor to the monks of Bermondsey Abbey. However, it wasn’t until the 14th century that King Edward III commissioned the construction of the present structure. Built around 1350, the manor house adorned an islet, surrounded by the tranquil beauty of Rotherhithe.

Description of the King’s Manor

Rotherhithe Manor House was a grand architectural feat of its time. Comprising several stone buildings arranged around a central courtyard, the palace exuded magnificence and splendor. The centerpiece was a majestic hall featuring an imposing fireplace—a place reserved for regal receptions and elaborate displays of power. The king’s private apartments catered to his family and closest retinue, while the kitchen bustled with activity, preparing sumptuous feasts for the monarch and esteemed guests.

The true purpose of Rotherhithe Manor House remains a subject of debate among historians. While it is unlikely that it served solely as a hunting lodge due to the absence of a royal park, some conjecture that it may have functioned as a falconry—a training and breeding ground for falcons used in hunting. However, the mystery surrounding its exact function only adds to the allure, captivating scholars and visitors alike.

Following the death of Edward III, Rotherhithe Manor House passed into the possession of the Cistercian Abbey of St Mary Graces at the Tower of London. In 1399, Bermondsey Abbey became the new owner, and over the centuries that followed, the house gradually lost its regal character through the sale to private individuals and the suppression of monasteries in the 16th century.

Transformation in the 17th Century

The 17th century marked a significant turning point for the Rotherhithe Manor House site. Once sold to private owners, the surrounding area witnessed the rise of the ceramics industry. Numerous potteries flourished, establishing Rotherhithe as a prominent center for pottery manufacturing. As time passed, warehouses were erected, altering the landscape and transforming the area’s character.

Current State of the Remains

While the original Rotherhithe Manor House no longer stands, traces of its former glory can still be found today. The remaining walls, constructed with rusticated stone blocks at the plinth level and lined stone for the superstructure, serve as tangible reminders of its illustrious past. The north, east, and west walls have withstood the test of time, reaching impressive heights of up to 3.9 meters. However, extensive burial over the years means that only archaeological excavations in the 1980s revealed and preserved these surviving remnants.

King Edward III Manor House, or Rotherhithe Manor House, is a captivating piece of London’s history that often goes unnoticed. From its origins in the 12th century to its royal commissioning in the 14th century, the manor house stands as a testament to the architectural grandeur of the time. While the purpose of the house remains a mystery, its intriguing past continues to captivate both historians and visitors. Although the original structure is lost, the surviving remains offer a glimpse into the bygone era.

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