Woking Palace

This was not only a palace but also in effect the manor house of the old Royal Manor of Woking which had more or less similar boundaries to the ancient parish of St Peters, Woking. The Palace stood in a park the boundaries of which were roughly the present day Old Woking Road, Pyrford Common Road, Church Hill and Newark Lane with the River Wey as its southern boundary.

Woking Palace, as it stands today Image: Richard Purkiss

Woking Palace, as it stands today
Image: Richard Purkiss

Under the ownership of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, various building works turned the Manor into a Palace. The Palace was frequently visited by Henry VII on his accession to the throne and by his son Henry VIII who extended and enlarged the Palace between 1515 and 1543. Further work was carried out between 1565 and 1594 during Elizabeth Is reign. In 1620 the Palace was granted by James I to Sir Edward Zouch who abandoned it and built himself a new manor house at Hoe Place. There is some evidence that materials from the Palace were reused in the construction of the new house. It is possible too, that some of the fine glass at Sutton Place was taken from the Palace and the Jacobean style staircase at Fishers Farm may well have originated from the same source.

Detail of the remaining walls of the palace Image: Richard Purkiss

Detail of the remaining walls of the palace
Image: Richard Purkiss

When the Palace was abandoned in the 1620s, the Park was turned over to farming. This new phase probably gave rise to the building of farmhouses in the Park or the conversion of existing buildings to such use. The Old House and Woking Park Farm both shown in the margin were probably two of those farmhouses. Archaeologically, little trace remains of this history. A small building measuring 30ft by 18ft with one window and two doors has been recorded, as has a run down barn. A shallow depression is all that remains of what was referred to by the Victoria County History as a double moat. It is suggested that two “stagnant ponds” in Oldhall Copse, at the north-west of the moated enclosure may be the fishponds of the palace.

The site is now a scheduled monument.

A three-year programme of excavations started at Woking Palace in 2009. Read more about the digs and see the video blogs that record the dig’s activities during the summers of 2010 and 2011.

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