Many years ago on the North Bank of the Thames opposite the place that is now occupied by Tate Modern there once stood a Norman structure named Baynard’s Castle. It was named after Ralph Baynard who came to England in the company of William the Conqueror. In 1213 the castle was demolished by King John, it was rebuilt but around about 1276 was demolished again in order to make room for the extension of The Blackfriars Monastery. A fortified mansion was built on reclaimed land southeast of the first castle and is first referenced in 1338 as ‘Chastle Baynard’ the tower on the Thames but after a serious fire in 1428 raised it to the ground it was rebuilt again.
The new owner of the castle and land was Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, the youngest child of Henry IV and brother of Henry V. When Henry V died in 1447 it was passed to Henry VI who in turn granted it to Richard Duke of York. This important building soon became the London HQ of ‘The House of York’ and was pivotal in the ‘Wars of the Roses’, indeed in 1452 Richard was placed here under house arrest after being disarmed and swearing allegiance to the King. It was at this point it was historically named Baynard’s castle after its original predecessor.
In 1483 it is mentioned as the place that Richard Duke of Gloucester was presented with a petition for him to become King. According to Shakespeare it was Buckingham who proclaimed him King with the words ‘I salute you with this royal title; Long live King Richard, England’s worthy King’.
After the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 it was passed to Henry VII who then transformed it into a royal palace. It was gifted to Catherine of Aragon on the eve of her wedding to Henry VIII. Sadly it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London although some parts still remained up till the 19th century.
In 1972 the site was excavated before a new dual carriageway was built. When the archaeologists left, works continued and it is now, sadly, completely covered from view.