Tudor beams in Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge
The history of the Forest has not just left its mark on the natural landscape but in the form of buildings and monuments too.
There are seven listed buildings in Epping Forest: Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, The Temple and The Grotto (both in Wanstead Park), Warren House, Butler's Retreat, the Ordnance Survey obelisk at Pole Hill and a milestone at Gregson's Ride, Loughton.
Find out more about some of these fascinating structures below. Why not visit the Forest to discover them for yourselves?
Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge
King Henry VIII commissioned the Hunting Lodge in 1542 and it was completed the following year. It is not known if Henry VIII ever visited the lodge himself, as by the time it was completed he was already 51 and not in the best shape.
It was originally called the Great Standynge (or Great Standing) – as it was the only standing in England to have three floors - and served as a platform from which spectators could view the hunt.
There is a legend that Queen Elizabeth I once rode her white horse up the staircase to celebrate the victory over the Spanish Armada, but there is no evidence that the Virgin Queen ever visited the hunting lodge in person either. Why not pay a visit and decide for yourself if you can imagine a horse getting up the staircase?
It is more likely that nobles and visiting foreign dignitaries were granted a day's hunting here as a Royal gift. The building was designed to provide a platform for entertainment and feasting.
The lodge would have looked very different in Tudor times. There were no windows; instead the upper storeys would have been open to the elements. On a hunt day, the lodge would have been draped with colourful flags and banners to demonstrate the status and wealth of its owner and there are remnants of brightly coloured paints on some of the walls.
It is unlikely that the lodge has been used for hunting since the Tudor times. From 1608, the Manor Court was held on the top floor, so the walls must have been filled in and windows added by then.
From the early 1800s, a Forest Keeper lived on the lower floors. After the last Manor Court in 1851, the top floor was used by the Keeper's wife as a tearoom, popular with Cockney day-trippers.
In 1895, the Essex Field Club opened a natural history museum in the hunting lodge and the City of London took over the management in 1960.
In 1989, a complete structural and archaeological survey was carried out and the building was closed until 1993 to repair the damage done during the Victorian restoration. False black beams and a hard plaster infill were removed and replaced by the limewash exterior, a more traditional method which also helped to protect the building from the weather.
Now visitors can enjoy the hunting lodge and find out more about Tudor history in the exhibitions inside, or recreate the view from the upper floors from the more accessible platform at The View next door. Watch our video about the Hunting Lodge to find out more.
The Grotto, Wanstead Park
The Grotto, Wanstead Park
The grotto was built in the 1760s as a garden feature in Wanstead Park, following romantic trends for wilder gardens.
Grottoes were usually purely decorative. The floor of the main chamber was made of coloured pebbles laid out in patterns and the roof and walls were covered with stalactites, sea-shells and coral.
However, this particular grotto did have a purpose: directly below the main room was a boathouse, which opened onto the water.
The grotto escaped destruction in 1824 when Wanstead House was demolished, but two years after the park was opened to the public in 1882, it was destroyed by an accidental fire.
The Temple, Wanstead Park
Situated in the grounds of Wanstead Park, The Temple was designed in the eighteenth century as a feature for the formal gardens surrounding Wanstead House, complete with a classic portico.
The building escaped the destruction in 1824 as it served as accommodation for the Estate's Steward.
Today, it is used as a southern base for the Forest Keepers and is open to the public as one of our Forest Centres at weekends.
Copped Hall stands in Copped Hall Park in Epping Forest's buffer lands. The landscape around the building can be traced back to the early medieval period. Fine parkland trees, small woodlands and hedges dot the landscape. The Estate itself is registered as a Grade II* historic landscape on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
The ruined mansion of Copped Hall is the third building on the site. The first was built in the twelfth century and was located around 300 yards north west of the current building. In 1350, the house and estate passed to the Abbot of Waltham and were used as a summer residence. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, the house was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Heneage in 1564.
Royal visitors, including Elizabeth I, and their entourages came to hunt across the estate. It is claimed that the first performance of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' was performed at Copped Hall in 1594.
The present house was built in 1750s by Edward Convers. In the early twentieth century, the house was one of the grandest in Essex and featured in an edition of Country Life magazine. However, a fire in 1917 destroyed much of the building and the estate was sold in 1952. All remaining valuable items, including the grand staircase, were lost and the conservatory was demolished.
In 1995, the Copped Hall Trust, a charitable building preservation trust, purchased the freehold and the house is now being actively restored for educational and community uses.
More information on visiting the house and walled garden is available from the Copped Hall Trust website.
Visitors can also walk round Copped Hall Park on the permissive footpaths and get a sense for the landscape and house as it used to be.
Butler's Retreat today
Butler's Retreat is one of the last remaining Victorian Retreats in Epping Forest. The retreats originally served non-alcoholic refreshments as part of the Temperance movement.
Originally a barn, the mid-nineteenth century building was converted into a tearoom and renamed Butler’s Retreat after the occupier, John Butler.
The building has been lovingly restored to its former glory thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Today, it still serves as a cafe providing refreshments for visitors to the Forest.
Warren House incorporates the frame of a Tudor hunt standing. 'The Little Standing', as it was known, was smaller than the surviving Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge. The beams of the original structure can still be seen from within the house today.
The façade and gardens were remodelled by Humphry Repton, who also designed the landscapes at Higham's Park and Wanstead Park.
In the eighteenth century, the building became a public house called 'The Reindeer Inn' and renowned for serving rabbit pies. Later, the land around the site was used as a warren for the breeding of rabbits.
In the early nineteenth century, the General Grosvenor (a friend of the Duke of Wellington) took up residence. It was also during this period that the obelisk in the grounds was bought from Wanstead Park at the 1822 auction.
Finally, Warren House was bought by the City of London in 1876 for the Superintendents of Epping Forest to live in.
The Obelisk at Pole Hill
Pole Hill Obelisk was built in 1824 by order of the Astronomer Royal, John Pond, to mark the Greenwich Meridian and act as a sighting point for the Transit Telescope at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Only 26 years later, the Meridian was recalculated and now lies about 6m to the east, its new position marked by a second smaller marker.