The above is the only illustration I can find that might be part of the original palace at Sheen. Or, it could be part of Richmond Palace.
Tracing details of the original royal palace at Sheen, on the banks of the Thames, is not an easy task, because its Tudor replacement, Richmond Palace, rather steals the limelight. Henry VII decided to rebuild and rename Sheen after his father’s title, Richmond. So illustrations of Sheen almost always turn out to be this replacement building, which was built upon the remains of Sheen. On 9th April, 1395, the first palace was ordered to be razed to the ground by a grief-stricken Richard II, because his adored wife, Queen Anne, had died there suddenly the previous summer, of the plague it is thought .
The erstwhile Time Team went to the site to successfully seek remains of Richmond Palace in the grounds of the Trumpeter’s House. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtCy_P5uM7I
Trumpeter’s House from the Thames
This original royal palace is described in The Court of Richard II by Gervase Mathew:-
“Sheen (with its annexe of royal lodgings called La Neyt) was larger than Eltham and perhaps, in the 1390s, more important. It had been part of the royal manor of Kingston in Surrey. Edward III had spent £2,000 on converting it into a palace, and had died there on 21st June, 1377. Free-standing, timber-framed buildings were arranged around two large courts; the postern of the Down Court opened on to the Thames and the royal barges moored there. Close to it there was an island called La Neyt, where Richard had a Royal Lodging built between 1384 and 1388; he thus secured a privacy that had been unknown to any previous king. The Lodging was fragile and luxurious: 2,000 painted tiles were commissioned for ‘the chamber assigned to the King’s bath’. This suggests that the walls as well as the floors of the room were tiled; it probably centred in the ‘cuva ad Balneam’, a bath with large bronze taps for hot and cold water.
“Across the river the palace continued to grow and all Richard’s additions to it were marked by two novelties: personal latrines, which were most probably conceived as a part of elegance; and fireplaces in small rooms, which perhaps like hot baths had become an essential part of comfort.
“He built three more Great Houses for his courtiers: the first consisted of nine chambers, each with its latrine; the other two were of four chambers with four latrines and four fireplaces. Later he added a set of chambers with eight fireplaces.”
So, until Anne’s death, Sheen was clearly very important indeed to Richard. So much so that he had a very private house/pavilion built on a close-by island in the Thames. Was the island itself called La Neyt? Which island was it? How close by? Those of us who know anything about Richard II, will know about La Neyt. It was where Richard and Anne could be alone together, very privately, and so must have been a very treasured royal bolthole.
Map showing the proximity of Trumpeter’s House to Corporation Island
There are three islands in the Thames at Richmond. Well, an island and two islets. The latter are known as the Flowerpots, and are far too small to have supported a royal pavilion, even a modest one. The island is now called Corporation Island. Not a very romantic name, but it is big enough to have housed a royal lodging. Was it the site of Richard’s La Neyt?
I have not been able to find out anything more definite, or indeed if there have ever been excavations on this island. Surely archaeologists would discover remains—foundations at least—if there had been a 14th-century building there?
If anyone knows more, I would love to know.