Sir William Boreman


Sir William Boreman was responsible for the landscaping of Greenwich Park during the reign of Charles II and the creation of the avenues and giant ascent.

William Boreman was born in 1613 in a pleasant house behind Trinity Hospital in Greenwich with gardens and a cherry orchard. His father, also William Boreman, was the long-serving Royal Locksmith for Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I. 

William Boreman’s first major job was looking after Queen Henrietta Maria who lived in the Queen’s House. When the civil war broke out, he assisted her escape from Exeter to France and ensured that her children were safely escorted to London. He had to borrow money to do this and spent several months in a debtors' prison as a result. Joining Charles I on the Isle of Wight in 1648, he was appointed as one of the three assistant clerks of the kitchen, but after Charles I was executed in 1649, he returned to Greenwich without a job.

On the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II made William Boreman Chief Clerk and Supernumerary Comptroller within the Board of the Green Cloth and placed him back in charge of managing the Queen’s House. His first job was to create two areas in the park called the Wilderness where he could grow wood for use at the palace. He then revived and expanded the orchards.

In 1661 William Boreman was knighted and Charles II instructed him to replant the avenues in the park, the first being Blackheath Avenue. By April 1662 Boreman had carved out giant steps, or ascents, in the escarpment, which greatly impressed his friend Samuel Pepys. 

In 1662, Charles II commissioned André Le Nôtre to draw up plans for a parterre in front of the Queen’s House. Boreman continued to oversee this work and plant the avenues. On 26 May 1671, he became the Second Clerk to the Board of the Green Cloth, the second highest position in that organisation.

In 1672, Sir William Boreman founded a school in Greenwich called The Green Coat School and endowed it with an income. Sadly, in 1675, his wife, Dulcibella Robinson, died. He had married her on the 22nd February 1638 when he was 25 and she was 18. He went on to marry twice more.

In 1676, Charles II thanked Boreman by granting him lands within the manor of Old Court in East Greenwich.

When he died, in 1686, he was buried in the churchyard of St. Alfege’s. His will bequeathed the school to the Drapers’ Company, and, although it no longer exists, the Sir William Boreman’s Foundation does, and still provides financial support to students in the Greenwich and Lewisham area.

In 1699, his widow sold the Old Court estate to Sir John Morden who was building a college, or almshouse, on Blackheath. Morden College still owns this land and, at places like Ballast Quay, you will see signs to that effect on the buildings.