Continuing on with my series of ‘Things To Do For Free In…‘ is an attraction in Epping Forest (which covers London and Essex) that you visit for free, (there is a donation box) and learn a bit of history at the same time – Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge.
Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, is a unique example of a surviving timber-framed hunt standing still surrounded by its medieval royal hunting forest. Visitors to the Hunting Lodge, built on the orders of Henry VIII in 1543, can today enjoy exhibitions on Tudor history and soak up the atmosphere of this incredible historic building nearly 500 years after it was first built.
Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge is located on Rangers Road, Chingford. There is free parking at a small car park across the road, but if you’re out for a walk in Epping Forest, you could park further away and walk to the lodge.
It was actually my mum who told me about the hunting lodge. I’d mentioned to her that we were popping to Epping Forest for a few hours, and asked her about The Royal Forest, which is a pub/restaurant that her and my dad were assistant managers at in the 70s. I couldn’t remember if this was the same place, and she said that it was and also told me about Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge next door.
The Royal Forest is now a Premier Inn and a Brewer’s Fayre, so if you’re after a bite to eat when you’re in the area, you can always pop in for lunch! We didn’t on this occasion – maybe next time!
We’d already spent a few hours walking around the forest (a blog post for another time) and drove along Rangers Road until we found the lodge. We parked up, crossed the road and opened up the old wooden door to go inside.
As we walked in, I noticed a donations box, and made a mental note to pop some coins in there when we were leaving. There was a member of staff at the entrance who gave us a guide sheet to explain things as we explored each level of the building.
The ground floor has two tables set up like a Tudor feast…
…then there is a fireplace area. I really do like it when historical attractions are set up as though they were in use.
You can then walk up the 500 year old staircase to the other two floors, where you’ll find costumes – that you can try on – and a place to do brass rubbings. I remember as a child loving doing this on school trips!
Speaking of school trips, the lodge is closed to the public when these are going on, so it’s best to give them a call beforehand just to check.
There are three floors in the Hunting Lodge, each with a themed display.
Discover the sights and sounds of a Tudor kitchen on the ground floor, where you can find out about the types of food that different social classes would have cooked and eaten during the Tudor period. Pottage bubbles away in the 1590 brick fireplace, replica food adorns the tables and the cook can even be heard to dish out her instructions every now and then!
Explore the world of Tudor fashion on the first floor, where we have a range of Tudor outfits from different decades for you to try on. Why not take a family photograph next to the cardboard cut-outs of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I? You’ll fit right in.
Enjoy the spectacular views across the forest from the second floor windows, or look up and marvel at the puzzle of the timber roof construction. You can find out more about the construction of the Hunting Lodge and even have a go at putting our replica joints together yourself.
You have some stunning views from the windows of the lodge, and I love that the building just reeked of history. We were told that they had recently installed a sound system to play sounds into the building to give more of an ambience, which I agreed was a great idea. There were young children visiting with their parents too, and I think you could spend around half an hour to an hour here on a day out in Epping Forest.
We walked back down the stairs and dropped a few pounds into the donation box as we appreciate free things to do, but of course, want to support the upkeep of such historical landmarks too.
We walked around the back of Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge and sat down on a bench to admire the views, before making a move to carry on walking around the forest.
Combine a visit to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge with an exploration of Epping Forest, and the fact that it is all free is a big bonus. The forest is steeped in history, and there is plenty of free parking. You can also reach the lodge from Chingford Bus + Train Stations (it’s a 5 to 10 minute uphill walk). Take a picnic and save even more money, but if you want to dine out, then there is the Royal Forest next door, as well as the Butler’s Retreat a short walk away.