Tulip Staircase, Queen’s House, Greenwich

This staircase, designed by Inigo Jones and built by Nicholas Stone is said to be the very first cantilevered stone staircase built in the UK.


Inigo Jones was obviously impressed by the staircase that he saw and sketched in Convento Della Carita Venice  and included a similar staircase plan in his early drawings for this building in 1616. Originally the building was commissioned for the queen – Anne of Denmark, it was finally completed under the reign of Henrietta Maria in the late 1630’s. The “tulips” in the balustrade are perhaps intended to be fleur-de-lys (the emblem of Henrietta Maria’s family).


I find the leap in sophistication between the Palladio staircase in Venice and this one to be remarkable. The Tulip stair has shaped treads, carefully worked out details between treads and landings  and, most notably: rebates between the treads.It would be wonderful to know how the discussion about building it went between Jones and Stone.


I don’t know how far the treads are built into the walls, so it is possible that the treads are acting as true cantilevers – but I suspect that the introduction of the rebates indicates an understanding of how these stairs can work when the treads are built into the wall only a few inches.