The ancient village is perched on one of the highest points in London, in the far north of the borough and near to the M25 motorway. It is situated 344 feet (105 m) above sea level with striking views of East London, Essex and Kent. To the north of Havering-atte-Bower is open countryside and to the south are the large suburban developments of Harold Hill and Collier Row.
The village is surrounded by three large parks, the dense woodlands of Havering (site of one of only two redwood plantations in England, imported from California), Bedfords Park, and Pyrgo. The most notable residence in the village now is Bower House, built in 1729 by John Baynes, using some of the materials of the former Havering Palace. The area is on the route of the London Outer Orbital Path.
The name is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Haueringas. It is an ancient folk name which means settlement of the followers of a man called Hæfer. The name is recorded as Hauering atte Bower in 1272. The atte Bower suffix means at the royal residence and refers to Havering Palace, which was situated here.
The village is steeped in royal history. Edward the Confessor was the first royal to take interest in the area as he established a hunting lodge here which over the years would become a palace or 'bower' and it is believed, though disputed that he may have died in the house that he had loved so much before being buried at Westminster Abbey.
The surrounding areas, including the parishes of Hornchurch and Romford, formed the Royal Liberty of Havering from 1465 to 1892. For the next 600 years royalty would use the house of Havering Palace for various reasons adding the architectural style of the day to the expanding palace.
Another palace was purchased by Henry VIII to the east of the village called Pyrgo to relieve the now aging Havering Palace. Into the 17th century the Royal Palace of Havering was in decline and was pulled down. Pyrgo later followed in the 18th century. Only one set of plans exist from the original Havering Palace, courtesy of a survey by Lord Burghley in 1578.