Just off the A12 outside Chelmsford in Essex is New Hall. Today it is a bustling private Catholic school, but this imposing building with its impressive Elizabethan facade hides quite a secret: it was here that Henry VIII built his first palace, Beaulieu.

Henry certainly set out to make a statement. The palace was huge - contemporaries describe it as having eight courtyards with a 550-foot wide facade. And at the centre of this splendour stood two massive gatehouse towers.

When Henry came to the throne in 1509 aged eighteen, he inherited several palaces from his father, including Richmond, Greenwich and Woodstock. So why, seven years into his reign, did he feel the need to build Beaulieu?

In 1516, Katherine of Aragon gave birth to Henry's first child, Princess Mary (later to become Bloody Queen Mary). At the time, Mary was Henry's only heir and it seems that as far as he was concerned, she was to get the very best of everything. Just a month before her birth, Henry ordered the construction of Beaulieu Palace.

And nearly 500 years later, Time Team would uncover exactly how far Henry went when it came to lavishing luxury on his firstborn. The western range shown on later plans of the palace interested landscape surveyor Stewart Ainsworth because it overlooked the fancy privy garden - a prime spot. It was clearly intended for someone very important. Could it have been where the king stayed?

In fact, the results were more intriguing than anyone had expected. At the end of three days, the team had revealed an intricate series of Tudor drains where the western range would have stood, pointing to a kitchen or laundry area. But if this was such an important part of the palace, why have a separate laundry here away from the main service areas?

As architectural historian Jonathan Foyle suggested, this wing was meant for someone special, someone who needed a lot of care and attention. It looked like the team had inadvertently stumbled across the nursery for young Princess Mary.

Time Team was beginning to uncover a different side of Henry VIII: a doting father who thought nothing was too good for his new daughter. And elsewhere in the palace, the team were discovering what else was important to the young Henry.

A trench over the imposing gatehouse towers revealed the scale of the front of the palace. This was a building intended to impress. And it was certainly built in the latest style, based on a series of 'perfect squares' - architectural ideas that were beginning to come across from Rome.

Beaulieu Palace was the first in a long line of major building projects undertaken by Henry VIII, and even at this early stage in his reign we can see what was important to him: family and magnificence. It was much later that these concepts would take on a life of their own and result in the fantasy palaces of Henry's later reign.