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Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is an English palace situated on the north bank of the River Thames, about 23 km upstream from central London.

In the building that survives, two main periods of work can be seen: the remains of the Tudor royal palace, begun by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey between 1514 and 1529 and completed by Henry VIII between 1529 and 1547; and the Baroque palace built for William and Mary between 1688 and 1702 by Christopher Wren.

The palace has also been continually altered and repaired up to the present day. The Tudor part of the building is probably the most important surviving example of early Tudor domestic architecture in England, and the Wren building contains one of the finest collections of early 18th-century decorative arts in situ.

Hampton Court Palace History

Tudor palace

The earliest buildings (now destroyed) on the site belonged to the Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, although little is known about the nature of these buildings.

The first important period of expansion began around 1500, when the Grand Prior of the Order was Thomas Docwra. A manor house of brick and stone was constructed within the original moated enclosure, incorporating the earlier buildings on the site. Excavation has revealed the plan of this building, the courtyard of which is now partly defined by Clock Court. After 1500 the manor house was leased by Henry VII’s Lord Chamberlain, Giles, 1st Baron Daubenny, although Henry continued to have close connections with the property.

The second major phase of expansion began in 1514, when Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, took a lease on the manor house and the surrounding parkland. Wolsey’s principal works survive: Base Court, containing double and single lodgings opening off a gallery; the south range (which replaced an earlier south range), with its geometrical ribbed ceiling; the eastern kitchen (much extended by Henry VIII after 1529); and a chapel and cloister, also altered by the King. The staterooms, which were arranged after the French fashion, with the King’s lodgings on the principal floor, those of the Queen above, and Wolsey’s long gallery, which projected 100 m into the gardens laid out around the house, were later destroyed.

Wolsey fell from favour in 1529, since when Hampton Court has remained the property of the Crown. The subsequent works of Henry VIII did not differ significantly in style from those of his minister; both he and Wolsey built in red brick with stone dressings, the façades of the buildings articulated by bay windows and by turrets surmounted by lead cappings.

The brickwork was generally painted and the heraldic carvings that crowned gables, turrets and cappings held ephemeral vanes and banners. Henry’s principal works, the royal lodgings (built on the site of the present Cloister Court), were later destroyed but his Great Hall (1532–4), with its hammerbeam roof and grotesque decorations, gives some idea of the scale and magnificence of his ideas.

The other surviving works of this period are the kitchens, a low range of domestic buildings on the north side of the palace; the indoor tennis-court, which was converted into lodgings in the 17th century; the Prince’s Lodgings (built for the future Edward VI), sited on the north of Chapel Court; and the ceiling of the chapel, a deep-ribbed structure with antique cherubs clasping the pendants.

The Hampton Court Palace was surrounded by elaborate gardens, beyond which stretched extensive parkland. To the north were orchards and to the south a privy garden, pond garden and mount garden. On the west side of the palace was a tilt-yard. Several small, brick banqueting houses and viewing towers were built in the gardens. Although the plan of the royal lodgings is lost, it is clear that Henry’s important innovation was the construction of an entirely private wing to the east, in addition to the Queen’s and King’s sides that lay to the north and south respectively of the earlier inner court (destr.).

Hampton Court Baroque palace

After Henry VIII’s death in 1547, Hampton Court remained largely unaltered until the Restoration in 1660; in the 1670s Charles II built a new block of privy lodgings on the south-east corner of Henry VIII’s inner court, and a canal was dug on an east–west alignment, centered on the middle of the east front. Charles’s new lodgings did not survive long, however, since they were demolished with the rest of the inner court to make way for the Baroque palace of William and Mary.

The canal was retained, however, and became an important factor in the subsequent designs both ofWren’s new building and of William Talman’s gardens. William and Mary employed Wren to draw up plans for remodelling the old palace. Two of Wren’s early schemes survive; each involved demolishing the Tudor palace, retaining only the Great Hall as the centrepiece of an entrance court, with a court for offices behind and the royal apartments to the east.

Both its plan and the surviving sketch of the elevations indicate that Wren’s ideas owed much to Louis Le Vau’s remodelled Louvre, Paris, which Wren had seen in 1666, a year after its completion. Possibly for reasons of speed, and possibly because William and Mary did not favour Wren’s idea, a more modest project replacing only the royal lodgings was undertaken.

In plan, Wren’s Cloister Court is essentially a reorganization of the Tudor building. The disposition of accommodation—the King’s to the south, the Queen’s to the north and the privy lodgings to the east—is identical to Henry VIII’s scheme of the 1530s.

The elevations of Wren’s building screen this plan and bear little relation to it; they resemble the work of Jules Hardouin Mansart at Versailles, the flat, block-like quality of which they share. Wren’s elevations are richly decorated with dressings of Portland stone, which sit dazzlingly on the finely jointed scarlet brickwork of the façade. A low ground floor supports the principal floor, above which there is a mezzanine level and an attic.

Building work, which began in 1688, came to a halt in 1694 once the shell of the structure had been constructed, owing to the death of Mary. When work resumed in 1699, after a fire had destroyed the principal royal palace at Whitehall, London, it was mostly the interior decoration that was undertaken.

The staterooms are generally panelled in oak from floor to ceiling; some were hung with damask or tapestries. Most of the ceilings were originally left plain, although Antonio Verrio worked on those of the King’s staircase and dressing-room and, later, on that of the Queen’s drawing-room. Lime-wood carvings by Grinling Gibbons adorned fireplaces and door surrounds; the decorative ironwork was undertaken by Jean Tijou.

The decoration of the royal apartments continued under Queen Anne (1702–1714) and George I (1714–1727): James Thornhill undertook the redecoration of the chapel and the ceiling of the Queen’s bedchamber, and John Vanbrugh designed the rooms in the north-east corner of the Fountain Court for the Prince of Wales, later George I. It was not until 1735 that the Queen’s staircase was painted by William Kent.

The original plan for the gardens had been to execute a parterre to a design by Daniel Marot I in the French style of André Le Nôtre. The gardens were eventually laid out, however, to designs prepared by William Talman and George London .

The main elements of this plan included a new privy garden to the south, the Great Fountain Garden to the east and the wilderness and kitchen garden to the north.

The Fountain Garden was a vast semicircle, beyond which were three radiating avenues, each aligned with the central portico of Wren’s building to the west and with Charles II’s canal to the east. None of these gardens survives in its original form, nor is there any trace of the Thames-side Trianon planned by William Talman for the grounds.

Hamptom Court Later work

In 1732 the east side of Clock Court was rebuilt in a Gothic Revival style by William Kent, but this was the last major alteration to the palace; after 1760 it ceased to be used as a residence for the Court. For the next 200 years Hampton Court provided grace and favour residences for impoverished servants of the Crown.

Many minor alterations were undertaken in this period for the convenience of the residents, but none seriously altered the 18th-century plan. In 1838 the state apartments were opened to the public, and these now display the Crown’s important collection of Renaissance paintings. This includes examples by Titian, Tintoretto and Mantegna (the Triumph of Caesar series), as well as by English 16th-century masters.

During the 19th and 20th centuries a series of restoration programmes, influenced by the prevailing philosophies of the time, was undertaken. In 1845 the chapel ceiling was restored with advice from A. W. N. Pugin; in 1910 the original moat on the west front, filled in during the 18th century, was redug. In 1986 most of the south wing of the Wren building was destroyed by fire, which led to a new programme of restoration, completed in 1993.

Hampton Court Palace Visits

Hampton Court Palace and Gardens is open for visits throughout the year, except on Christmas when it is closed between 24 -26 December. It is open on the 1st of January every year.

What to see:

  • The Hampton Court Palace and The Formal Gardens
  • The Informal Gardens - (closed in 25 December)
  • The Home Park - open every day
  • The Chapel Royal - is closed on Sundays for weddings and events. (except on August or when no event take place)
  • The Hampton Court Maze

For more information about opening hours and tickets visit the official website.

Getting there

Find more infromation about public transport and routes on getting here official page.

Hampton Court Palace Map&Location

Hampton Court Palace is located next to the River Thames, southern London at the following address: East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU.
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 Hampton Court Palace Photos

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Hampton Court Palace panorama

Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace and garden

Hampton Court Palace courtyard
Hampton Court Palace courtyard

Hampton Court Palace detail
Hampton Court Palace entrance

Hampton Court Palace garden

Hampton Court Palace garden

Hampton Court Palace garden

Hampton Court Palace statue

Hampton Court Palace interior

Hampton Court Palace stained galss