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
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
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
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.
- The Hampton Court Palace and The Formal
- The Informal Gardens - (closed in 25
- The Home Park - open every
- The Chapel Royal - is closed on
Sundays for weddings and events. (except on August or when no event take
- The Hampton Court Maze
For more information about
opening hours and tickets visit the official website.
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.
Use this map to get help with directions:
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