Have you been to Hampton Court Palace recently? With Kings and Queens, a maze of rooms and the maze itself, why not enjoy a great day out exploring the palace and gardens. There’s so much to see.
Hampton Court Palace gardens
- As well as the famous palace, there are over 60 acres of beautiful gardens that run down to the River Thames, featuring sparkling fountains, glorious displays of over 200,000 flowering bulbs and 750 acres of tranquil royal parkland.
- Find the Great Vine – planted in 1768 by the celebrated gardener ‘Capability’ Brown, the magnificent Great Vine still produces a yearly crop of black, sweet grapes that are sold in the palace shops in early September
- The Privy Garden – be inspired by the re-creation of William III’s Privy Garden, based on a design of 1702, the stunning symmetrical pattern incorporates the original varieties of plants and marble sculptures
- Lean against the Tiltyard walls – a wide range of wall shrubs grow upon these walls as the different aspects of sun and shade are used to good effect, with some unusual tender plants growing on the south facing ones
- Investigate the 20th Century Garden – contemporary style plantings with trees and shrubs in an informal setting that creates a place of peace and tranquillity away from the busier areas of the gardens
- Ramble across Home Park – 700 acres of deer park with ponds and other waterways, attracting a wide range of birds and the long avenues give views across the park to and away from the palace
A posh prison for Charles I
- In 1647, after six years of fighting, it was clear that King Charles I and his Royalist army had lost the Civil War. Although the King’s son had made a daring escape to France, Charles I had lost control of his army. He was captured by his Parliamentarian enemies, and moved to Hamp ton Court Palace.
- Although the King was now a prisoner, he was treated very well by his captors. He was allowed to have his own servants, the palace furnishings were improved for him, and paintings were brought down from Whitehall for his pleasure.
- He lived in the suite of royal rooms overlooking the Privy Garden; the rooms themselves were later rebuilt by King William III.
- But in November that year, Charles made a daring escape. One night the King locked his bedchamber room, left via the garden stairs, found a boat waiting for him at the river’s edge, and escaped to the Isle of Wight.
- Charles though was soon re-captured and was executed at The Banqueting House in Whitehall on 30 January 1649.
- Visit Charles bedchamber and follow his route to escape by the river
Lose yourself in Hampton Court’s world famous Maze
- For over 300 years, kings, courtiers and tourists alike have pounded the pathways of Hampton Court’s world-famous Maze in search of what might lie at its centre
- The world-famous trapezoidal Maze is the only surviving part of a vast network of paths and labyrinths that made up William III’s ‘Wilderness Garden’.
- And it’s the oldest surviving hedge maze still in use. Originally planted with hornbeam from the Netherlands in around 1700, it was a place for courtiers to escape the politics of palace life, losing themselves in its enchanting labyrinths. In the 1960s, however, the original hedging was completely replaced with yew.
- Whilst in the Maze, you will be enticed along the green corridors, tempted by tantalising sounds – a fragment of music, a snatch of laughter, the seductive rustle of fine silks and the whispers of an illicit conversation – that will disappear around the winding paths.
- At the centre of the Maze, touch-sensitive benches create subtle sounds as you either celebrate your victory in reaching the centre or just sit to relax and contemplate your strategy to find your way out.
- The maze is open daily between 10am and 6pm, and last admission is at 5.15pm
- There is a separate admission charge for those people who do not have an All Palace and Gardens ticket
Join King Henry and his family at his favourite palace
- Ever thought what it would be like to take part in one of the great events of history and rub shoulders with the celebrities of the past?
- Well now you can! At Hampton Court, Henry VIII’s finest palace, you can experience the splendors of his court. Take part in royal entertainments, fine tune your courtly charms and uncover the political and domestic dramas that plague our king
- Meet Kathryn Parr, England’s five times unlucky but still most eligible widower/divorcé, as she ties the wedding knot with Henry at Hampton Court Palace. Help her to make the decision which will change her life and advise her on her wedding dress. Commiserate with her disappointed ex, hear the behind the scenes gossip from those who know the couple best and learn what it takes to be a Tudor A-lister.
Visit the Great Hall – England’s last and greatest medieval hall
- The Great Hall is England’s last and greatest medieval hall
- It is spanned by a large and sumptuously decorated hammer-beam roof and its walls are hung with Henry VIII’s most splendid tapestries, The Story of Abraham.
- It is also one of Britain’s oldest theatres. William Shakespeare’s company – the ‘King’s Men’ – performed for King James I over Christmas and New Year in 1603-4.
And pop into the Chapel Royal
- Vist the beautiful chapel which has been in continuous use for over 450 years
- Outstandingly rich, colourful and layered with history, the chapel’s ceiling is the grand culmination of the Tudor interiors at Hampton Court.
- Kings and queens used the private pew which looks down upon the main body of the chapel.
- It was here in the chapel, in 1540, that Archbishop Cranmer handed Henry VIII a letter outlining various accusations against the king’s young new wife, Catherine Howard. She was accused of unchaste behaviour before her marriage. Henry VIII had been besotted with his young wife, which is why he turned against her all the more viciously. She was executed at the Tower of London soon afterwards.
Look out for Ghosts at Hampton Court Palace
- Being a residence, and a royal one at that, for many years, there have been a number of shady goings on at Hampton Court Palace, which has resulted in the occasional bump in the night
- Catherine Howard is believed to frequent Hampton Court’s Haunted Gallery where she was dragged back screaming to her rooms while under house arrest, accused of committing adultery by her husband King Henry VIII.
- Catherine was the fifth wife of King Henry VIII and in 1541 was accused of adultery and put under house arrest at the palace. But she escaped from her guards and ran down the gallery looking for the King to plead for her life.
- She was caught and dragged back screaming to her rooms … and in due course executed at the Tower of London.
- Over the years, several residents who live within the palace have claimed to hear screams coming from the gallery. And visitors today are often strangely affected in the gallery. On one evening in 1999, during separate tours of the palace, two female visitors fainted on exactly the same spot in the Haunted Gallery approximately half an hour apart. So well known was Catherine’s story that, before the gallery was opened to the public in 1918, it was already called ‘The Haunted Gallery’.
Henry VIII’s Kitchens – A veritable factory producing Tudor food
- The Tudor kitchens at Hampton Court Palace are a living monument to 230 years of royal cooking and entertainment.
- They were built to feed the Court of Henry VIII, these kitchens were designed to feed at least 600 people twice a day.
- You can still see the largest kitchens of Tudor England today, and they are often still used to prepare Tudor meals.
- The kitchens were constructed in 1530 and were a central part of palace life.
- But Henry’s vast kitchens in the palace were not for him. They were built to feed the six hundred or so members of the court, entitled to eat at the palace twice a day.
- This was a vast operation, larger than any modern hotel, and one that had to cope without modern conveniences.
- The kitchens had a number of Master Cook’s, each with a team of Yeomen and Sergeants working for them. The mouths of Henry VIII’s court required an endless stream of dinners to be produced in the enormous kitchens of Hampton Court Palace.
- Did you know that the annual provision of meat for the Tudor court stood at 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar.
- This was all washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer.
About Hampton Court Palace
- Hampton Court Palace was built in 1525 by Thomas Wolsey, who presented it to King Henry VIII. It is a mixture of Tudor and English Baroque architecture, and is set in extensive grounds which include informal, pretty gardens as well as spectacular vistas and the famous maze.
- Free audio guides are available for the King’s Apartments and for the Tudor Kitchens, which are particularly atmospheric, with their great bowls of fresh herbs, dishes laid out ready for the royal household and a vast kitchen fire.
- A permanent exhibition shows how the palace has changed over the past five centuries and another, beside to the East Front Gardens, explores the history of the Hampton Court gardens.
- A sound installation – ‘Trace’ at the maze, draws on the idea of mazes as locations for conversation and flirtation. The audio comprises 1,000 subtle sounds – a fragment of music, a snatch of laughter, the rustle of a skirt – that are triggered as visitors navigate their way to the centre of the maze. Planted in 1690 for William of Orange, the maze is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the world. It usually takes around 20 minutes to solve.
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, KT8 9AU
10.00 – 18.00 (last admission 17.00)
How to get there:
Train: 30 minutes from London Waterloo
Bus: 111, 216, 411, 451, 513, R68
Riverboat: For a special way to travel to the palace visit www.turks.co.uk
For more information www.hrp.org.uk