One of the finest Tudor palaces in England, Hampton Court is one of the best ways of spending a day in London. It was originally occupied as a manor by the Knights Hospitalier in the mid-13th century. Royalty began using the area from 1400 and Henry VII was one of many kings who stayed here. Cardinal Wolseley developed Hampton Court further in the early 1500’s as a Bishops Palace. Henry VIII stayed on several occasions in the royal suites but when he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, Cardinal Wolseley fell from favour, dying in 1530. The palace became the home of Henry VIII and his descendants from 1528, and is full of history. Here are just a few of the highlights to see and do at Hampton Court that will bring history to life.
See Where Shakespeare Performed
The Great Hall is one of the finest medieval halls in existence and was where Henry VIII hosted banquets and other festivities. It is also where William Shakespeare performed for royalty. The tapestries here date from Henry VIII’s reign and depict the Story of Abraham. With its hammer beam roof this is one of the most impressive places to spend time in at Hampton Court.
Imagine Cooking for 600 People – Every Day!
The Tudor kitchens were the largest in England during that time and could feed 600 people in a day. This was at the centre of palace life and had a master of chefs as well as a number of sergeants and yeomen. Even today the kitchens are used to prepare Tudor meals. At their height 600,000 gallons of beer were consumed a year, and over 1,870 pigs and 2,330 deer were roasted annually.
Get Lost in the Maze
The gardens at Hampton Court Palace are wonderful to explore but one of the highlights has to be the Maze. It was designed in 1700 by Henry Wise and George London and is the oldest surviving maze in the UK. The maze is planted with yew and is fun to spend an afternoon wandering around, literally getting lost.
See where the Accusations against Catherine Howard were made
Henry the Eighth had six wives, and number five was Catherine Howard. The Chapel Royal is a splendid example of the fine architecture here. It is also where the drama unfolded between Henry and Catherine in 1540 when he accused her of unchaste behaviour. She was beheaded at the Tower of London shortly afterwards.
Relax in the Privy Garden
The beautiful privy Garden was designed for William III and was literally private. Today it is open to the public and the twelve panels on the Tijou Screen have emblems signifying various parts of the United Kingdom. William III died before the garden was finished and many workers were never paid by Queen Anne. In 1649 Charles I lived in the rooms overlooking the privy Gardens and when pursued by Cromwell’s army he made his escape through this garden and out along the river. He did not last long though and was caught and executed in Whitehall.
Enjoy the Great Vine
A 240 year old vine is another highlight at Hampton Court Palace. This is a Black Homburg variety and Queen Victoria used to have the grapes brought to her residence on the Isle of Wight. Even today the vine is tended and produces fruit.
Listen to Ghostly Tales
With all the history in Hampton Court Palace there are tales of ghosts within the grounds. Catherine Howard is said to wander the Haunted Gallery. The grey Lady is believed to be Sybil Penn, a servant to four monarchs who started haunting the Palace in 1829 when her grave was moved as Hampton Church was rebuilt.
The more you explore Hampton Court Palace the more you will see and learn. Take your time and enjoy one of the finest historic houses in Britain. Take one of the tours offered by the many companies that provide guided tour services. Our tour was excellent and we had a great time!