What is Hampton Court Palace in London famous for?
Hampton Court is an ancient royal residence in London. Its Classicist architecture and interiors give a full insight into the life of England’s monarchs of the 16th and 18th centuries.
Hampton Court is one of the oldest residences of the kings of England, within whose walls many grim events took place. It rises directly above the waters of the famous London Thames on its left bank. The Richmond-upon-Thames area, where the Palace is located, is only 20 kilometres from the center of the British capital.
History of Hampton Court Palace
The construction of the future royal estate dates from 1514, when Cardinal Wolsey, a favorite of Henry VIII, decided to buy the land, which had previously been the property of the Hospitaller Order. For 7 years the work was carried out under the guidance of a talented group of Italian masters. They managed to combine harmoniously in the structure the features of medieval and Renaissance architecture.
The palace cost its first owner a pretty penny: it was about 1 million gold shillings. However, it did not bring Thomas Wolsey happiness. Although the clergyman presented it as a gift to his suzerain in 1529 in an attempt to win back his favor, Henry VIII remained undeterred. The former favorite was soon arrested, after which he died in prison.
The English monarch appreciated his new estate and immediately set about rebuilding it. The palace was enlarged with a Great Hall and a tennis court, and ten years later, when the building passed into royal ownership, the inner gates were decorated by a gigantic astronomical clock almost five meters in diameter.
For the next 150 years, Hampton Court remained a favourite resting place of English rulers. However, some pages of its history make an oppressive impression. To convince yourself of this, the following historical facts are worth mentioning:
- The lovable Henry VIII was married many times. With one of his spouses, Anne Boleyn, he just moved into a new residence after its modernization. But married life did not work out, and it was from here that the unhappy queen was sent straight to the scaffold.
- The king’s next wife after Anne also briefly enjoyed court life at the palace. Jane Seymour, whom Henry VIII had married within seven days of his previous wife’s execution, died at Hampton Court of maternal fever.
- In late 1647 Charles I was under house arrest for two months at the manor, also to lose his head on the scaffold.
In the middle of the XVII century, the palace passed under the jurisdiction of the Republic. The next owners were King William III and his wife, who wanted to add baroque elements to the building and turn it into a semblance of British Versailles. The task was given to the famous architect Christopher Wren, but after the death of his wife, the monarch lost interest in the ancient residence and the work was stopped immediately. However, the park with its Louis XV-style labyrinth, already completed by that time, and the restored south and east facades successfully complemented the appearance of the estate.
Monarch George II was the last English ruler to reside in the manor. In the nineteenth century, the estate was already in decline, but in the Victorian era it gained new life: by order of Queen Victoria, the interiors of the building were restored and access to the premises was open to all comers. Now the right to dispose of Hampton Court belongs to the British government.
It is rumored that at night in the former royal residence you can meet the ghosts of kings and queens who once lived here and died a violent death.
Hampton Court Castle
The palace’s exterior immediately brings to mind the ascetic and austere medieval fortresses. The towers above the gates and the wall of the western facade have octagonal prongs. The building’s chimneys are of brick and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Hampton Court is distinguished from many other buildings of the same era by its original masonry, in which the bricks were laid at different angles to each other.
Access to the royal manor house is through the main entrance by crossing the massive stone bridge spanning the moat. On it, you can catch sight of the stone animals that hold in their paws the shields with the emblems of the British monarchs. The original architectural design is a combination of reddish brick and white stone in the cornices, window openings, and the tops of the towers and their perimeter battlements. The octagonal towers, decorated with terracotta medallions, make Hampton Court unusual. The latter depict ancient Roman emperors.
Hampton Court Labyrinth.
As you pass through the main gate of the royal estate, it is worth paying attention to the following sights, preserved from the times of the “golden age” of the English monarchy:
The Lower Court, preserved as it was under Cardinal Wolsey. In those days his closest entourage lived here.
The Court of Clocks. It is famous for the large Astronomical Clock, designed according to the erroneous idea of the rotation of the Sun around our planet. This precise instrument showed not only the time, but also the date, the moon phase, and even the time of the tides on the river.
Fountain yard, where you can relax in the strong heat near the jets of a small fountain.
You are sure to feel the special atmosphere of bygone eras when you explore the following rooms:
- The Great Hall, which is made original by precious wood ceilings with carved Renaissance ornaments and stained glass bay windows;
- the royal kitchen, divided into two sectors: one of them fully preserves the interior from the time of the first royal owner of the palace with fake products, and in the other sector the chefs cook authentic dishes of those times and tell about the royal culinary traditions;
- the many narrow galleries and corridors linking the rooms together;
- the royal suite with a collection of oriental porcelain, many antiques and paintings by Raphael, Bruegel the Elder and other great artists;
- The armory, the walls of which are decorated with fanciful patterns of ancient blades hung on the wall.
The palace and park grounds are available for guided tours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from April through October. From November to March Hampton Court closes at 4:30 pm, and viewing of the garden during the cold season is prohibited. Tickets cost 23 GBP (20.3 GBP if purchased online) for an adult and 11.5 GBP (10.2 GBP if purchased online) for a child under 16. Children under 5 accompanied by an adult are free.
The Hampton Court regularly hosts theatrical performances in which actors portray Henry VIII and his entourage. So you can not only see the Tudor exhibits, but also take part in, for example, a real court ball.
Hampton Court how to get there from London
There are several ways to get to the palace:
- Go to Waterloo subway station and at the station with the same name take one of the trains to Hampton Court every 30 minutes. The travel time will be about 40 minutes.
- Get off at Wimbledon tube station, cross to the train station and buy a train ticket to the Royal Estate.
- By ship on the Thames, which departs from the pier at Westminster. The journey takes about 4 hours.
- Take the R68 bus from Richmond tube station.
A visit to Hampton Court is a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of past epochs and learn interesting facts about the life of English kings.
Hampton Court is a palace located on the edge of modern London. It was built in the early 16th century and until the middle of the 18th century served as a country residence. Now it is one of the most interesting palaces and park complexes in Europe, it is turned into museum. Two famous annual festivals are held here.
Hampton Court Palace Festival is a historical festival dedicated to the Tudor era: it includes concerts, performances, knight tournaments and much more.
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is an annual July festival of flowers and landscape design: here you can see a variety of horticultural novelties, there are master classes in floriculture and floristics, there is a trading platform with seedlings and sprouts.
Like many other museums in Britain, Hampton Castle is arranged in such a way that it is comfortable and interesting. The green lawns can be used for picnics. All the staff are dressed in historical costumes from the Tudor era, and the park and rooms are decorated with wooden figures of historical figures. The museum has many exhibits you can touch, such as board games of the royal family, and there are free themed workshops throughout the day, such as medieval dancing or archery.
It is estimated that more than 55 million people have visited the palace in recent years. However, from the other attractions of London it differs favorably by the absence of huge crowds: it is located not in the center of the capital. Since the late 20th century the Hampton has been under the control of the Historic Royal Palaces Trust (as well as the Tower, Kensington Palace and others).
The palace on the banks of the Thames was not originally built for the king – it was the luxurious residence of Archbishop Thomas Wolsey. It was created by specially commissioned Italian architects in the Renaissance style. The palace was built of red brick with white stone decoration. Quite quickly it came into the possession of the crown, and Henry VIII settled in it. It is the history of his reign, his many marriages, the tragic fate of Anne Boleyn and the intrigues at court that the exhibition focuses on.
In the following century, under William III of Orange and his wife Mary II, the palace was greatly rebuilt. This royal couple wanted to turn their castle into a second Versailles: a regular “French” park was laid out around it. But from the middle of the 18th century the building began to seem old-fashioned and stood derelict, until in 1838, by order of Queen Victoria, it was repaired and opened to the public.
The following objects are noteworthy.
The bridge and gates leading to the palace are decorated with sculptures of heraldic animals: the British lion, the Beaufort and Clarence bulls, the Tudor dragon, the Richmond greyhound, the Seymour unicorn, etc.
Several state rooms and private royal chambers have a collection of antique household items and classical paintings. These are the hall, art gallery, throne room, guardroom and armory. The palace is divided into two parts: the “old” one, that of Henry VIII, and the “new” baroque one, that of William III and Mary II with the interiors of the 17th and 18th centuries. The Great Dining Room with a carved wooden ceiling and tapestries is worth a visit.
The royal kitchen of the 16th century will impress you with a huge stove, above which there is centuries-old soot. Once there was cooking for 600 people a day, but now there are culinary events: tastings and master classes in historic English cooking. Almost every day you can participate in some free event. Underneath the kitchen are royal wine and beer cellars with huge oak barrels.
There are several courtyards as well. The lower courtyard is the oldest, unchanged since the palace was built. The clock yard is the one with the astronomical clocks, which show the date, the sign of the zodiac and the phase of the moon. They have several dials, one of which wraps around for a day, another for a month, and a third for a year. The clock dates from 1540. The last courtyard is the Fountain Court, Baroque, with a fountain in the middle.
It is impossible to avoid the royal chapel with its magnificent blue-gold ceiling. The church itself on this site has existed since the XIII century, when this area belonged to the monastery of the Hospitaller order. The current chapel was built in 1530 and has been rebuilt several times, but the latest restoration restored it to its original appearance. The church is active and remains “royal”: at least once a year, the Queen of Great Britain attends worship there. Current information about the chapel, the schedule of services, concerts and events can be found on the chapel’s Facebook page and its official website.
Hampton Court Palace Gardens
The first park around the palace appeared under Henry XVII, and it was finally laid out in the XVIII century. Now the whole territory is divided into several themed “gardens”, each with its own specifics.
The oldest part of the territory is the garden, laid out for the recreation of the royal family back in the reign of Henry XVIII and finally decorated in 1702 in the Baroque style for William II. It has no flowers and is decorated with ornamental shrubs clipped in various geometric figures: this was the fashion of the time. Now costume shows are held here. Part of the territory is occupied by the royal tennis courts.
The most famous attraction of the park is the maze of trimmed yews, which appeared here in 1702. It was described in “Three in the boat, not counting the dog” by D. K. Jerome. It’s better to walk here armed with a plan: it’s really easy to get lost here.
The front regular part of the garden is complemented by cascading fountains and lined in imitation of Versailles.
In the park there is a royal garden of the 16th century, which grows exactly the same vegetables that were served to the royal table under the Tudors. In summer, there is a small store where you can buy organic produce grown here.
A little further away, at the Hampton Court Palace Hotel, about 500 meters from the palace, is a rose garden. Here grow both “historical” antique varieties and famous modern roses of English selection. In one of the greenhouses there is a botanical landmark – a royal vine planted in 1768, its length – 35 m.
A huge playground with a knight’s castle, a fire-breathing dragon and other attractions in medieval style – this is the Magic Garden. Admission to this place is paid separately.
The complex operates in summer (March 31-September 4) daily from 10:00 to 17:30, in June and July only from Wednesday to Sunday, and in winter time without weekends from 10:00 to 16:30.
A full ticket (to the palace and park) costs £26.10 adults, £13.00 children 5-15 years old. There is a family ticket option – £45.60 for one adult and three children or £71.70 for two adults and three children .
Tickets and Tours
You can choose charity tickets – they are 10% more expensive, and this amount goes to the development of the museum and park. There is an opportunity to become a member of the Historic Palaces Club: this is actually an annual pass to visit all the palaces under the auspices of the foundation. For London Pass holders, admission to Hampton Court Palace is free.
Buy an annual pass or single tickets and note the time of your visit in advance on the official website. The audioguide (including Russian) and map booklet are included in the ticket price. Free guided tours in English are offered regularly and can be joined. The schedule of guided tours, workshops and costume shows is in the booklet. For an additional fee, you can take a ride through the garden in the royal carriage.
On the territory there are toilets, several cafes, souvenir stores. There is an online store. Almost everywhere (except the chapel and art gallery) you can take pictures freely without flash.