Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

Location: East Molesey, Surrey Map

Tel. 0844 482 7777

Open: daily

Closed: 24- 26 Dec

Official site


Description of Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is a palace in south-west London on the left bank of the River Thames in the borough of Richmond upon Thames. The castle was a favorite residence of the English and British kings from 1528 to 1737. Originally it was built in the Tudor style, towards the end of the 17th century and in the 18th century large parts were rebuilt in the English Baroque style. With its vast proportions, sumptuous interior and extensive gardens, it is considered one of the major Tudor and Baroque masterpieces in England.

The castle witnessed several royal weddings, births and deaths. Henry VIII married his sixth wife Catherine Parr here. His son Edward VI. was born and baptized at the castle, whose mother Jane Seymour and James I's wife, Anna, died at the castle, and William III. suffered a riding accident in the park, from the consequences of which he died a little later.


History of Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

The estate in the Middle Ages

Since 1236, the Order of St. John has had an estate here. Excavations and documents show that the farm consisted of a large barn and a stone administration building, but probably had no or only very limited living quarters. In the 14th century a residential building was added to the complex, as the estate was used as overnight accommodation due to its favorable location between the royal palaces in Sheen and Byfleet. After the royal palace at Byfleet was abandoned again in the early 15th century, Hampton lost its function as overnight accommodation. Like many other estates, Hampton was probably no longer managed by the Johanniter at this time, but leased out. The first named tenant was the courtier Giles Daubeney, who took over the estate in 1494. Daubeney became Lord Chamberlain of Henry VII the following year. As the King returned to residence at nearby Richmond Castle, he also frequently visited Daubeney at his Hampton estate. Daubeney therefore had various expansions carried out, but died in 1508.


The castle in Tudor times

The Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey, leased the estate in 1514 for 99 years. He became Cardinal and Lord Chancellor the following year and over the next seven years converted the 14th-century house into a magnificent country palace based on designs by Henry Redman. The palace contained not only a luxurious new bishop's apartment, but also three guest apartments for the royal family and a high chapel. Wolsey was heavily criticized for his lifestyle and especially for his magnificent palaces at York Place and Hampton Court; for example, in 1522, the poet John Skelton, in his verse Why Come Ye Not to Court?, mocked that while the royal court had excellence, the court of Hampton Court had supremacy. Unable to obtain a divorce from the Pope for Henry VIII from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, Wolsey eventually lost favor with the King and in 1528 lost both York Place and Hampton Court, both of which were occupied by Henry VIII.

Hampton Court quickly became Henry VIII's new favorite residence. In just ten years he built the enormous sum of £62,000 - around £18 million in today's values - on the castle. When work was completed around 1540 it was considered one of the most magnificent and modern castles in England. The castle had a magnificent chapel, a large banquet hall, tennis courts, bowling alleys, gardens and a 1,100-acre deer park. The castle had a large 28-seat water-flush toilet, the Great House of Relief, water was supplied by lead pipes from Coombe Hill, near Kingston, 3 miles away.

All six of Henry's wives lived in the palace and each received lavishly designed apartments. Heinrich had his own living quarters converted and renovated at least six times. There were also living quarters for his children and for a large number of courtiers, guests and servants.

The king received numerous guests and visitors from all over Europe in the castle. The most famous was the six-day visit by the French ambassador in August 1546, when the palace accommodated around 200 guests in addition to Henry's court, which numbered around 1300 people. For this purpose, the castle was surrounded by a magnificent tent camp. The children who succeeded Heinrich to the throne also used the castle as their residence. Elizabeth I had some minor alterations made, including that of the eastern kitchen.


The age of the Stuarts

The relatively modest life at Elisabeth's court changed under her successor Jakob I. Jakob often went hunting in the deer park, at court balls, banquets and masquerades as well as numerous, increasingly elaborate theatrical performances now took place more frequently. There is evidence that Shakespeare and the King's Men played Christmas 1603 in the great hall before the king. In 1604 a synod of the Anglican Church was held at the castle, with Jacob presiding, at which the King James Bible, the most influential translation of the Bible into English, was commissioned. Jacob's son and successor Charles I had some modifications made, including a new tennis court and new fountains in the garden. Karl was also an avid art collector and acquired numerous paintings and sculptures by well-known artists. The most important of these acquisitions is the Triumph of Julius Caesar by Andrea Mantegna. This masterpiece of Renaissance painting, created around 1485, was bought from the Dukes of Mantua on behalf of the king in 1629 and brought to Hampton Court in 1630.

During the English Civil War, the castle was occupied by Parliamentary troops in 1645. The royal possessions were listed and then largely sold, and the chapel's ornaments removed by the radical Puritans. In 1647 Charles I was taken prisoner and taken to Hampton Court. He was held in honorable custody and enjoyed numerous liberties. After three months he took the opportunity to escape, escaping from his bedroom into the garden and with a boat waiting for him on the Thames. However, his escape ended on the Isle of Wight, where he was recaptured, taken to London and finally executed on January 30, 1649.

During the Commonwealth, Lord Protector Cromwell used the castle as a country and hunting seat from 1654. He also kept the triumph of Caesar in his private collection, his daughter Maria married in the royal chapel.

Charles II preferred Windsor Castle as a country residence and stayed less frequently at Hampton Court. However, he had a new apartment set up on the south-east corner of the palace for his mistress Barbara Villiers and his illegitimate children. These baroque rooms were in complete contrast to the rooms furnished in the Tudor style.

Hampton Court Palace

Expansion in the Baroque period

Under William III. and Maria II, the castle was significantly rebuilt. Soon after acceding to the throne, they hire Christopher Wren to remodel and expand the castle. Wren took his cue from Hardouin-Mansart's design for the new Palace of Versailles, but combined brick and stone to avoid a monotonous facade. His original plan called for the entire palace to be demolished, with the exception of the Great Hall. Since neither the time nor the financial means were available for this, he was only able to rebuild the south and east wings and the fountain courtyard in the Baroque style. Work began in May 1689. Since Wilhelm expected rapid construction progress, construction was rushed. In December 1689 a large part of the new south wing collapsed again. Two construction workers were killed and eleven injured. The investigation into the cause of the accident led to bitter arguments, but it quickly became clear that the cause lay in the hasty construction work. When work resumed, it was done more slowly and carefully.

The work was interrupted by the death of the queen in April 1694 and the building remained in the shell. Only after the end of the Palatinate War of Succession in 1697 did the king again have the time and the means for further construction. After Whitehall Palace burned down in 1698, Wilhelm accelerated the construction of his new palace. Instead of Wren, Wilhelm appointed his previous deputy William Talman as site manager, who finally completed the new building at a lower price than Wren estimated.

Wren and Talman completely redesigned the castle's east and south facades. The multifaceted Tudor façade, with numerous towers and chimneys, was replaced by a large, elegant Baroque façade which still dominates the castle's garden view today. Magnificent state rooms were created in the castle, furnished by the best artists in England at the time, and the gardens were also redesigned as baroque gardens. Numerous new plants, including many exotic ones from Queen Maria's collection, enriched the garden. Wilhelm died in 1702 before the interior was finished. Despite her ailing health, his successor Anne came to Hampton Court to hunt, but their main residences were Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace, so further interior work at the castle came to a standstill. Only George II, as Prince of Wales, showed renewed interest in the palace and had the state rooms completed by John Vanbrugh. After his accession to the throne, George II and his wife Caroline returned to frequenting Hampton Court after 1727, where they had some of the rooms redecorated. After falling out with his eldest son Friedrich Ludwig and the death of his wife, the king and his court left Hampton Court Palace in 1737.


From 1737 to today

Since George III. did not live in the castle, from the 1760s onwards, people who were beneficiaries of the crown, people who earned a crown or land, received free right of residence in the castle. Over time, this resulted in countless apartments of different sizes and furnishings. Most apartments were very spacious, if not always luxurious. Among the residents were Olave Baden-Powell, the widow of the founder of the scout movement, Grand Duchess Xenia of Russia, the expelled governor William V, a grandson of George II and the physicist Michael Faraday. In 1838, Queen Victoria opened the palace's state rooms to visitors. Large parts of the castle were restored between 1838 and 1851, the great hall, the gatehouse and the west facade were "re-Tudorized". A second restoration between 1875 and 1900 took more account of historical models. In 1986, a fire damaged parts of Hampton Court Palace. The fire broke out in one of the beneficiaries' apartments above the king's state rooms. The ceiling construction chosen by Christopher Wren in this part of the palace prevented the fire from spreading quickly to the rooms below. The fire was discovered early enough to save the portable works of art from the king's state rooms. However, the ceiling murals and Grinling Gibbons decorative carvings nailed high to the wall paneling were damaged by fire and firefighting water. A carving of gibbons more than two meters long framing the side of a door burned completely. The repairs took six years and were not fully completed until 1995, restoring the royal apartments to their 18th-century appearance.

An informal EU summit took place in the Great Hall on 27 October 2005 under Tony Blair's Council Presidency.

Today the castle is owned by Historic Royal Palaces, an independent non-profit organization that oversees the unused royal palaces. Some royal beneficiaries still occupy apartments in the castle, but the royal apartments, the kitchens and much of the castle and gardens can be visited.

In 2019, Hampton Court Palace was visited by 1.07 million people.



The massive complex, covering an area of 2.43 hectares, consists of two castles: the Tudor-style castle to the west and the Baroque castle to the south-east.

Access to the castle today leads from the trophy gate built at the end of the 17th century to the west facade of the castle. 19th-century restorations have restored this two- to three-story brick facade to a Tudor style with battlements, turrets and numerous ornate chimneys. A gate tower, the so-called gatehouse, leads to the main courtyard, which most closely reflects the image of the castle in the 16th century. Through the opposite gate tower, the Anne-Boleyn-Tor, you reach the clock courtyard. The courtyard takes its name from the astronomical clock on the gate tower, built by Nicolas Oursian in 1540. The north side of the clock courtyard occupies the great hall, the colonnade on the south side is from Christopher Wren's remodeling. A neo-Gothic gate from 1732 leads into the fountain courtyard, which is surrounded by the four-winged castle buildings of Wren. On the ground floor, an arcade runs around this courtyard. The piano nobile with the state rooms is on the first floor, while the other floors contained apartments for courtiers.

The east and south facades facing the garden are the work of Christopher Wren. The two wings are four stories high, the central part of the east facade is accentuated by a triangular pediment with a relief by Caius Gabriel Cibber, the central part of the south facade by facing with light Portland stone.

The northern part of the chateau consists of the kitchens and farm buildings arranged around several smaller courtyards.


Interior design

Large parts of the interior are preserved or have been restored. The rooms are mainly furnished with paintings and tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries, which belong to the Royal Collection. The following areas of the castle can be visited today as part of various sightseeing tours:


Henry VIII's State Apartments

The lavishly furnished private rooms of Henry VIII were demolished at the beginning of the 18th century. Nevertheless, numerous rooms from the Tudor period survive or have been restored, including:

The Royal Chapel originally built under Cardinal Wolsey. In 1535 it received a new, magnificently carved and vaulted wooden ceiling. Much of the rest of the furnishings date from Queen Anne's time and the 19th century. The murals are by James Thornhill, the altarpiece by Grinling Gibbons.
the great hall, the largest room of the castle. The 32 m long, 12 m wide and 18 m high hall was built in 1532 and replaced an older, smaller hall. The hall served as a dining room and as an entrance hall to the state apartments behind it. It has a magnificent hammer beam vault, the walls are covered with tapestries depicting the life of Abraham, which were made around 1540 by the Brussels weaver Willem Kempaneer and were probably intended to decorate the room from the start.
The great guardroom once housed the Yeomen of the Guard. The room was altered under Wren, but the ceiling decorations and tapestries are of Tudor origin.
Built under Cardinal Wolsey, the Haunted Gallery linked the Royal Chapel to the rest of the castle. It takes its name from Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife, who broke free from her guards when she was accused of adultery and about to be taken to the Tower. She wanted to beg the king for mercy in the chapel, but was caught up in this corridor and brought back screaming loudly. The king is said to have continued his devotions unperturbed, the ghost of Katharina is said to have been running through the corridor moaning loudly ever since. The gallery is decorated with 16th-century tapestries.


Tudor kitchens

The installation of new kitchens for his court of 600 people was one of Cardinal Wolsey's first building projects. In 1529, for the 1,200-person court of Henry VIII, the kitchens were expanded to over 50 rooms with an area of 3,350 m², which were located around several courtyards. In the 18th century the kitchens were converted into apartments and their restoration was completed in 1991.


The Wolsey Rooms and the Renaissance Painting Gallery

On the upper floor of the Clock Court are the Wolsey Apartments, built around 1520, which were probably the cardinal's private quarters. The six rooms were remodeled in the 18th century but retain many period furnishings such as fireplaces, paneling and ceilings. The paintings in the adjacent Renaissance painting gallery are changed from time to time. The inventory includes works from the 16th and 17th centuries, including works by German and Flemish painters such as Lucas Cranach the Elder, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Joos van Cleve and Quentin Massys, as well as Italian masters such as Correggio, Dosso Dossi and Lorenzo Lotto , Franciabigio, Parmigianino and Titian.


The King's State Rooms

The state rooms in the piano nobile of the south wing, built by Wren towards the end of the 17th century, replaced Henry VIII's state apartments. After the fire damage suffered in 1986, the rooms were restored by 1995 and are furnished in the magnificent Baroque style today, as they were when they were completed in 1700.
The staircase was painted by Antonio Verrio, the paintings glorify Wilhelm III. The wrought iron railings are by Jean Tijou.
The walls of the guardroom are covered with more than 3000 muskets, pistols, swords and other weapons in symmetrical patterns.
In the Reception Hall are two tapestries made for Whitehall Palace in 1540 and which have adorned this room since the 1700s.
In the great reception room hang three tapestries belonging to the series The Life of Abraham from the great hall.
The large bedroom was used almost exclusively for court ceremonies. The room is decorated with rich tapestries, the carvings of the ceiling and wall friezes are by Grinling Gibbons, the ceiling painting by Antonio Verrio. He also created the ceiling painting in the adjoining small bedroom, the actual royal bedroom.

Other rooms are the dining room, the salon and the cabinet. A back staircase leads to the ground floor, which contains the king's three-room private residence. The Orangery, also on the ground floor, now houses the originals of the statues from the king's private garden, where they have been replaced by copies. Adjoining the orangery are the king's private drawing room, private cabinet and private dining room. A portrait of Wilhelm III hangs in the private salon. and Maria II by Adam Frans van der Meulen, in the dining room the beauties of Hampton Court, by Godfrey Kneller painted portraits of the "most dignified ladies-in-waiting in the service of Her Majesty the Queen".


The Queen's State Rooms

The Queen's State Rooms are located in the piano nobile of the north and east wings around the fountain courtyard. The furnishing of the rooms was interrupted after the death of Queen Maria in 1694, after the resumption of construction work Wilhelm had the gallery and the study room completed. Queen Anne had the drawing room completed, the other rooms remained unfinished. Between 1716 and 1718 the Prince and Princess of Wales, later George II, and his wife Caroline had the private apartment and a few other rooms decorated. However, the decoration of these rooms was not completed until after her accession to the throne in 1727.

The Queen's Staircase was not decorated until 1734 by William Kent. The west wall is decorated with Mercury Presenting the Liberal Arts to Apollo and Diana, a 1628 painting by Gerrit van Honthorst depicting Charles I and his wife as Apollo and Diana and George Villiers as Mercury.
The adjoining guardroom was probably decorated by John Vanbrugh. The fireplace, created by Grinling Gibbons, is framed by stills of bodyguards.
In the reception room there are three important paintings: Joseph and Potiphar's Wife by Orazio Gentileschi, Boar Hunt by Frans Snyders and Satyrs and Sleeping Nymphs by Snyders and Rubens.
Four paintings by Sebastiano Ricci hang in the dining room, and the marble fireplace is by Grinling Gibbons.
The drawing room occupies the center of the east facade and offers a view over the 1 km long Grand Canal and the accompanying avenues. The murals, created by Antonio Verrio, were only rediscovered in 1899 because George II had the walls paneled and Mategna's Triumph of Caesar hung in the room.
The state bed created in 1715 is still in the bedroom. The ceiling paintings are by James Thornhill and the tapestries are from the 17th century.
The large gallery is furnished with Brussels tapestries depicting the life story of Alexander the Great.
The audience room, the cabinet and some smaller rooms also belong to the state rooms.


The Georgian Rooms

In the piano nobile around the fountain courtyard are the Georgian rooms, furnished as they were in 1737, when the king and his court last used the castle.

The three rooms of the Cumberland Apartments, which were furnished in 1732 for the Duke of Cumberland, the second eldest son of George II, face the Clock Court. Beyond is the small Wolsey Cabinet with a c.1530/1540 ceiling and early 16th century paintings.
The connecting gallery is adorned with portraits of the fairies of Windsor, a series of portraits of the most beautiful women at the court of Charles II made by Peter Lely between 1662 and 1665.
The cardboard gallery in the south wing was built as a picture gallery to display Raphael's Deeds of the Apostles. These drawings on cardboard, which Raphael made around 1516 as models for the Apostle Tapestry, were acquired by Charles I in 1623. The Apostle Tapestries were intended as tapestries for the Sistine Chapel. The originals of the cartoons were given to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1865; instead, copies drawn in 1697 hang in the gallery by Henry Cooke.
The Queen's private apartments are in the east wing. These rooms were originally designed by Wren for Maria II but were not completed after 1694. In 1716 they were established for the Prince and Princess of Wales. They were restored in 1995 and appear today as they looked in 1730. In addition to a few smaller rooms, the private apartment includes the private salon, the private bedroom, the dressing room and bathroom, the dining room and the covered prayer room. Some of the rooms are laid out with Persian carpets from the 16th and 17th centuries, and the furnishings include paintings, among other things. by Christoph Schwartz, Willem van de Velde the Elder and the Younger, and portrait paintings by Joseph Highmore, Godfrey Kneller and Enoch Seeman.


Garden and park

Hampton Court once had one of the most magnificent gardens in all of Europe. There was probably a garden for Cardinal Wolsey on the site of today's fountain courtyard. Henry VIII had a garden laid out in front of the southern façade. Starting in 1661, Andre Mollet laid out the large canal for Charles II. Parallel to the baroque expansion of the palace by Christopher Wren, the gardens were laid out according to the French model.

Today the castle is surrounded by a 24-hectare garden divided into three areas:

The Privy Garden, south of the palace, was restored in 1995 as a formally laid out baroque garden to its 1702 appearance. It consists of four broderie parterres set around a circular pond and was originally laid out in 1689 by Henry Wise. At the southern tip, an ornate wrought-iron fence by Jean Tijou runs along the winding bank of the Thames. To the west of the Privy Garden is a Tudor style knot garden laid out in 1924 and the Pond Garden made up of flower beds. The Lower Orangery is now used as an exhibition space for Mantegna's The Triumph of Caesar. Next to the orangery is The great Vine planted in 1769 by Lancelot Capability Brown in a greenhouse. With a circumference of 4 m and branches up to 36.5 m long, the vine is the largest vine in the world. On the banks of the Thames is the Banqueting House, an intimate dining room built in 1700 and painted on the inside by Antonio Verrio.
Wilhelm III left the eastern garden. designed by Daniel Marot as a semicircular fountain garden with twelve fountains, boxwood borders and statues. The fountains, flower beds and statues were removed again from 1707 under Queen Anne, and from 1710 the garden was bordered by semi-circular canals. The garden finally took on its current form in the 19th century, with lawns and trimmed yews and holly trees. At the northern end of the Breiter Weg, which runs along the palace façade, is the tennis court, which was laid out around 1620 and is still used as a sports facility today.
In Tudor times, north of the castle was the large orchard and the tournament ground, which had five towers for spectators. William III Henry Wise had the north garden laid out as a wilderness with high trimmed hedges from 1690 onwards. The famous trapezoidal maze is the only remaining part of this garden complex. Around 800 m of winding paths lead through the approximately 1350 m² maze through two meter high yew hedges. The rest of the garden is now a meadow with trees. The former tournament ground is now divided into smaller gardens, one of the spectator towers is still preserved and is located next to the garden restaurant.

To the east of the gardens, the 304-hectare Home Park extends in a loop of the Thames. Giles Daubeney had a 120-hectare deer park set up. A herd of fallow deer, numbering around 270 animals, lives in the park. Several avenues and the approximately 1 km long large canal lead through the park. North of the wildlife park is Bushy Park.

In early July, the park has hosted the week-long Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the largest annual flower show in the world, annually since 1990, hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society.



In addition to the ghost of Catherine Howard, legend has it that there are other ghosts in the castle, including those of Sibell Penn, Edward VI's nanny. and by Jane Seymour.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics, the palace was the start and finish point for the individual time trial of the road cycling events.