The Twickenham Museum
Places : Hampton Court

Hampton Court Palace
Built by Cardinal Wolsey

The West entrance


At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 Hampton Manor was owned by Walter de St Valéry (Waleric) and it remained in his family until 1218. Between 1237 and 1531 it belonged to the Knights Hospitallers. In 1515 they granted a 95 year lease to Thomas Wolsey, newly created Archbishop of York. In about 1525 Wolsey was, under duress, obliged to transfer the lease to Henry VIII who acquired the freehold in 1531.

Wolsey had devoted the ten years of his tenancy to building the original palace. Its size and, probably, magnificance had attracted much envy: that of the king being satisfied by the gift.

Henry made substantial alterations and extensions, obscuring the layout of Wolsey's design. Current archaeological research is revealing details of this.

The Maze as laid out by William III in 1695

Royal apartments for William and Mary

Much of Henry's work was demolished to make way for the Royal Apartments for William and Mary, built between 1689 and 1700 to the designs first of Sir Christopher Wren and later of William Talman.

This part of the Palace was badly damaged by fire in 1986 and has since been restored.

The gardens were laid out in formal style and the maze was planted around 1695.

Later Monarchs

Queen Anne only made fleeting visits to the palace, as noted by Alexander Pope in the third canto of The Rape of the Lock:

Close by those meads, for ever crowned with flowers,
Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers,
There stands a structure of majestic fame,
Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its name.
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign tyrants and of nymphs at home;
Here thou, Great Anna! whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take - and sometimes tea.

George II visited only occasionally but on these occasions Pope recorded that he was required to vacate his own home, being considered a security risk despite his friendship with the Prince of Wales.

The Great Vine, planted in 1768

Palace and gardens open to the public

Features of the present range of buildings include the Astronomical Clock (Nicholas Oursian, 1540) in Clock Court, the Great Hall (1532-35), the Chapel Royal (1535-36), the Tudor Kitchens built by Wolsey and extended by Henry VIII and the Royal Apartments (1689-1700).

The Palace was first opened to the public by Queen Victoria in 1838. Among the many attractions of the gardens are the Great Vine, planted in 1768, the Maze, planted in about 1695 and the Privy Garden of William III, re-opened in 1995 following restoration.

Further reading:

John Sheaf & Ken Howe, Hampton and Teddington Past, Historical Publications, 1995
Mavis Batey & Jan Woudstra, The Story of the Privy Garden at Hampton Court, Barn Elms
Simon Thurley (ed), The King's Privy Garden at Hampton Court Palace 1689-1995, Apollo Magazine, 1995
Bernard Garside, The Manor Lordship and Great Parks of Hampton Court, privately printed, 1951
E Law, The History of Hampton Court Palace, 1885-91

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