The Twickenham Museum
Exhibitions : People at Play

Visitor Attractions
Hampton Court Palace has been an attraction since 1838, Marble Hill House was opened in the 20th century

The West front of Hampton Court Palace

"The free access now given to the public to see the pictures and gardens at Hampton Court will bring many visitors to that celebrated place".
These prophetic words were contained in an 1839 guidebook after the young Queen Victoria opened the Palace to the public in 1838. Visitor numbers shot to 116,000 in 1839, exceeding 200,000 by 1850. They remained at that level throughout the Queen's reign, with the odd peak for special years, for instance 1851. This, the year of The Great Exhibition, saw 350,000 visitors. This popularity also spilled over into nearby Bushy Park.

Free access for the public led to restoration work at the palace and, over time, to the opening of additional areas. The process started with the transformation of the Great Hall between 1840 and 1846. Other parts were “re-Tudorised”, a popular activity in Victorian times. Free access also stimulated demand and in 1849 the railway arrived at Hampton Court. Following the Bank Holidays Act of 1871 such days became the busiest days at the Palace, as they still are. In 1903 the trams came to Hampton Court, providing still greater access.

Another local visitor attraction, the grounds of Marble Hill House were opened as a public park in 1903. The Greater London Council restored the house itself in 1965-6. Marble Hill, a Palladian villa, was largely built in 1724-8 for Henrietta Howard (mistress of the Prince of Wales, later George II). In 1902 the towpath on the opposite riverbank was made public and a private ferry established. This opened up the area further and a park keeper at Marble Hill estimated that in the ten years from its opening, the number of people visiting the Park had increased six-fold.

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