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Hampton Court Palace


Location: East Molesey, Surrey
Telephone: 0181-781 9500

Hampton Court Palace Visiting Information.

Directions by Train: Waterloo Rail Station to Hampton Court
JOURNEY TIME: 30 minutes

Directions by Boat: Riverboat from Westminster Pier
JOURNEY TIME: 3 - 4 hours


Part of the rear facade of the palace with gardens.

Hampton Court palace began its illustrious heritage as a small manor house in the 1300's. It wasn't until 1514 that the then nearly-Archbishop of York, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, acquired Hampton Court as his country residence. Within a year, he became Henry VIII's Lord High Chancellor. Wolsey built many rooms in honor of his monarch and expanded the manor, including a system of pipes laid to supply pure spring water to the property from miles away. With a staff of 500 and 1,000 rooms, Hampton Court eventually exceeded the grandiosity of any of Henry VIII's palaces. The King's covetous eye, however, fell upon the property in 1526 and Wolsey was forced to "gift" Hampton Court to the king in an attempt to regain his rapidly diminishing royal favor.

Once Hampton Court became property of the king, it was necessary to extend the building to accommodate the Tudor court, numbering around 1000. It became the favored country palace of Henry VIII and five of his six wives lived there as well. Anne Boleyn's gateway between the Base and Clock Court recalls his second wife. It remained a royal residence (Oliver Cromwell even retained the property for his own use) until the 1760 death of King George II and underwent many structural changes during this time.

The most notable improvements to the palace began in 1689, shortly after the ascension to the throne of William III and Mary. With Louis XIV's Palace in Versailles as inspiration, architect Christopher Wren was instructed to begin work on the conversion of the Tudor Palace. Wren's severe Baroque design incorporated the use of red brick and white stone accents with exquisite masonry throughout. Brick was used, but richly embellished with Portland stone for the arcades, windows, friezes and parapets. The new structure was located to the south east of the original palace and was completed in 1700.

Palace courtyard with Wren exterior.

At the same time, unique gardens, including a maze, were designed were for William of Orange by George Landon and Henry Wise. The planting of the now-famous hedge maze (below left) began in 1689 and was concluded six years later. The Great Vine (below right), planted in 1768, still bears large bunches of grapes to this day.

The Hampton Court Palace Maze and Great Vine

The Palace Today

Much of the 1000 room palace exists as it did at the time of the last monarch to reside there, George II in 1760. The Queen still owns this property and it is occupied and meticulously maintained. In addition to the main house, the gardens and outdoor attractions are very popular with visitors.

The astronomical clock in Clock Court was created for Henry VIII in 1540. The mechanism had to be replaced in the 18th century, but the dial is original. It records the passing hours, days, months, phases of the moon and tells the time of the high tides at London Bridge.

Also built for King Henry VIII were the closed tennis courts. The first of their kind, these courts offered the king and his guests the choice of playing real or Royal tennis. They are situated close to the palace.

The gardens on the palace grounds are known for their beauty and originality. In addition to the hedge maze and Great Vine, there lies amid the gardens the Banqueting House and Orangery.

The Palace houses magnificent collections of tapestries, furniture and clocks. It also boasts a collection of paintings by such artists as Holbein, Lely and Tintoretto.

The side of the Palace

The Palace Today

Links to my other London Attractions pages

St. Paul's Cathedral
H.M. Tower of London
Tower Bridge Experience
Trafalgar Square & Admiralty Arch

Westminster Abbey
St. Margaret's Church
Houses of Parliament
Buckingham Palace
Kensington Palace
Windsor Castle
St. James' Palace

The Official Site for the Royal Family
The Royal Palaces Official Website
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Last Updated: 9 May 2004

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