Hampton Court

Hampton Court, Richmond upon Thames

A royal palace, park and gardens, set in a loop of the Thames, south of Bushy Park and Teddington

Hampton Court Palace

By 1066 Hampton manor existed as an important agri­cul­tural estate with royal connec­tions. The Knights Hospi­taller acquired it in 1236 and in 1338 the manor buildings consisted of a chamber block, hall, garden and church.

Tha manor was leased to Sir Giles Daubeney in 1494. He built a kitchen next to the hall, which survives as the Great Kitchen, and a courtyard and gatehouse.

Cardinal Wolsey took the lease from 1514 and extended the existing buildings with a second courtyard of lodgings, Base Court and the Great Gatehouse. He also added a gallery for viewing the garden, constructed a grand chapel and intro­duced lavish suites for the king and queen.

Henry VIII regularly used Hampton Court and by 1528 had made it his own. He extended the kitchens; built the Houses of Offices (the bakehouse and stores) and council chamber; rebuilt the chapel and great hall; constructed a system to bring drinking water from Coombe Hill in Kingston; and improved sani­ta­tion. The Great House of Easement, a lavatory block, could seat 28. Henry built new apart­ments for himself (Bayne Tower) and his queen, and provided for his enter­tain­ment with bowling alleys, tennis courts, a hunting park and gardens.

Formal Garden, Hampton Court Palace
The privy garden has been restored to how it would have looked for William III in 1702

During the reign of James I, Hampton Court was the setting for a religious confer­ence which led to the decision to publish the autho­rised version of the Bible commonly known as the ‘King James’ Bible.

The buildings changed little until the reign of William III and Mary II (from 1689), who commis­sioned Sir Christo­pher Wren to remodel the palace. New apart­ments were built over­looking a new privy garden, and the maze was planted. The full court was at Hampton Palace for the last time in 1737.

The palace was opened to the public in 1838 and went through a period of restora­tion. In 1986 a fire destroyed some of the king’s apart­ments; repairing the damage took six years. Hampton Court gardens attract over one million visitors a year and a flower show is held every July.

Hampton Court station and the surrounding resi­den­tial area of that name are located on the other side of the Thames in the Surrey borough of Elmbridge.

The Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley was probably the greatest artist to have worked prolifically in the Hampton Court area, although he did not focus his attention on the palace itself. In a series of works painted in 1874, Sisley depicted the riverside, a regatta, the bridge across the Thames (from the side and below) and the road to and from Hampton Court.

Postcode area: East Molesey KT8
Station: South West Trains (zone 6)
Riverboat pier: Hampton Court
Further reading: Lucy Worsley and David Souden, Hampton Court Palace: The Official Illustrated History, Merrell, 2005
Website: Hampton Court Palace
* The picture of the Great Gatehouse and entrance courtyard at Hampton Court Palace at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Roman Hobler, formerly at Flickr, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence. The picture of the Privy Garden is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Christine Matthews, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of those licences.