Hampton Court by Peter Carey © Britholidaytips.com

Hampton Court Palace London
East Molesley
Surrey KT8 9AU
Tfl Fare Zone 6
 
    
If the visitor to London wishes to tour a royal palace, Hampton Court is recommended. It is complete, very old, close to London and open every day of the year.
 
The palace is over 500 years old and includes England’s oldest surviving Great Hall. The Great Kitchen and pantries are presented as if busy preparing for a great feast with a huge fire roaring in the enormous fireplace. The Tudor rooms date from the 1500s, and the 17th century State Apartments are lavishly decorated and furnished.
 
Hampton Court is  very easy to get to. Mainline rail services run half hourly from central London to Hampton Court Station which is only 219 yards (200 metres) from the palace entrance.
 
Cardinal Wolsey’s Palace
Hampton Court is probably best known as the palace ‘given’ by Cardinal Wolsey to King Henry VIII after failing to persuade the Pope to grant Henry an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.
 
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The Palace’s Great Hall is England’s oldest surviving and greatest medieval hall. The Tudor rooms date from the 1500s and the Great Kitchen and pantries are busy preparing a great feast. The State Apartments date from the 17th century and are lavishly decorated and furnished.
 
Costumed guides are on hand to help visitors appreciate the history associated with this fantastic place.
 
There are beautiful gardens, a famous Maze, the oldest grape vine in the world, a Tudor indoor tennis court and the River Thames running through the grounds.
 
Cardinal Wolsey
In 1514 Thomas Woolsey took over the lease of Hampton Manor and set about turning it in to a palace fit for a king. Woolsey had been a long time chaplain and friend of King Henry VIII who rewarded him by making him a Cardinal, Lord Chancellor and his Chief Minister.
 
Woolsey was extremely powerful with a lot of influence in the Church of Rome, and often conducted diplomatic negotiations on behalf of Henry. Woolsey built separate sets of rooms with attached facilities for Henry and his family who were regular visitors.
 
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After 24 years of marriage to Queen Katherine and no male heir to the throne, Henry was getting desperate. He also had fallen in love with a much younger woman who he thought would provide him with an heir (Anne Boleyn).
 
Woolsey was entrusted with securing a Papal annulment of the marriage to Katherine. In this Woolsey failed and Henry made the momentous decision to break with the Church of Rome and make himself head of the Church in England.
 
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Henry VIII at Hampton Court 
Woolsey was dismissed and in 1525 lost his beautiful palace to Henry who set about improving it even more. All that is left of Wolsey’s original palace is the western end of Base Court.
 
Henry built the Tudor Great Hall with its sumptuously decorated hammer-beam roof. This historic hall is where William Shakespeare’s theatre company, the Kings’ Men, performed for King James I over Christmas and New Year in 1603-4.
 
By 1540 Henry had turned Hampton Court into the most modern, sophisticated and magnificent palace in England.
 
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It had a reticulated water supply brought via lead pipes from Coombe Hill, 3 miles (4.8 km) away; a massive garderobe (lavatory) seating 28 people at a time; vast kitchens; a communal dining room in the Great Hall; a fine chapel; tennis courts; bowling alleys; pleasure gardens and an 1100 acre (445 hectare) deer park for hunting.
 
In today’s money Henry spent 18 million pounds on the palace!
 
Jacobean & Stuart Periods
The palace remained a popular residence through the Tudor, Jacobean and Stuart reigns, even Oliver Cromwell liked to live there and (thankfully) enjoyed the sumptuous decorations.
 
The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 heralded a new round of rebuilding. Although King Charles II preferred Windsor to Hampton Court, his successors King William III and Queen Mary II commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to start the remodelling.
 
The Baroque Buildings
In 1689 the new southern front was started - Wren originally wanted to knock down all the Tudor buildings but royal impatience and shoddy building work saved them. The first attempt at building the southern front fell down. After an enquiry, building started again at a much slower pace and with many interruptions.
 
Work on the south and east fronts started again, and Wren’s design is how we see the palace today. Inside, the Master woodcarver Grinling Gibbons was employed to fashion elegant fireplaces and architectural mouldings and Antonio Verrio painted triumphant and colourful ceilings.
 
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Outside, the formal gardens were created and planted with exotic plants from all over the world. At the bottom of the formal garden can be seen the gilded wrought iron gates by Jean Tijou.
 
Successive monarchs embellished the State Apartments in the baroque buildings and extended the royal collection of paintings. Extensive restoration has returned Hampton Court to its palatial glory superbly complemented by the beautifully maintained formal gardens.
 
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The Astronomical Clock
Erected on Anne Boleyn’s Gate Tower in 1540, the Tudor 8 goot (2.5 metre) astronomical clock face has recently been restored. The clock is double faced with the smaller side fronting Base Court. This amazing clock tells the time of the high tide at London Bridge, shows the phases of the moon, the courses of the sun and planets, the seven signs of the Zodiac as well as chiming the quarters and hours.
 
For nearly 500 years royals and visitors alike have gazed up at this amazing unique clock.
 
The Royal Tennis Court
Henry VIII built the first court in 1528. Royal Tennis is also called ‘Real Tennis’. The game of Real Tennis is nothing like modern tennis but it is regularly played by enthusiasts all over the world. Aficionados regularly play at the Palace making it the oldest Real Tennis Court in the world which is still in use.
 
'Real Tennis' is also played at a court in the Members area of the Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. Use this link for a tour of Lord's Cricket Ground
 
The Maze
Added to the garden by William III in the early 18th century, it is claimed to be 'the most famous Maze in the history of the world. Visitors will find It is still possible to get temporarily lost in this famous Maze, just like Harris did in Jerome K Jerome’s novel Three Men in a Boat
 
The Great Vine
This huge grape vine in the Vine House is the oldest plant in the palace gardens. It is reputed to have been planted by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1768. The grapes are black and sweet, and are on sale in the palace shops during late summer or early autumn.
 
Ghost Tours
Occasionally during the winter, Family Ghost Tours are run, in which visitors can find out about the palace’s spooky past. Bookings are essential. Check out the palace website for details Web:  Hampton Court Palace/ Things to see & do
 
Stay at Hampton Court!
Visitors to Hampton Court may stay in a charming self-catering apartment in the ‘Georgian House’ which sleeps up to 8 people. Experience a taste of life at Hampton Court after all the tourists have left for the day.
 
- For more information go to  Web:  Georgian House Accommodation
 
Contact The Landmark Trust for prices, availability and bookings.
Tel:       +44 (0) 1628 825 925 Accommodation only
eMail:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
- To book 'The Georgian House' go to  Web:  Landmark Trust/ Georgian House
 
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Expedia here: 
 
The Palace has an excellent Visit Planner web page, allowing visitors with limited time to choose what attractions to see.
 
Opening Hours
The palace is open most of the year. Go to the palace website for details  Web: Hampton Court/ Opening Hours link
 
Admission Prices
There are ticket packages to suit most visitors. Go to  Web:  Hampton Court Palace/ Admission Prices
 
To avoid queues and take advantage of reduced ticket prices book online through the official Palace Website address above.
 
HRP Membership Bonus
Hampton Court is a member of the Historic Royal Palaces Group. A membership gives free access to all five palaces in the Group, Hampton Court Palace, Tower of London, The Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. To find out more:
Telephone   +44 (0)8444 827 788
 
Disabled Access 
The Palace is an historic building and has uneven surfaces. Most of the routes within the palace are accessible. There is a lift to the first floor State Apartments. There are accessible toilet facilities in Base Court, Fountain Court, on the first floor, in the Wilderness Garden and Tiltyard Tea-rooms.
 
For further information go to:   Hampton Court Palace/ Disabled Access Information
 
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Costumed Guides
Free Guided Tours. These are included in the cost of your ticket and are conducted by costumed guides. The guides are dressed in the period costume consistent with the area that is being visited. They are well worth doing. The guides are happy to be photographed with visitors.
 
Food & Drink
Visitors are well catered for with a variety of food and drink points. Go to  Web: Hampton Court Palace/ Food & Drink
 
Picnics may be eaten in the gardens and the Tiltyard – see the above website for details. Food and drink are not permitted within the confines of the buildings.
 
Average Visit Time
There is a lot to see and do and this is really a whole day attraction.
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone  +44 (0)8444 827 777
Mail  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Getting There
To find the best way for getting to Hampton Court Palace, visit TfL Journey Planner. 
 
The Hampton Court Palace website has excellent 'Getting to Hampton Court' information. However the following may be of interest:
 
- By Rail
This is our recommended method of travel from Central London to the Palace
 
South West Trains run services direct from London Waterloo to Hampton Court station. Trains run half hourly and the journey takes approximately 35 minutes. Hampton Court is in Travel Zone 6 and the Palace is only 219 yards (200 metres) walk from the station across the bridge.
 
- By Riverboat
During summer boats run on the River Thames from Westminster Pier to Hampton Court Palace. Although a delightful way to get to the Palace, the trip can take up to 4 hours depending on the tides. Be certain to check times with the respective riverboat office.
 
For information on services from Westminster and Kew, contact Westminster Passenger Services Tel: +44 (0)2079 302 062 or go to  Web:  Thames Riverboat Services
 
For services from Richmond and Kingston-upon-Thames, contact Turks Launches on Tel: +44 (0)2085 462 434 or go to  Web: Turks Launches
 
TIP
We have found an enjoyable way to visit Hampton Court Palace
 
- Travel on an early South West Trains service to Hampton Court Station, visit until say 14:30 and then take the Thames Riverboat Services afternoon return boat to Westminster Pier (leaves Hampton Court wharf around 15:00 arriving Westminster Pier at about 18:00.
 
The next (and last) boat leaves around 17:00 and arrives at Westminster three hours later around 20:00 – in time for an evening meal in the Strand!
 
Be certain to check exact times on the Thames Riverboat Services link above.
 
Google Maps - Hampton Court Palace