Hampton Court Palace started from humble beginings in the 11th century to become one of the finest palaces in the world. It has not been a royal residence since the 18th century and is today open to the public and is a major tourist attraction. The first buildings on the site belonged to the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, who were a religious order, they used the buildings as a centre for their agricultural estates. The first tenant who lived here was Giles Daubeney in 1494, who was the Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VII. After the death of Daubeney in 1508, the next tenant was to be Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York, close friend of King Henry VIII, who later became a cardinal and Lord Chancellor of England. Wolsey transformed Hampton Court into a vast palace for his own use and that of the royal family. Henry VIII extended the palace even further spending massive amounts of money until it was the most sumptuously decorated of all the palaces. There were tennis courts, a hunting park, gardens, huge kitchens, a chapel and a communial dining room (the Great Hall).
Elizabeth I continued to stay at the palace and it was used for visiting foreign dignitaries although she did not add a lot of building work there were a few changes made during her reign. Hampton Court continued to play an important role in royal life under King James I and as a keen huntsman the palace groundsprovided excellent hunting grounds. When William III and Mary II came to the throne they commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild the entire palace, but because of building costs and the time it would take, the rebuilding of the King and Queens appartments had to suffice. Unfortunately Mary died in 1694 and the new buildings were left standing empty until 1697 when William appointed Wren’s deputy to finish the work. During Queen Anne’s reign she was able to enjoy the newly finished King’s Appartments but work was still ongoing on the Queen’s Appartments, which was to be for the use of Anne’s consort, Prince George). Prince George died in 1708 and the work was again held up. When Anne died in 1714 it marked the end of the Stuarts reign and the beginning of the Hanoverians, King George I did not spend much time in England and it was the Prince and Princess of Wales, later to be George II and Queen Caroline, who loved the magnificence of the royal court. The Queen’s apartments were finished for their use. On his accession to the throne George II built the final rooms at Hampton Court, they were for his second son the Duke of Cumberland, these new lodgings on the east side of the Clock Court are still known as the Cumberland Suite today. King George II reign also marked the end of Hampton Court being a royal residence, after Queen Caroline died he never visited the palace again.
After the royal family left the palace in 1737 it was divided up for ‘grace and favour’ appartments granted free of charge for those giving great service to the crown or country. After 200 years of the ‘grace and favour’ appartments, Queen Victoria, in 1838, ordered that the palace be thrown open to the public and there was much interest shown by antiquarians and architects in the surving Tudor pat of the palace. Work was started on the restoration to bring the palace back to its former glory. Between 1838 and 1851, £7,000 was spent each year on the restoration works, and from 1875 to 1900 a second phase of restoration took place. In the 1970s and 1980s exhibitions were introduced and some improvements were made in the State Apartments, sadly a fire in 1986 damaged a large section of the King’s appartments which took six years to repair and led to the largest series of restorations since the 1880s, all these works were completed in 1995. Conservation continues at the palace and most of the buildings are open to the public although there are still a few remaining ‘grace and favour’ appartments.
When visiting Hampton Court don’t miss the Maze which is the most famous maze in the history of the world, also look out for one of the many ghosts who regularly haunt the Palace ! The Great Hall in Henry VIII’s State Appartments is the last and greatest medieval hall. Learn about Henry VIII and his life and his wives. Experience the sights and smells of a real Tudor kitchen. Enjoy over 60 acres of beautiful gardens and visit the chapel which has been in continuous use for over 450 years.
Last admission: 15.30
Last entry to Maze: 15.45
Website – https://www.hrp.org.uk
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