Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)


East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU


0870 752 7777



Opening times:

Mon–Sun 10:00–18:00

How to get there:

Station: Hampton Court

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Cafés and shop

Hampton Court Palace, sprawling and magnificent on the north bank of the Thames, is from a distance a fantasy of Tudor turrets and twisted chimney stacks. Formerly the extravagant home of Cardinal Wolsey, it was requisitioned by Henry VIII in 1528, on Wolsey’s failure to support the king’s desire for a divorce from Katherine of Aragon. It was here that Henry VIII was betrothed to his third wife, Jane Seymour and here, a year later, that Jane died giving birth to Edward VI. Shakespeare may have acted in his own Measure for Measure in the Great Hall. Hampton Court was a favoured royal residence of the later Tudors and early Stuarts, a pleasure palace with tennis courts, bowling alleys, a tilt yard and parks stocked with deer and other game. From 1645 Charles I was imprisoned at the palace and, following his execution, it became Oliver Cromwell’s country residence. From 1689 Hampton Court was transformed for William III and Mary II by Sir Christopher Wren into a modern Baroque palace, its size and splendour in conscious competition with Louis XIV’s Versailles. Suites of King’s and Queen’s State Apartments were created, outstanding ornamental gardens, with topiary and fountains, and a maze which is still one of the palace’s best-known features. The court last visited Hampton in 1737. The State Apartments were opened to the public in the 19th century, shortly after the accession of Queen Victoria, while other parts of the palace were awarded as ‘grace and favour’ apartments to pensioners of the Crown and others. It was in one of these that, in 1986, a fire broke out, which caused catastrophic damage to some of the King’s Apartments. A meticulous restoration campaign has been undertaken, and the refurbished rooms now offer a true sense of the exuberant and rich interiors of the time of William III.

The Tudor Palace

The first buildings at Hampton belonged to the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, who acquired the manor in 1236 and used it as a grange. By the 15th century the great barn had been replaced by residential buildings, used by the Abbots of the Order of St John as a rural retreat. In 1494 Sir Giles Daubenay, Henry VII’s Lord Chancellor, purchased an 80-year lease on the property and transformed the country manor into a major courtier house. It was in 1514–15 that Hampton Court’s important association with royalty and political and national life began, with Sir Thomas Wolsey’s acquisition of a 90-year lease. Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, appointed Cardinal by Pope Leo X in 1515, Wolsey transformed Hampton Court into a complex of buildings of international importance. As well as a private residence, he envisaged the palace as a show house for entertaining the king and his court, and as a fitting residence to receive foreign dignitaries. Built by architects and master craftsmen associated with the country’s most important late Gothic buildings, Hampton Court also had innovative features and Renaissance embellishments not seen in England before. Its succession of courtyards and elaborate, turreted gateways provided accommodation for the court; lavish apartments for the king (which remained the principal State Apartments of the monarch until the reign of William and Mary); a chapel; and a long gallery, erected in 1515–16, glazed on either side. Gardens were laid out, and a moat and ponds for fish constructed, the latter providing freshwater shrimps and carp. These major alterations were undertaken in two principal phases: in 1515–22, the last date being that of the visit to Hampton Court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (nephew of Katherine of Aragon); and a second phase, until 1527, when Wolsey received the huge entourage of the French court. The palace was furnished with costly magnificence, reflecting Wolsey’s status as international statesman. Tapestries, a commodity of the wealthy elite, were purchased abroad for staggering sums in 1520, with the Emperor’s visit in mind, while Wolsey’s own apartments were hung with cloth of gold.

In September 1528 Henry ordered Wolsey to vacate the palace for the duration of the visit of the papal delegation, in London to discuss the King’s divorce. From that time on Henry assumed ownership of Hampton Court, which was completed during his reign. Alterations and additions were made to Wolsey’s buildings, including the construction of new kitchens, a Council Chamber and the Great Hall, and practical improvements were undertaken, such as the construction of the Great House of Ease (communal lavatories).


The Exterior

The main entrance to the palace is from the main road, through Trophy Gate, built for William III. At its far end is the west front of the palace, built by Wolsey and completed and altered by Henry VIII. The central Great Gatehouse , of mellow brick with limestone dressings, was originally two storeys higher but nevertheless preserves an excellent sense of the imposing silhouette it would have presented to visitors. The fine moated bridge, built by Henry VIII, is guarded by the King’s Beasts. On the turrets to either side are terracotta roundels by the Florentine sculptor Giovanni da Maiano, two of eight imported and set in place in 1521 (others appear in the succeeding courtyards). Henry VIII’s arms were inserted in 1530. Visitors pass through to Base Court , originally cobbled but which remains much as Wolsey built it. Straight ahead is the Anne Boleyn Gate, built by Wolsey, but so-called because the fan-vaulted ceiling was added after Anne became queen in 1533. It bears her badge of a falcon and the intertwined initials H and A. Its small 18th-century bell-tower contains an original bell of the Knights Hospitallers.

Clock Court was the principal court of Wolsey’s palace, now much altered. The original west range has Wolsey’s arms, supported by cherubs and surmounted by his cardinal’s hat, in terracotta, above the gate. Henry VIII’s Astronomical Clock, probably designed by Nicholas Kratzer and made in 1540 by Nicholas Oursian, Devisor of the King’s Horologies, its dial altered, shows the hour, month and day, the number of days passed since the beginning of the year, the houses of the zodiac and the phases of the moon. The east side, constructed in Tudor style, was remodelled by William Kent in 1732 for George II. It replaces the magnificent apartments constructed by Wolsey for Henry VIII, which were used by monarchs until the reign of William and Mary, their former great feature being tall glazed windows which in their day would have amazed and astonished. The colonnaded south side was constructed by Wren as an entrance to William III’s new State Apartments. On the north is the buttressed mass of Henry VIII’s new Great Hall.

Continuing through to Fountain Court , visitors find all trace of the Tudor palace removed, supplanted by the arched cloisters and Baroque façades of Wren’s new courtyard. It replaces Henry VIII’s Fountain Court, so named in 1536. The tall first-floor windows are those of the State Apartments, above which were the lodgings of important courtiers and officeholders. On the south side carved wreaths surround 12 (much faded) paintings by the French Baroque decorative artist Louis Laguerre, the Labours of Hercules, part of the heroic iconography glorifying William III that appears throughout the late Stuart palace.

An exit on the east side leads to the gardens and Wren’s imposing east and south fronts , among the most important examples of Baroque architecture in the country. Eager to avoid the smog of London and the damp of Whitehall Palace (William III suffered from chronic asthma), William and Mary ordered Wren to ‘beautify’ Hampton Court in March 1689. Wren transformed it into a modern Baroque palace, architecturally influenced by Continental precedents. In May 1689 demolition of portions of the Tudor palace began, and by July the foundations of the new apartments were being dug. The frantic pace of work led to partial collapse of the south front, and work resumed at a more orderly rate. The east front is architecturally the more elaborate, with a great central pediment filled with a sculptural relief, Hercules Triumphing over Envy (further allusion to William’s might), by Caius Gabriel Cibber, supported by giant Corinthian columns. The south front, which contains the King’s Apartments, with views over the elaborate Privy Garden, has over the central window a carved trophy of arms with a Latin inscription, ‘Gulielmus et Maria Rex et Regina Fecerunt’, glorifying William and Mary’s building project.


The Tudor Interiors


Henry VIII’s State Apartments

The apartments of Henry VIII which survived the demolition and renovation campaigns of successive centuries are approached via Clock Court, up the staircase in Anne Boleyn’s Gate. They lead to the Great Hall, the largest room in the palace, begun by the king in 1532. As well as being a traditional component of a high-status building, the Hall provided a magnificent entrance to the State Apartments. The remarkable hammerbeam roof, one of the finest in existence—but which serves no practical function—was designed by the King’s Master Carpenter, James Nedeham, and is richly decorated with carved pendants, the royal arms and heraldic badges. The exceptional Flemish ‘Story of Abraham’ tapestries, woven in Brussels in the 1540s by Wilhelm Pannemaker, with silver and gold thread, were among the most expensive tapestries commissioned by Henry VIII.

Beyond Horn Court (where old Tudor antlers were stored at the time of William III) is the Great Watching Chamber, the first of Henry VIII’s sequence of State Apartments, and the only one to survive. A door at the far end would have led to the Presence Chamber and the rest of the state rooms. It was a room at the heart of court life, where senior courtiers would have dined and where the Yeomen of the Guard were stationed, controlling access to the king in the Apartments beyond. Although altered, it is the only state room of Henry VIII’s, from any palace, to survive in anything approaching its original appearance, and is thus of immense historical significance. The decorated ceiling is original, as are the 16th-century tapestries, but the deep heraldic frieze has been whitewashed.

The Pages’ Chamber was where courtiers waited before being presented to the king. The Haunted Gallery is named after the shrieking ghost of Catherine Howard said to inhabit it. Catherine, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, was held at Hampton Court, in her lodgings, before her execution on charges of adultery. Sixteenth-century Flemish tapestries, probably owned by Elizabeth I, show scenes from Virgil’s Aeneid. Important Tudor pictures from the Royal Collection hang here (the selection can change), including the Family of Henry VIII, showing the king enthroned, flanked by Jane Seymour and his only son, the future Edward VI, with, to the sides, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth; and the famous Field of the Cloth of Gold and The Embarkation of Henry VIII, showing the English fleet preparing to leave for Calais.

The Chapel Royal was built by Wolsey and is still in use (services on Sunday). Its most magnificent adornment is the astonishing fan-vaulted ceiling, carved and decorated with gilded pendants, installed by Henry VIII in 1535–36. The high altar, with its oak reredos by Grinling Gibbons and painted angels by Sir James Thornhill, was installed by Queen Anne, who also altered the upper Royal Pew, where the monarch would attend services. Its painted ceiling is also by Thornhill.


The Wolsey Rooms

Entered via the colonnade in Clock Court and down Stone Hall, the Wolsey Rooms occupy the site of Wolsey’s private apartments, built in the 1520s. Refitted in the 18th and 19th centuries, they nevertheless retain some original Tudor features: linenfold panelling, plain early 16th-century fireplaces and a ribbed ceiling with early Renaissance decorative motifs. Important pictures displayed here (the choice is liable to change) include a fantastical lady in a Persian headdress surrounded by Elizabethan symbolism, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger; George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1628) by Gerrit van Honthorst; and Leonard Knyff’s large bird’s-eye panorama of Hampton Court, c. 1703.


Tudor Kitchens

Access to the Tudor kitchens is from Clock Court, through the basement of the Great Hall and out into Master Carpenter’s Court. The kitchens fed Henry VIII’s court of 1,200 people, who dined in the Great Hall and the Great Watching Chamber, and were administered by the Board of the Greencloth which met above Seymour Gate, which can be seen from Lord Chamberlain’s Court. The Boiling House was the Tudor butchery, where great cauldrons of stock and stew were also prepared. Fish Court houses various kitchen departments, such as the spicery, the pastry house and the fish larder. The Great Kitchens, a vast, cavernous space with huge hearths and spits, is divided into three spaces, the third being the oldest, part of Wolsey’s kitchens built c. 1514. Dishes were elaborately dressed and garnished in the Dressers, then passed out to the Serving Place to be taken to diners via the North Cloister. The Cellars were where quantities of beer, ale and wine for the court were stored. The vaulted Great Wine Cellar contains great oak barrels hooped with willow.

Interiors of the Late Stuart Palace

The transformation of Hampton Court from an old-fashioned shrine to the Tudor monarchy into a great Baroque palace which challenged the supremacy of Louis XIV was undertaken for William and Mary from 1689 by a team of great architects and designers: Sir Christopher Wren; Nicholas Hawksmoor; the virtuoso carver Grinling Gibbons; William Talman; and the leading Baroque decorative artist Antonio Verrio. Queen Mary had keenly overseen progress at the palace until her premature death, of smallpox, in 1694, when work virtually ceased until late 1697 when William, his European wars over, took a renewed, personal interest. In January 1698, after fire had virtually destroyed the chief Royal residence, Whitehall Palace, Wren submitted an estimate for the completion of the interiors, but the cheaper William Talman was chosen. Tapestries from the Royal Collection were used throughout the rooms, as well as pictures, mainly royal portraits which deliberately emphasised the Dutch William’s association with the Stuart dynasty. The Master of the Great Wardrobe, Ralph, Baron, later Earl, later 1st Duke, of Montagu, took charge of the furnishings. Former Ambassador in Paris, he promoted French Huguenot artists and craftsmen. Throughout the State Apartments is elaborate upholstery, expensive carved giltwood furniture supplied by Jean Pelletier and exceptional mirrors by Gerrit Jensen, cabinet-maker and glass seller in ordinary to the King. The court removed to Hampton Court for the first time in April 1700 and thereafter it was William’s habit to spend spring and early summer and autumn at the palace, until his death following a riding accident in the park here in 1702.

According to convention, the King and Queen had their own suites of rooms, reached by separate grand staircases. Access to the apartments was governed by strict court protocol. While most visitors to court could mount the Great Stairs and linger in the Guard Room, further progression was strictly governed by rank. The closer one got to the private apartments of the monarch, the more exclusive the room, and the richer its furnishing and ornamentation. The King’s Private Apartments, where only the most favoured were admitted, were the most lavish of all. All the State Apartments at Hampton Court illustrate these conventions to rich and grand effect. Many of the furnishings are original to the rooms, which underwent a six-year restoration following the fire in 1986.


The King’s Apartments

The entrance to the King’s Apartments is under the colonnade in Clock Court. The spectacular King’s Staircase was decorated by Verrio in 1700–02. An overwhelmingly Baroque space, it was supposed to awe visitors as they approached the State Rooms above. The walls and ceiling illustrate scenes from the Satire of the Caesars, written by Emperor Julian the Apostate. Alexander’s triumph over the Caesars is paralleled with William’s over the Roman Catholic James II, and celebrates the king as Protestant champion of Europe. The Banquet of the Gods is on the ceiling; on the east wall Hercules and Romulus pressing the rival claims of Alexander the Great and the Twelve Caesars to be invited to the Heavenly Banquet of the Saturnalia, and on the south wall Mercury suggesting to Julian the subject of the ‘Satire of the Caesars’. The fine wrought iron balustrade is by Jean Tijou. The King’s Guard Chamber was where the Yeomen of the Guard controlled access to the king, letting past into the State Rooms only peers, officeholders, privy councillors or gentlemen of good quality and fashion. The oak panelling is decorated with more than 3,000 pieces of arms, arranged in patterns by John Harris, Master Gunner of Windsor Castle, for William III.

The King’s Presence Chamber was used for formal ceremonial occasions such as the reception of ambassadors. Facing the entrance is the king’s throne. Made for William III in 1700, its tall crimson canopy bears his arms and the national emblems. Courtiers would bow three times in its direction even when unoccupied. Opposite it is Sir Godfrey Kneller’s enormous William III on Horseback, a prominent, heroic image of the king, painted in 1701 and framed in situ by the king’s framer, John Norris. The tapestries, The Labours of Hercules and The Triumph of Bacchus, were hung here for William III in 1700 but originally belonged to Henry VIII. The King’s Eating Room was where the king dined in public, a ceremony not undertaken by William frequently. Placed between the windows are tables, modern reproductions of the originals, flanked by carved giltwood candlestands by Jean Pelletier and surmounted by mirrors by Gerrit Jensen. Similar ensembles appear in the succeeding rooms. Above the chimneypiece is a portrait of Christian IV of Denmark, brother of James I’s queen, Anne of Denmark, set within a majestic overmantel of carved limewood by Grinling Gibbons: brilliantly realised drops of leaves and flowers, with a cresting of arching wheat and palm fronds. The ‘Acts of the Apostles’ tapestries are of 17th-century Brussels manufacture.

The King’s Privy Chamber, to which only gentlemen of good rank were admitted, was the most important ceremonial room in the palace. It was here that the king received foreign ambassadors at their first, official, entrance and where other court functions, such as the performance of Birthday Odes, took place. The room was badly damaged in the 1986 fire. Most of the contents were rescued before the ceiling collapsed, but the canopied throne and great rock crystal chandelier, now restored, were buried in rubble. The tapestries are part of Henry VIII’s Story of Abraham series intended for the Great Hall. This important room occupies the central place along the south front enfilade, and the Privy Garden visible from the window is centrally aligned to it. The richly carved overmantel is by Gibbons, with sections painstakingly re-carved.

Only court officeholders, privy councillors and Secretaries of State were admitted to the King’s Withdrawing Room, a more intimate size than the preceding room, where social gatherings would take place and cards would be played. The elaborate silver sconces are reproduced from originals at Windsor Castle, and the tapestries are from the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ series. The carved overmantel is a masterpiece of carving by Gibbons, with leaves and fruit hanging in dense ropes, with complex gatherings of fruit and flowers, crisply carved. This was the last room that visitors could access from the King’s Staircase. The King’s Great Bedchamber next door, one step further into the sanctum, admitted privileged courtiers only, by way of the King’s Back Stairs. This magnificent space was a ceremonial room where the king was dressed in front of courtiers, who were kept at a distance behind a rail. The gilded furniture and mirrors, by Gerrit Jensen, are the finest in the apartments, including one 13-ft high, incorporating, in strips of blue glass, the king’s monogram and crest. The great state bed, with plumed finials, soars towards the richly painted ceiling by Verrio, which appropriately shows Endymion in the arms of Morpheus, Greek god of dreams and sleep, with episodes from the story of Diana in the cove. Below is a remarkable carved frieze by Gibbons, of scrolling acanthus, songbirds, blossoms, fruit and ears of wheat. The King’s Little Bedchamber was where the monarch actually slept. The bed and hangings, of silk and silver lace, are reproductions, based on surviving bills and warrants. Displayed on the chimneypiece are rare pieces of oriental porcelain from Mary II’s collection. The Verrio ceiling, an excellent piece of painting unusually well preserved, shows Mars and Venus, with cupids, billing doves and orange trees in the cove. The King’s Closet was his private study, where he would receive Ministers and Secretaries of State. The overmantel painting, Birds in a Landscape, is by Jacob Bogdani, who worked for Mary II.

The Back Stairs lead to the King’s Private Apartments on the ground floor. Although the East Closet formed part of the king’s private apartments, it was also used by William’s favourite, the Earl of Albemarle, who had extensive lodgings at the palace. Most of the paintings are from William’s collection, as are those in the Middle Closet. The long and airy Orangery has a series of sculpture busts of philosophers by Hubert Le Sueur (Praxiteles Le Sueur, as he liked to sign himself), and the palace’s original Privy Garden statuary (copies are in the garden). The King’s Private Drawing Room and Private Dining Room were where William entertained unofficially, the latter hung with Sir Godfrey Kneller’s important Hampton Court Beauties, a series of full-length portraits of the principal court ladies, commissioned by Queen Mary.


The Queen’s Apartments

The apartments are entered via Clock Court, through George II’s gateway. Intended for Mary II, who died in 1694 before the completion of the palace, some of the Queen’s Apartments were used by William III but the rest remained empty. In 1715–18 they were set up for the use of the Prince and Princess of Wales, later George II and Queen Caroline, and on George II’s accession to the throne the Queen’s State and private apartments were redecorated and refurbished for Caroline. The Queen’s Staircase, origin-ally panelled and whitewashed, was painted by William Kent in 1734 to create a more lavish entrance. The grisaille decorations are on canvas applied to the wall, not plaster. The vast allegorical oil painting, Mercury presenting the Liberal Arts to Apollo and Diana, by Gerrit van Honthorst, 1628, shows Charles I and Henrietta Maria as Jupiter and Juno with the Duke of Buckingham as Apollo. The Queen’s Guard Chamber is where the Yeomen of the Guard were stationed to control access to the Queen. They appear on the extraordinary chimneypiece, possibly made by Gibbons, the design sometimes attributed to Sir John Vanbrugh, who was also responsible for the room’s architecture. The sober Queen’s Presence Chamber was also designed by Vanbrugh, who was employed at the palace early in the reign of George I.

The Public Dining Room, originally a music or dancing room, was used by George II and Queen Caroline when they dined in the presence of the court. The Queen’s Audience Chamber was the principal room in the suite used for the reception of important visitors. It retains Queen Caroline’s crimson throne canopy. The Queen’s Drawing Room is the central room on Wren’s east façade. Aligned with the long canal, dug for Charles II, the view from the window shows the avenue of yews and other trees stretching into the distance. The queen’s ‘drawing rooms’ took place here, where ladies of the court gossiped and played cards. The painted ceiling and walls, the latter in imitation of tapestries, were executed by Verrio and a team of assistants from 1703. Commissioned by Queen Anne, who succeeded William III, the theme is royal naval power. Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark, features prominently, as Lord High Admiral. Prince George was fond of Hampton Court and these apartments were set up for his use. This was Verrio’s last commission—he was by this time an ageing man with poor eyesight—and the work has, with justification, been much criticised, although it is much restored, George II having covered it up with wallpaper.

The Queen’s State Bedchamber has its original bed, made for George and Caroline when Prince and Princess of Wales in 1715, and an excellent painted ceiling by Sir James Thornhill, Leucothoe restraining Apollo from entering his Chariot, with oval portraits of members of the Royal family in the cove. The Queen’s Gallery was used by William III who displayed here Mantegna’s Triumphs of Caesar The 18th-century Brussels tapestries, episodes from the story of Alexander the Great, were hung here by George I. The excellent chimneypiece by John Nost, with putti either side of an oval mirror, was moved from the King’s Great Bedchamber. The Queen’s Closet is hung with needlework panels made for Mary II, in the style of the French Huguenot Baroque designer Daniel Marot, who worked for the Queen when he was briefly in England. Here also are blue and white Delft tulip vases, made for William and Mary in the 1690s. The use of porcelain was a characterising motif of Marot’s interior designs.


The Georgian Rooms

The Georgian Rooms are approached from Clock Court, through George II’s gateway, up the small staircase on the left. The rooms comprise the apartments occupied by George II and Queen Caroline—who last visited the palace with the court in 1737—and the new apartments on the east side of Clock Court created in 1732 by William Kent for their second son, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The Cumberland Suite was built on the site of Henry VIII’s abandoned State Apartments. The Duke’s Presence Chamber, hung with Georgian royal portraits, has a ‘Jacobethan’ ceiling and painted and gilded panelling, while the Duke’s Bedchamber has an elaborate Palladian bed niche flanked by Ionic columns, painted white. The Wolsey Closet is a 19th-century assembly of salvaged Tudor fragments which evokes a 1530s royal closet. The densely elaborate gilded Renaissance ceiling is part Tudor leather mâché, the rest 19th-century imitation. The paintings were probably commissioned by Henry VIII, but have been cut down to fit this space.

The Communication Gallery was built for William III in the 1690s. It displays Sir Peter Lely’s exceptional Windsor Beauties, a set of pictures of court ladies commissioned by Anne Hyde, first wife of James II, in the early 1660s. Notable figures such as Charles II’s mistress Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, and Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond are included. The important Cartoon Gallery was built by Wren as William III’s private picture gallery. It was soon altered specifically to take Raphael’s ‘Acts of the Apostles’ cartoons, the exceptional Italian Renaissance works commissioned by Pope Leo X in 1516 as patterns for tapestries for the Sistine Chapel. William III ordered their restoration, by Parry Walton and Henry Cooke, and installation at Hampton Court in 1697. The pictures seen here are 17th-century copies (the originals were loaned to the V&A by Queen Victoria in 1865, where they remain). The Cartoon Gallery was used for the weekly meetings of William III’s Privy Council.

The Queen’s Private Apartments were built by Wren for Mary II. They are presented today as occupied by Queen Caroline in the 1730s. The Queen’s Private Drawing Room is hung with rare 18th-century crimson flock wallpaper and has a large 17th-century Isfahan carpet. Her Private Bedchamber is hung with Mortlake tapestries of c. 1685 depicting the 1672 Battle of Solebay. The great state bed, not original to Hampton Court, formerly belonged to the 2nd Viscount Townshend, George II’s Secretary of State. Above the chimneypiece, set within a dense roundel of carved flowers by Gibbons, is a portrait of Caroline by Joseph Highmore. The Queen’s Dressing Room and Bathroom preserve a silver-gilt toilet service made c. 1695 by Daniel Garnier, and engraved in 1740. Beyond the Private Dining Room and Sideboard Room is the Queen’s Private Oratory, with a lofty carved and moulded dome, where Caroline would hear sermons and services before her Chaplain.



The Mortlake Tapestry Works and the ‘Acts of the Apostles’

Shortly after Giovanni de’ Medici, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, became Pope Leo X, he commissioned ten cartoons from Raphael, depicting the Acts of the Apostles, for tapestries for the Sistine Chapel. The cartoons were woven in Flanders in the workshops of Pieter van Aelst. Charles I purchased the cartoons in 1623, and had tapestries made up from them at Mortlake: lavish and costly items that made copious use of metallic thread. The Mortlake manufactory had been set up by Royal Charter four years previously. It had 18 looms, an artist’s studio, and employed over 50 Netherlandish weavers. Among them was Louis Dermoulen, who specialised in heads, and Pieter de Craigt, who sepcialised in flesh parts. Mortlake’s golden era began in the 1620s, under the directorship of Francis Cleyn, who was chief designer there until his death in 1657. He was appointed on the strength of the new working cartoons which he produced from the Raphael series. Raphael’s own cartoons were restored later in the century by order of William III. Monumental examples of High Renaissance art in England, they were held up as exemplars of artistic excellence. Sir James Thornhill studied them when working on the dome of St Paul’s, and in 1729 he was granted a Royal Warrant to make copies. He hoped to make them more accessible to art students, and as such a focus for academic instruction. These great works of art—the gestures of the figures and their composition—made an impact on English art for generations.



The Palace Gardens

Henry VIII laid out elaborate ornamental gardens which comprised a privy garden to the south; a public garden to the east, with parkland beyond; pleasure gardens to the north; and to the west the great Tiltyard, for jousting and tournaments. The gardens today, however, reflect their Baroque transformation under William and Mary, who laid out the great avenues of trees to the east—such a defining feature of the present Hampton Court—as well as the Privy Garden’s elaborate parterre to the south and the Wilderness to the north.


South Gardens

The Privy Garden, the King’s private garden, was completed for William III in 1702, its magnificent symmetry of design seen to best effect from the windows of the King’s Apartments. Recent restoration has re-established the great ornamental parterre, with its box and gravel arabesques, carefully placed clipped evergreens, its fountain basin at the centre, and elegant statuary. The Earl of Portland was William’s Superintendent of the Royal Gardens, the nurseryman George London his deputy, William Talman the Comptroller, and the Dutch gardener Hendrick Quellingburgh maintained them. When work resumed on the gardens in 1697, following the respite after Mary’s death, Henry Wise joined the team. The great screens at the bottom of the garden, by the Thames, of wrought iron with elaborate gilded panels, are by Jean Tijou, originally made for the east front Fountain Garden. The Knot Garden, with box hedging, gives an impression of the Tudor gardens, and the Pond Garden was where Henry VIII’s freshwater ponds were, which provided fish for the kitchens.

The Lower Orangery originally held Mary II’s botanical specimens, but today houses Andrea Mantegna’s magnificent Triumphs of Caesar (c. 1486–94), exceptional Italian Renaissance works made for the Gonzaga court at Mantua, purchased by Charles I in 1629 with other works from the Gonzaga collection. William hung them in the Queen’s Gallery, where their triumphal allegory reflected the King’s military prowess. The Great Vine, in its purpose-built glasshouse, is from a cutting of the Black Hamburg vine at Valentine’s Park, Essex. Planted by ‘Capability’ Brown in 1768, it is the oldest vine in the world and is tended by a resident keeper. On the east facing wall of the Vine Keeper’s house is the Great Wisteria, only a couple of decades younger than the vine.

The elegant Banqueting House is on the south side, on the edge of the Thames. A pleasure pavilion built for William III, it was probably designed by Talman. Its three rooms are richly decorated, with Gibbons carving and Verrio decorative work. The Painted Room has a mythological ceiling and walls, the latter incorporated within a unifying decorative framework of illusionistic carved cartouches, decorative swags of flowers, panels of grotesquework and mirrors with gilded frames.


East Gardens

The semicircular area immediately adjacent to the palace was laid out as the Great Fountain Garden for William III, an expansive parterre with twelve marble fountains, the design generally attributed to Daniel Marot. The scheme was simplified by Queen Anne, who dug the encircling canal, although the Broad Walk and the great tree-lined diagonal avenues of William’s scheme remain, as well as the central Long Water, dug for Charles II in the 1660s. At the north end of the Broad Walk is the Royal Tennis Court, built in the 1620s and still in use today.


North Gardens

The Northern Gardens occupy the site of the Wilderness, in place by 1686 but to which William III made alterations, a plantation of hollies and bay trees with winding paths and openings in elaborate, symmetrical patterns, a great yew tree at its centre. The feature which remains today is the world-famous Maze, the oldest planted maze in the country, although its hedges have been renewed over the centuries. Originally hornbeam, it was entirely replaced with yew in the 1960s, although there is a current plan to reintroduce the former. Introduced in 2005 was an audio installation: lost visitors will hear fragmented music, distant laughter and the rustle of silks.

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Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

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Wallace Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces)
Tate Modern
Tate Britain
Sutton House (National Trust)
Spencer House
Southside House
South London Art Gallery
The Courtauld Institute of Art (Somerset House)
Sir John Soane's Museum
Shakespeare’s Globe
Serpentine Gallery
Science Museum
St Bride’s Crypt Museum
St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum
Saatchi Gallery
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Mews
Royal London Hospital Museum
The Faraday Museum
Royal Hospital Chelsea
RCM Museum of Music
Royal Academy of Music Museum
Royal Academy of Arts
Red House (National Trust)
Ranger’s House (English Heritage)
Ragged School Museum
The Queen’s Gallery
Prince Henry’s Room
The Photographers’ Gallery
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Osterley Park (National Trust)
Orleans House Gallery
Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret
Natural History Museum
National Portrait Gallery
National Gallery
National Army Museum
Musical Museum
World Rugby Museum
Museum of the Order of St John
Museum No. 1 (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Museum of London
Garden Museum
Museum in Docklands (Museum of London)
The Royal Observatory
The Queen's House
Old Royal Naval College
Marianne North Gallery (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Marble Hill House (English Heritage)
Mall Galleries
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
London Transport Museum
London Fire Brigade Museum
London Canal Museum
18 Stafford Terrace – The Sambourne Family Home
Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Leighton House
Kingston Museum
Kew Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
London Museum of Water & Steam
Kenwood House (English Heritage)
Kensington Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Keats House
Jewish Museum
Jewel Tower (English Heritage)
Jerwood Space
Imperial War Museum
ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts
Hunterian Museum
Horniman Museum
HMS Belfast (Imperial War Museum)
Hayward Gallery
Handel House Museum
Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Ham House (National Trust)
Guildhall Art Gallery
Guards Museum
Grant Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy
Geffrye Museum of the Home
Fulham Palace
Freud Museum
Foundling Museum
Forty Hall & Estate
Florence Nightingale Museum
Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum
Fenton House (National Trust)
Fashion and Textile Museum
Fan Museum
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Eltham Palace (English Heritage)
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dr Johnson’s House
Dennis Severs' House
Danson House
Cutty Sark
Contemporary Applied Arts
Chiswick House (English Heritage)
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chartered Insurance Institute Museum
Charles Dickens Museum
Carlyle’s House (National Trust)
Camden Arts Centre
Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum (Imperial War Museum)
Burgh House - The Hampstead Museum
Buckingham Palace
Brunel Engine House
Brunei Gallery SOAS
British Optical Association Museum
The British Museum
The British Library
Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee
Black Cultural Archives
Museum of Childhood (Victoria & Albert Museum)
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Benjamin Franklin House
Ben Uri Gallery - The London Jewish Museum of Art
Barbican Art Gallery
Banqueting House (Historic Royal Palaces)
Bankside Gallery
Bank of England Museum
All Hallows Undercroft Museum
Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum




Most visited

Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
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Museum of London
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Geffrye Museum of the Home
8828 times viewed
Southside House
8039 times viewed
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
7966 times viewed
The British Museum
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The Royal Observatory
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Sir John Soane's Museum
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National Gallery
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Victoria & Albert Museum
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