Hunterian Museum


Royal College of Surgeons, 35–43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3PE


020-7869 6560



Opening times:

Tues–Sat 10:00–17:00

How to get there:

Tube: Holborn

Entry fee:


Additional information:


On the first floor of the Royal College of Surgeons’ grand Neoclassical home in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the Hunterian Museum re-opened in 2005 after a £3.5million refurbishment. Of the original building, designed by George Dance the Younger in 1813, only the portico survives, with the addition of an extra column after Charles Barry’s complete re-modelling of 1832. Five different galleries now display the College’s extensive collections of pathology and comparative anatomy specimens, as well as paintings, prints and drawings, and artefacts relating to the development of surgical practice since the 18th century.

William Hunter (1718–83) was one of the first to profit from the dissolution of the Barber-Surgeons, and recruited his younger brother John (1728–93) to help with his work. John Hunter, who built up the museum’s core collection, developed theories on the relationship between the body’s structure and function, illustrating his lectures with examples from some of his 15,000 different specimens. He is now considered to be one of the founding father’s of ‘scientific surgery’.

Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820) and Dr Daniel Solander (1736–82)

Natural History owes much to the friendship between Joseph Banks, son of a Lincolnshire landowner, and Daniel Solander, the son of a Swedish Lutheran pastor. Even as a boy Banks was intensely interested in nature, and especially plants. Solander was a pupil of Linnaeus, sent by his master to England to promote the Linnaean system of classification to botanists there. In 1768 both men accompanied Captain Cook to Tahiti and the South Seas on the Endeavour. There they made important collections of specimens hitherto unknown in Europe, their zeal getting them through the rigours of sea travel and the diet of verminous ship’s biscuit. The maggots, Banks commented, tasted ‘as strong as mustard’, and he claimed to have seen ‘hundreds, nay thousands, shaken out of a single biscuit’. So important were their collections, that after their return Linnaeus suggested naming the newly discovered country (Australia) Banksia. The proposal was not accepted, but a family of Australian plants, the genus Banksia, does bear the name. Botany Bay is also named after Banks and Solander’s activities. While Captain Cook had only seen desolation in that uncharted sound, and voted to name it Stingray Harbour, the two naturalists were captivated by its plant life, and the name Botany Bay is the one that stuck. So taken was Banks with the place, in fact, that when the government began looking for somewhere to establish a penal colony, Banks nominated Botany Bay as the ideal contender. Solander gives his name to the ‘Solander box’, a type of acid-free, soft board container which he devised to transport botanical specimens and keep them from spoiling. Such boxes are still used for storage of books, prints and papers today.

On their return to England, Solander was made keeper of the British Museum, where he catalogued the natural history collections, many of the items bequeathed by himself and Banks. Banks was a trustee of the Museum, and overseer of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. When Cook invited them to join him on his next voyage, on the Resolution, Banks felt unequal to the privations and elected not to accompany him. Solander stood by his friend and chose to remain behind too. The two men went to Iceland, with Solander acting as Banks’s secretary, and where they also made important discoveries. Both men became fellows of the Royal Society, and Banks was its president after 1778.



Tour of the Museum

The Introductory Gallery displays some of the museum’s original artefacts and illustrates the history of the College from its origins in the Barber-Surgeon companies of the 16th century. The four Evelyn Tables presented here are some of the oldest surviving anatomical preparations in Europe. Bought as a curiosity in Italy by the diarist John Evelyn in 1646, these dissections of nerves, veins and arteries pasted onto wooden boards were once important teaching aids. A painted plaster bust by Louis François Roubiliac depicts William Cheselden (1706–85), one of the first anatomy teachers, who published the Anatomy of the Human Body in 1713.

In the middle of the room, from floor to ceiling, the Crystal Gallery presents a dazzling display of the remaining portion of John Hunter’s specimen collection. Around two-thirds of the museum’s collection were destroyed by enemy action on 10th May 1941. Eight state-of-the-art showcases now display over 3,500 specimens preserved in jars of alcohol, or of a more modern formaldehyde-based solution. Specimens injected with dyes were also often pickled in turpentine. As well as providing an important insight into 18th-century science, the gallery also provides challenging subject matter for students of drawing. The skeleton of Charles Byrne (1761–83), the ‘Irish Giant’, who stood 7ft 7in tall, can be seen at the far end.

The one-room Art Gallery displays the College’s striking collection of 18th-century portraits, prints and drawings. It begins with a Portrait of Omai by William Hodges. Omai was brought over from Huahine, near Tahiti, in 1744 by Lt Tobias Furneaux, on HMS Adventure, and placed in the care of Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. He was presented to George III, and toured around the country in 1776. Also by Hodges are portraits of the Cherokee Indians Richard Justice and Moses Price. They visited London in 1791 accompanying William Augustus Bowles, self-styled commander-in-chief of the Cherokee nation. Next to them hangs Portrait of a Malay Woman by Robert Home. Home was John Hunter’s brother-in-law, who trained under Angelica Kauffman and moved out to India after 1788. Other portraits depict people afflicted with achondroplasia (dwarfism), including the famous small person Count Joseph Boruwiski (1739–1837). He charged curious people a fee to visit him at home, married and had several children of average height. The marble bust of King George III by Francis Chantrey (1781–1841) was commissioned in 1813 to commemorate the Royal Charter granted in 1800.

Perhaps the most celebrated painting in the Hunterian collection is Rhinoceros by the famous horse-portraitist George Stubbs. It is a meticulous depiction of an Indian rhino that had recently been brought back to London. Also by Stubbs are Yak (1791), an animal brought back alive by Warren Hastings, the first British Governor-General of India, later impeached and acquitted. The yak was kept at his estate at Dalesford in Gloucestershire, where the original portrait sill hangs. This version was commissioned in 1791. Other works by Stubbs include his portrait of an albino baboon which was known as the ‘child of the sun’, and some of his sketchings for an atlas on midwifery by John Burton. Equally remarkable are the animal paintings by Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1769–1849), who trained in the studio of David in Paris, under the patronage of Lord Rivers. They include an ibex, a white mule, white antelope and a quagga. Also here is a pencil portrait (1793) of John Hunter by George Dance the Younger, the architect of the first college building and founder member of the Royal Academy. John Hunter published his first book The Natural History of the Human Teeth in 1771. It was illustrated by Jan van Riemsdyk, some of whose original sketches can be seen here, along with a plaster-cast copy of the death mask of Sir Isaac Newton by John Michael Rysbrack.

The Museum after Hunter gallery profiles the work of curators since Hunter, taking in the development of comparative osteology and odontological collections and the effects of the bombing during the Blitz, which reduced the College’s collection of 75,000 specimens by over half. Upstairs, at balcony level, the Science of Surgery is an exhibition looking at the development of surgery as a profession, with its increasingly specialised fields, and displays items from the Lister Collection such as Lister’s examination couch, original antiseptic spray, microscopes and experiment flasks. Displays trace the influence of anaesthetics and antisepsis, up to the development of modern surgical techniques such as ‘keyhole’ surgery and visitors have the opportunity to view videos of operations such as heart and brain surgery.


Horniman Museum


100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ


020-8699 1872



Opening times:

Daily 10:30–17:30

How to get there:

Station: Forest Hill (from London Bridge). Bus: 176, 185, 312, P4

Entry fee:


During the 1860s and 70s, while working for the famous firm of tea merchants founded by his father, Frederick J. Horniman travelled extensively. His passion also lay in collecting; much of his hoard was bought at auction in London, and here it remains, in deepest Forest Hill, illustrating the arts, crafts and religions of the world at large. The museum first opened in Horniman’s own home, Surrey House, in 1888. This soon proved inadequate, and was demolished to make way for the present Art Nouveau building, described by Pevsner as ‘one of the boldest public buildings of its date in Britain’. The architect was C. Harrison Townsend (1897), who also designed the Whitechapel Art Gallery. In 1901, five years before his death, Horniman gave the museum to the people of London in perpetuity.

The Exterior

The façade is dominated by a landmark clocktower of eclectic design, and also by Robert Anning Bell’s large mosaic panel (10ft by 32ft) symbolising the course of human life: Humanity in the ‘House of Circumstance’ is flanked by gates representing Birth and Death and tended by figures representing the Arts, Poetry, Music, Endurance, Love, Hope, Charity, Wisdom and Resignation. Beneath is a plaque bearing the brave and inspiring inscription: ‘This building and its contents ... are dedicated to the public for ever as a free museum for their recreation, instruction and enjoyment’.

Since extensive redevelopment of the museum in 2002, the main entrance is now on the northwest side, reached from the gardens that were also part of Horniman’s generous gift. They give wide views over London, and also contain a bandstand (1912), and children’s zoo. Left of the main entrance, the glasshouse conservatory (1894) was moved here from Horniman’s house in Croydon.


The Museum

On the ground floor on the left, the Natural History Gallery has retained its Victorian design, a barrel-vaulted ceiling arching over a formidable array of stuffed animals and birds in glass cases. Dominating the centre of the room, the most popular exhibit—especially with children—is the stuffed walrus, one of the original creatures on display when the museum first opened. It came from Hudson Bay, Canada, and was mounted by taxidermists around 1870. Other cases contain a reconstructed badger set, the classification of primates, featuring the skeletons of orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees, and a stuffed ostrich. Yet more chart the evolution of the horse, and of the elephant, and contain stuffed birds including game birds, gulls, geese, ducks and hawks, notably a Golden Eagle, Harpy Eagle, and White Tailed Sea Eagle. Next door is the River Journey in the aquarium, where visitors can walk upstairs from mouth (sea) to source (mountain).

On the same floor, to the right, the African Worlds Gallery presents a selection from the estimated 22,000 African objects that make up almost a third of the museum’s ethnographic collections. Particularly important early items come from Egypt, Benin and Ethiopia. From the 1950s the museum focused on acquiring examples of the material culture of specific peoples, especially the Sua of Zaire, the Hadza of Tanzania, the San of Botswana, the Tuareg of Algeria and Samburu of Kenya. More recently curators have concentrated on developing collections illustrating contemporary masquerade: good examples come from the Dogon of Mali and the Bundouku region of the Côte d’Ivoire. Displays are usually arranged by theme rather than by geography or chronology. Examples of current themes are altars from Benin and Brazil, and a brightly coloured Haitian voodoo altar or pe with dressed dolls’ heads, skulls and Madonnas; masks such as the bird’s head battledress, an Igbo Omabe mask from Nigeria, named after the ‘dead fathers’ of the Igbo and worn to protect the people and their crops; a Yoruba epa mask, now a symbol of the Nigerian nationalist movement Eliti Parapo; and the flamboyant headgear of the Midnight Robber’s costume in the Trinidad Carnival.

The Centenary Gallery displays some of the multifarious objects that have been brought to the museum since its foundation and considers why they might have been chosen. The ‘Gift of the Horniman Family’ explores the founder’s main enthusiasms: colourful, exotic and educational objects. One such is a grisly metal contraption called the Torture Chair, with a dubious provenance once ascribed to Cell 23 of the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, now believed to be a 19th-century fake incorporating a genuine garotte. Others include 19th-century mangle boards from Norway, a Merman from Japan, and part of Horniman’s original collection of over 16,000 butterflies, beetles and insects, as well as rare birds in bell jars. ‘Illustrating Evolution’ explores the work of the first London County Council curators such as Alfred Cort Haddon, a founder of modern anthropology, who wanted the museum to ‘illustrate the evolution of culture’, demonstrating the now discredited idea that non-western societies were not ‘advanced’ in evolutionary terms.

The Music Gallery displays are drawn from the museum’s collection of some 8,000 musical artefacts from all periods and cultures. The theme of the central showcase is ‘The Rhythm of Life’: it shows instruments associated with celebrations of rites of passage: weddings, funerals, graduation concerts and inititation ceremonies. ‘Listening to Order’ shows the technological evolution of European brass and woodwind instruments from the 18th century to the present day, based on more than 300 historic instruments given to the museum in 1947 by Adam Carse, Professor of Harmony and Counterpoint at the Royal Academy of Music, in memory of his son who died in the Second World War. The display is complemented by the three ingenious interactive ‘listening tables’, where these instruments and many others are described and can be heard in action.


HMS Belfast (Imperial War Museum)


The Queen's Walk, London SE1 2JH


020-7940 6300



Opening times:

March–Oct daily 10:00–18:00; Nov–Feb daily 10:00–17:00

How to get there:

Tube: London Bridge

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Partial disabled access. Café and shop

The last surviving big gun World War Two armoured warship in Europe, HMS Belfast was saved from the scrapheap and opened to the public on Trafalgar Day (21st October) 1971. She provides a compelling insight into the nature of war at sea. An ‘Edinburgh’ class large light cruiser, she was designed during the mid-1930s in response to the threat posed by Japanese ‘Mogami’ class cruisers. Built by Harland and Wolff of Belfast, the vessel was launched by Mrs Neville Chamberlain on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March, 1938.

On the outbreak of war in September of the following year, HMS Belfast formed part of the maritime blockade of Germany operating out of the Home Fleet’s main base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. Badly damaged by a magnetic mine, she was completely refitted, eventually rejoining active service in 1943 on Arctic convoy duty. As the flagship of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, she successfully provided close-range heavy cover for several convoys of the kind that supplied the Soviet Union with some four million tons of supplies during the course of the war, including 5,000 tanks and 7,000 aircraft. In the Battle of North Cape in December 1943, she engaged and contributed to the sinking of the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst. Only 36 men survived from that ship’s complement of almost 2,000. On 6 June 1944, HMS Belfast was one of the first ships to open fire on German positions in Normandy in support of the D-Day landings, a role that she continued to play until 8 July, amid heavy fighting for the city of Caen.

After 1945, the ship was occupied in peace-keeping duties in the Far East, helping to evacuate survivors of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps and Chinese civilian internment centres. From 1950–52, HMS Belfast spent at least 404 days on active patrol in support of UN forces during the Korean War. In August 1963, after circumnavigating the globe via the Pacific Ocean and Panama Canal, she returned to Portsmouth to be reclassified as a Harbour Accommodation Ship. ‘Reduced to Disposal’ in 1971, she was rescued from the ship-breakers by an independent trust chaired by one of her former captains, Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles, and opened to visitors ‘not as an exercise in nostalgia, but as an act of faith for the youth of the future’. The ship was purchased for one pound by the Imperial War Museum in 1978.

Appropriately enough, the ship is now anchored to the Thames riverbed at the former ‘breakfast wharf’, where tons of tea were once unloaded into Frederick J. Horniman’s warehouses: it was this type of trade that cruisers were originally designed to protect. Visitors board at the Quarterdeck, the ‘Officer Country’ towards the stern of Royal Naval vessels. The ship has been divided into eight different ‘zones’ in an attempt to facilitate orientation around a confusion of different decks, hatchways, ladders and rooms. Above decks, highlights include scoping Tower Bridge and the Tower of London through the gun direction sights; the 6-inch Mark XXIII Triple Gun Turrets, now trained on Scratchwood Services on the M1; the 40mm Bofors guns; Admiral’s Bridge and Compass Platform, with the Operations Room behind enhanced by sound effects, ‘state boards’ and uniformed mannequins recreating the scene during the Battle of North Cape. Below decks, visitors can explore the ship’s living quarters, mess-decks, galley, chapel, magazine, communications room and—perhaps most impressive of all—the bewildering, claustrophobic array of gleaming pipes, valves and passageways in the boiler and engine rooms (zone eight). Exhibitions in zone five tell the story of HMS Belfast in war and peace, and describe life at sea for officers and men.


Hayward Gallery


Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX


020-7960 4200



Opening times:

Mon 12:00-18:00, Tue-Sun 11:00-19:00

How to get there:

Tube: Waterloo/Embankment

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Café and shop

The Hayward is one of London’s most important temporary exhibition spaces, featuring fine art shows of all periods but focusing particularly on the work of 20th-century and contemporary artists, sculptors and photographers. The gallery forms part of the South Bank Centre cultural complex, which includes the Royal Festival Hall, Poetry Library, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, occupying a tract of land on the south bank of the river, near Waterloo station. This was the site of the 1951 Festival of Britain, a national celebration to lift post-war spirits, which promoted British art, design and industry. The Festival’s London centrepiece was the South Bank, the new Royal Festival Hall at its heart, with pavilions and walkways constructed around it, including the slender Skylon reaching into the sky, lit internally at night. After the dismantling of the exhibition’s temporary structures, the site was developed by the Greater London Council’s Department of Architecture, led by Geoffrey Horsefall. The long promenade along the Thames was retained from the Festival, behind which sit a series of concert halls, the Hayward Gallery and the National Film Theatre, accessed by concrete walkways and stairwells with confusing shifts of level.

The Hayward itself (named after the London County Council’s former leader, Sir Isaac Hayward) is a purpose-built exhibition space dating from the 1960s. An uncompromising Brutalist building of grey, wood-pressed concrete, it is a series of joined cubes with jutting strata, its interior levels linked by concrete ramps, topped externally by the Neon Tower, designed by Philip Vaughan and Roger Dainton in 1970 and erected in 1972. Made up of coloured fluorescent tubes which are activated by the strength and direction of the wind, it has become a familiar part of the London evening and night-time landscape. From the South Bank there are excellent vistas over the river to the ‘Gherkin’ and St Paul’s Cathedral. The Hayward’s architecture is loathed and admired in equal measure. Particularly dismal on a grey, rainy day, a scheme to improve the environment is underway, of which the Hayward’s 2003 glass-fronted foyer extension is a part, which includes a pavilion jointly designed by the New York artist Dan Graham and the architectural office Haworth Tomkins.

The Hayward’s excellent programme of temporary exhibitions is eclectic and varied. Since its very first show, a Matisse retrospective in 1968, it has built up a distinguished record of contemporary art and photography exhibitions, as well as group, themed and international shows. In recent years it has staged monographic exhibitions on Howard Hodgkin, Francis Bacon and Henri Cartier Bresson; a contemporary African art show, Africa Remix; and an exhibition to celebrate the National Art Collections Fund, displaying star items saved for the nation. In addition the Hayward stages the annual British Show, which promotes the work of the most significant emerging British artists; manages a programme of national touring exhibitions; and administers the large Arts Council Collection of over 7,500 British works, a loan collection begun in 1949 to which contemporary work is continually added.


Handel House Museum


25 Brook Street, Mayfair, W1K 4HB (entrance at back)


020-7495 1685



Opening times:

Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat 10:00–18:00; Thur 10:00–20:00; Sun 12:00–18:00

How to get there:

Tube: Bond Street

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:


From 1723, when he was appointed Composer to the Chapel Royal, until his death here in 1759, George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) lived and worked at this medium-sized Mayfair townhouse. Born in Halle, Saxony, Handel came to London in 1710, having been Kapellmeister to the Elector of Hanover, later King George I. What attracted him was the opportunity to stage Italian operas. In the next year his Rinaldo, at the Haymarket, proved a huge success. Naturalised a British citizen by Act of Parliament in 1727, he composed Zadok the Priest for the coronation of George II later in the same year. The anthem has been sung at all subsequent coronations. Concentrating increasingly on the composition of English oratorios, Handel’s work often drew parallels between British history and the Old Testament: they were patriotic pieces extolling by association the glories of the new Hanoverian dynasty. The most popular remains the Messiah (1741), of which regular Christmas charity performances in aid of the Foundling Hospital were given after 1750. After 1751, unsuccessful operations on his cataracts left Handel completely blind. Until that time, he was exceptionally prolific, composing some 50 operas and over 20 oratorios, as well as cantatas, concerti and instrumental pieces—the majority of them while he was living in the rooms that can be seen here.

The House

The Handel House Trust was founded in 1991 to honour and perpetuate the composer’s memory, and to promote the understanding and performance of his music. Ten years later, the Handel House Museum opened to the public, four rooms on the first and second floors having been restored to a likeness of their appearance during Handel’s occupancy. He was the first tenant of the house, which was part of the development of Lower Brook Street between 1717 and 1726.

A visit begins on the second floor, with a short video introduction, before proceeding into the first of the period rooms, possibly the composer’s dressing room. The wall panelling has been recreated in standard Georgian grey, hung with portraits either socially or culturally relevant to Handel, some on loan from national collections: there is one of Alexander Pope, who contributed libretti, another of the famous eccentric ‘musical small-coal man’ Thomas Britton, an itinerant coal vendor who held cramped but prestigious musical evenings every Thursday above his Clerkenwell coalshed.

The next room, at the front of the house, was Handel’s bedroom, now complete with an original 18th-century full tester bed, dressed in replica crimson harateen, a type of ribbed worsted fashionable at the time. The bed, as with all the museum’s furnishings, is of a type mentioned in the inventory of the house taken on Handel’s death (in this room) in 1759. On the panelled walls, among other pieces from the era, is a print of Francesco Bernardi, the famed castrato better known by his stage name Senesino.

The most obvious original interior feature of the house to survive can be seen next: the dog-leg staircase and balustrade banisters. The balusters are inverted to Baroque effect, possibly at Handel’s own request, while the ornamental carved tread ends, definitely of Handel’s time, revert to a simpler design for the flights up to the servant’s quarters above.

On the first floor are the two main rooms that Handel used for entertaining and composition. In the first front room stands a double-manual harpsichord, a copy of the composer’s Coleman Ruckers specially commissioned from Bruce Kennedy in 1998 and regularly practised upon by music students during museum opening hours. From here Handel ran his opera company, giving the first rehearsal of his opera Alcina, for example, in 1735. His dining habits in these rooms were the subject of the following anecdote, reported by Charles Burney in 1785: ‘During the repast, Handel cried out ‘Oh—I have de taught’ … the company begged he would retire and write them down, with which request he so frequently complied that, at last, one of the most suspicious had the ill-bred curiosity to peep through the key-hole into the adjoining room, where he perceived that ‘dese taughts’ were only bestowed on a fresh hamper of Burgundy’. Nevertheless, it was in this adjoining room, rather dark, at the back of the house, that Handel is believed to have composed all his works from the opera Giulio Cesare (1723) to his final oratorio Jephtha (1752). A fine portrait by Thomas Hudson of Charles Jennens, the librettist of Messiah, hangs on the wall.

From here there is access to no. 23 Brook St (incidentally where Jimi Hendrix stayed for about 18 months in 1968–69. He is honoured here with an exhibition of photographs taken during his time in the top flat; flat not open to the public). The Byrne Collection here consists of several hundred pieces of material relating to Handel, including letters, prints, portraits and manuscripts, such as the score for a Handel fugue arranged in Mozart’s hand in the early 1780s.


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.


Ham House (National Trust)


Ham, Richmond, TW10 7RS


020-8940 1950



Opening times:

(House) mid March–end Oct Mon–Wed, Sat–Sun 13:00–17:00; (Garden) all year Mon–Wed, Sat–Sun 11:00–18:00

How to get there:

Station: none close, bus 67, 371 from Richmond or Kingston

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Partial disabled access. Phone first for help. Restaurant and shop

Ham House is a remarkable 17th-century survival, having remained almost untouched since the 1670s. It preserves much of its original interior decoration and furniture (early inventories indicate how it was arranged) as well as its garden layout. The original 1610 Jacobean house, built by Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to James I, was remodelled first by William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart in 1637–39, and more substantially by Elizabeth, his daughter, and her second husband, John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, from 1672. Both periods of rebuilding and redecoration were according to the latest fashions, with no expense spared. The remarkable survivals from both these schemes make Ham a key house for the study and appreciation of grand 17th-century interior decoration.

Ham in its Heyday

Dysart, a childhood friend of Charles I and one of his inner circle at Whitehall, was a distinguished connoisseur. At Ham he employed leading artists and craftsmen to create interiors which reflected current court fashion. The Grand Staircase, elements of the first floor Grand Dining Room, and the first floor Green Closet and Long Gallery retain their 1630s plasterwork and painted decoration, carried out by the court artists Francis Cleyn and Matthew Goodricke. Ham was inherited by Dysart’s daughter Elizabeth, who in 1672 married the Earl, soon Duke, of Lauderdale, a member of Charles II’s Cabal ministry, Secretary of State for Scotland and renowned for his grand living. Bishop Burnet acknowledged the Duchess’s beauty (an excellent early portrait at the house, by Sir Peter Lely, shows her in her youth), as well as the intelligence and learning of her and her husband, but he criticised her ‘ravenous covetousness’ and his craving for luxury. Their work at Ham, which saw the creation of a sequence of new apartments along the south front, built by William Samuel, was certainly lavish. A new, centrally placed ground floor dining room was created, to either side of which they each had separate suites of rooms. The new State Bedchamber, the principal room in the house, was positioned above the dining room, on which the design of the garden, viewed from the window, with its elaborate parterre and Wilderness beyond, was axially centred. Throughout the rooms were expensive hangings, paintings and furniture provided by court craftsmen, leading artists or imported from abroad. Ham is particularly important for the astonishing survival in some rooms of the original damask wall hangings, faded but still in place after 300 years, and also for the survival in situ of the specially commissioned painted overdoors and overmantels. Set into panelling are landscapes and seascapes by Abraham Begeyn, Dirck van Bergen, Thomas and Jan Wyck and Willem van de Velde the Younger; classical landscapes by Hendrick Danckerts and ‘Vergazoon’; and bird pieces by the important English artist Francis Barlow, the first native-born painter of birds and animals. Inset pictures of this type were at the forefront of fashion, and many of those at Ham are signed and dated.

With the beautiful marquetry or japanned 17th-century furniture, the rich plasterwork, with detail picked out in gold, the once vibrant wall hangings, painted ceilings by Cleyn, and by the Baroque decorative painter Antonio Verrio (who also decorated Hampton Court), and the pictures, silverwork and porcelain, Ham must have presented a sumptuous spectacle. To the diarist John Evelyn the house was ‘furnished like a Great Prince’s’. The Lauderdales’ extravagances, however, did not ensure Ham a secure financial future. After the Duchess of Lauderdale’s death in 1698 the estate passed to Lionel Tollemache, 3rd Earl of Dysart, her son by her first marriage. In 1770 Horace Walpole, whose niece had married the 4th Earl, visited Ham and found it in a ‘state of pomp and tatters’. In 1879 Augustus Hare thought it a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ house, its former splendour now forlorn and dusty. The house was given to the National Trust in 1949 by Sir Lionel Tollemache Bt and Mr Cecil Tollemache.

Tour of the House
Externally the house is comparatively plain, of brick with stone dressings, with a hipped roof. The forecourt has side walls with niches containing classical busts, and the wrought iron gates date from 1671. The entrance façade has a recessed five-bay centre with, between the ground and first floors, oval niches for busts. The modest central doorway has attached Tuscan columns and a metope frieze; the initials of Sir Thomas Vavasour, with the date 1610 and ‘Vivat Rex’, are carved on the door.

Ground floor

The Great Hall occupies the site of the old Jacobean hall. The two extraordinary sculptural figures flanking the overmantel are said to be William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart, and his wife as Mars and Minerva, by Francesco Fanelli, sculptor at the court of Charles I. The octagonal balustraded balcony above was created c. 1690. The Marble Dining Room is the central room of the south front apartments created by the Lauderdales. The carved oak panelling with ‘bunches of leaves about ye dores’ is the work of John Bullimore, for which he was paid in 1672/3. The 18th-century parquetry floor replaces the marble original, as does the 18th-century gilt leather on the walls. The original leather was richly decorated with cherubs, fruit and flowers. The Duke’s Dressing Room, to the right, was the antechamber to the adjoining Bedchamber. It has fine floral marquetry cabinets, of various woods and ivory, and originally had six caned armchairs. The Duchess’s Bedchamber, actually intended as the Duke’s but appropriated by his wife by 1675, has a great carved and gilded frame surrounding the bed alcove and a ceiling painting attributed to Verrio, who stimulated the fashion for Baroque mural decoration in Britain. The silver chimney furniture (a feature of several rooms) is a mark of the Lauderdales’ ostentation. The bed is a copy based on an inventory of 1679. The Duke’s Closet is a small, richly decorated room for private retirement. The ceiling, with figures representing Music, is also by Verrio.

To the left of the Dining Room is the Duchess’s suite. The Withdrawing Room has 1670s lacquer furniture. The Yellow Bedchamber, named after its damask hangings, was originally the Duchess’s but became the Duke’s. After his death it became known as the Volury Room, from the French volerie, because of the birdcages constructed outside the bay windows. The cabinet has a very elaborate architectural interior, with red tortoiseshell and gilded decoration, probably made in Antwerp in the 1630s. The Duchess’s private closets are adjacent. The White Closet is decorated in the most advanced taste, with a corner chimneypiece and a coved ceiling, with Wisdom presiding over the Liberal Arts, again by Verrio, in the centre. The Private Closet has japanned furniture and another Verrio ceiling, Fortitude with Time, Death and Eternity. The Chapel has furniture and carved decoration by Henry Harlow, 1673–74, and the original altar table and cloth are rare survivals.

Netherlanders in Britain

A distinct feature of the artistic community in England in the 16th and 17th centuries was the presence of foreign artists and craftsmen, of which the majority were Netherlandish. England had enjoyed profitable commercial and artistic links with Flanders since the Middle Ages and the wealthy and prosperous city of Antwerp was a base for English bankers and merchants, particularly those in the cloth trade. Netherlandish artists and craftsmen, who provided a level of skill which to some extent native artists lacked, were encouraged to settle in England and to work for the court and for private patrons. Guillim Scrots, formerly court painter to the Habsburg court at Brussels, worked for Henry VIII and Edward VI, while Hans Eworth, from Antwerp, was painter to Mary I. Religious and political events in the Low Countries provided added reasons for Netherlanders to emigrate. Large numbers of Protestant refugees arrived from those parts of the Low Countries under Habsburg rule. The etcher and painter Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder fled to London from Bruges in 1568 and his son, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, was to become the leading artist under Elizabeth I. John de Critz, whose sister married Gheeraerts the Elder, arrived from Antwerp and headed an artistic dynasty active in England for several generations. Legislation designed to protect native workers restricted the activities of ‘alien’ artists and craftsmen, who could only set up workshops if they assumed English citizenship. Many therefore lived in parishes beyond the jurisdiction of the City guilds. St Anne, Blackfriars was a particular haven for artists and miniaturists, as well as a circle of Antwerp refugees. Later, the parish was home to Anthony van Dyck.

The focus of London’s Netherlandish community was the Dutch Church, Austin Friars (which still exists today). Not all Netherlandish artists and craftsmen were religious refugees, however. London offered career opportunities for artists such as Daniel Mytens and van Dyck, as well as for specialists in genres other than portraiture. The renewed cultural programme of the royal court following the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 attracted skilled artists and craftsmen, and Dutch and Flemish artists were at the forefront of the development of British marine and landscape painting (eg the van de Veldes, and Jan Siberechts respectively).

Upper floor

The early 17th-century Great Staircase dates from the Dysart era, c. 1637–38. The fine balustrade, of panels carved with trophies of arms, by Thomas Carter, was ‘veined’ to imitate walnut and picked out in gold by Matthew Goodricke. Upstairs, the Yellow Satin Room has a very fine marquetry looking-glass and table decorated with elaborate scrollwork. The Round Room—the gallery around the Hall—is what remains of the 1630s Dining Room. Formerly a sumptuous room decorated a ‘fair blue’, the Inigo Jones-style compartmented ceiling remains. Guests would retire to the North Drawing Room, which retains its magnificent 1630s decoration, including a fine plasterwork ceiling and frieze (1637, by Kinsman), and carved Mannerist panelling. The marble chimneypiece, flanked by great twisted columns, with cherubs climbing up floral garlands on either side of the overmantel, was probably moved from the 1630s Dining Room. It was possibly designed by Francis Cleyn. The columns with their cherubs among vines are taken from one of Raphael’s ‘Acts of the Apostles’ cartoons, The Healing of the Lame Man (V&A), then owned by Charles I and which would have been familiar to Cleyn through his work at the Mortlake Tapestry Works. The Green Closet is an important rarity, an early 17th-century cabinet which has survived with the majority of its original contents. Created for the Earl of Dysart in 1637–39 for the display of his small-scale pictures and portrait miniatures, the design was probably overseen by Cleyn. The room offers a tantalising glimpse of the rich court style of Inigo Jones, under whom Cleyn worked on the royal palaces. It was fully restored in the 1990s. The ceiling and cove is by Cleyn (tempera on paper, with paintings of putti based on Polidoro Caldara) but in the 1670s the Lauderdales undertook changes, introducing the fringed green damask and the green sarsenet curtains, hung on a gilt rod, which protect the miniatures. They also introduced the elaborate furniture, including the table with high-quality silver mounts and Japanese lacquer. Among the miniatures and other objects are Elizabeth I by Hilliard; family miniatures of the Tollemache family, by Hoskins and Dixon; and a large cabinet miniature of Catherine Bruce, Countess of Dysart, by Hoskins; small oil paintings, placed here by 1679; and a lock of hair cut from the head of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, favourite of Elizabeth I, on the day of his execution. The Long Gallery was remodelled in 1639, with panelling with Ionic pilasters, their fluting picked out in gold. Its chief glory is the magnificent set of over 23 quarter-length portraits in superb contemporary carved gilt frames of auricular style (so called because the swirls resemble the human ear), supplied by the court frame carver John Norris in 1672–75, with an important group by Lely, including the Duchess of Lauderdale with a black Servant, and John Michael Wright’s Colonel John Russell (1659).

The Library once contained many rare books. The Antechamber to the Queen’s Bedchamber, on the south front, was added by the Lauderdales, with its grained panelling and carved swags of fruit and flowers. The 1680s wall hangings, now faded, were once blue and are framed by panels of blue velvet with appliqué embroidery. They are a remarkable survival. The Queen’s Bedchamber was prepared for a visit by Catherine of Braganza, queen of Charles II. The bed stood on a raised platform, behind a balustrade. The carved swags over the chimneypiece are by Bullimore. The Queen’s Closet is the most richly decorated room in the house. The plasterwork ceiling has marbled flat surfaces, with details of the relief picked out in gold, and a central painting by Verrio, The Rape of Ganymede. The wainscoting is richly carved and the chimneypiece is surrounded by panels of scagliola, a material made from selenite but made to look like marble. Probably imported from northern Italy, this is perhaps the earliest examples of this type of decoration in England. The crimson and gold silk wall hangings, bordered by green, are original and another amazing survival.


Guildhall Art Gallery


Guildhall Yard, London EC2V 5AE


020-7332 3700



Opening times:

Mon–Sat 10:00–17:00, Sun 12:00–16:00

How to get there:

Tube: Moorgate/Bank

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Small shop

Opened in 1999 in a new building designed by Richard Gilbert Scott (with D.Y. Associates) on the east side of Guildhall Yard, the Guildhall Art Gallery displays around 250 pictures at any one time from the Corporation of London’s collection of over 4,000 works. The administrative body of the City of London, the Corporation has its headquarters at Guildhall, on the north side of Guildhall Yard, the ancient civic heart of the City. Guildhall itself dates from 1411–30 (although a civic hall has been on the site since at least the late 13th century), but has been altered over succeeding centuries. A separate art gallery for the Corporation’s growing collection was opened in 1886 but destroyed in an air raid in May 1941. A temporary gallery was used for exhibiting a selection of pictures until 1987, when it was demolished and work on a new, permanent building began—although the astonishing discovery of London’s Roman amphitheatre on the site delayed progress. The remains of the amphitheatre have been preserved and entry to them is included on the gallery’s admission ticket.

The New Gallery has display spaces spread over two floors, smaller rooms on the ground floor, visible from an open balcony gallery on the floor above, ruthlessly covered with a busy carpet. The interesting and varied collection includes works which have been commissioned and collected by the Corporation since the 16th century. Among the portraits are monarchs and eminent City officeholders, such as John Michael Wright’s full-length portraits of two of the Fire Judges appointed to assess property claims following the disastrous Great Fire of 1666. Sir James Thornhill’s painted canvases, An Allegory of London and four Cardinal Virtues, 1725–27, were formerly set into the ceiling of the new Council Chamber at Guildhall, demolished in 1908. Topographical views of London include Jan Griffier the Younger’s The Thames during the Great Frost; Samuel Scott’s Entrance to the Fleet River; and views of the City’s landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral and Smithfield market. Works celebrating national victories and events include John Singleton Copley’s enormous Siege of Gibraltar, commissioned by the Corporation in 1783 and completed in 1791. One of the largest pictures in the country, it originally hung in the Common Council Chamber at Guildhall, was moved to the new art gallery on its opening in 1886, and in 1941 was rolled up and evacuated for safe storage outside London. A particular requirement of the new 1980s building was a wall large enough to accommodate it. It hangs on the double height wall between the ground and first floors, visible from both. Ceremonial subjects include William Logsdail’s Ninth of November, depicting the Lord Mayor’s Show of 1887.

Other works have been presented or bequeathed to the collection, including Sir Peter Lely’s Sir Edward Hales, an early group portrait by Charles II’s Principal Painter. Many 18th-century portraits and other works came to the collection in the 1790s from that of Alderman John Boydell, engraver, printseller and publisher, and founder of the Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall. Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of the actor John Philip Kemble shows him in the role of Coriolanus. Further works include Constable’s full-size sketch for Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, and many fine Victorian pictures, in which the collection is particularly rich. Well known Pre-Raphaelite works include Millais’ My First Sermon, My Second Sermon and The Woodman’s Daughter; Holman Hunt’s The Eve of St Agnes; and Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata. Other notable works are Landseer’s The First Leap; Tissot’s popular Too Early, 1873; and Sir John Lavery’s dashing portrait of his American society wife, Hazel, The Silver Swan, presented by Lady Cunard in 1923.

The darkened, spot-lit Amphitheatre Chamber is on the Lower Ground Floor. The scant remains of the stone walls of the eastern entrance to the arena are visible, as well as some sections of the drains. The theatre was first constructed around AD 70, with a timber superstructure, and was capable of seating some 6,000 spectators at a time when the population of Londinium would have been only around four times that number. Elliptical in shape, more than 100 yards long and 90 yards wide, it would have been used mainly for animal fights and public executions, rarely for expensive gladiatorial contests. In the 2nd century it was improved with stone, and abandoned at some time in the 4th century. Information panels evoke the atmosphere of the ring in full cry.


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).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.


National Maritime Museum
Wimbledon Windmill Museum
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
2 Willow Road (National Trust)
William Morris Gallery
Whitechapel Gallery
Westminster Abbey Museum
Wesley's Chapel
Wellington Arch (English Heritage)
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




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