A 36 minute train journey from Waterloo will bring visitors to Hampton Court, a magnificent Tudor palace on the banks of the River Thames. During the spring and summer months, when the weather is fine, this excursion makes a fine day’s outing for the family
Hampton Court Palace was completed in 1525 by Thomas Wolsey, the son of a butcher who rose to become a Cardinal, Archbishop of York and the Chief Minister of Henry VIII. Having acquired the site in 1514 Wolsey spent lavishly over the following seven years to build the finest palace in England.
Wolsey was only to enjoy his palace for a few years. In 1528, having failed to secure the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and knowing that his enemies together with the King were engineering his downfall, he passed the palace to the Henry VIII as a gift. Wolsey died two years later in 1530.
Although little of Wolsey’s building work remains unchanged, the first and second courtyards were his creation. Wolsey’s seal remains visible over the entrance arch of the clock tower, which contained his private rooms. Henry VIII stayed in the state apartments as Wolsey’s guest immediately after their completion in 1525.
Towards the end of the seventeenth century England was ruled by the joint monarchy of William and Mary. Within months of their accession they embarked on a massive rebuilding project at Hampton Court. The intention was to demolish the Tudor palace a section at a time and to replace it with a huge modern palace in the Baroque style designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Perhaps fortunately the project lapsed and only half of the Tudor structure was demolished and replaced by a part of the planned new palace. This can be found at the back of the Tudor building.
If visiting, Henry VIII’s great hall, the Chapel Royal, the Tudor Kitchens and William & Mary’s state apartments should not be missed. Outside the famous Maze and also the Great Vine are notable attractions. The vine was planted in 1768 by the celebrated gardener ‘Capability’ Brown and it still produces a yearly crop of black, sweet grapes that are sold in the palace shops in early September.
For information about opening times and ticket prices go to www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/
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