Few things excite me more than just being able to nerd out for the day; learn some history; be a bit silly. This was my third visit to Hampton Court. Both Sam and I went with our drama schools. For some reason, this “field trip” was a welcome to drama school activity. And then I went with a friend to one of the Jubilee open garden days for a retro themed picnic. It was awesome. But on neither of those occasions did I really take in the history and awesomeness of Hampton Court. (Possibly because the first time I was a young study abroad student on my first day in England, and the second because it was a champagne and food centred trip.) So a third trip was necessary.
Hampton Court Palace
Entering through the main gates.
The roof of the portcullis.
An extraordinarily brief history of Hampton Court: When Cardinal Wolsey fell from power in 1529, Henry VIII took Hampton Court for his own. (As kings tended to do.) He vastly expanded and improved the palace, and lived here up until his death. Besides Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I all lived here at one point in time. The Stuarts used the palace solely for entertaining, and it was later the country house for Cromwell. When William and Mary ascended, they didn’t like the Whitehall Palace and preferred to reside at Hampton Court. Of Henry VIII’s enormous palace, only half survives. The rest was rebuilt by William III in the baroque style. (Versailles inspired, of course). The palace fell out of favour during the Georgian reign. Victoria undertook a massive restoration of the palace and it’s been open to the public ever since.
When you first enter the base court, you’ll see a sign directing you towards where you pick up the audio tour. It’s free and I 100% recommend getting it, rather than just relying on reading the various signs. It added so much more information and increased my enjoyment of the whole experience greatly. (It’s also not a dry historical lecture, there are some great moments of comedy in there as well.) You can also pick up your cloak in the audio guide room, which I obviously recommend wearing around. If you have to opportunity to wear a cloak, why would you pass it up?
Sam looking ace in his cloak.
Me being a superhero in mine.
View from inside of the Base Court.
The Pie Room.
The kitchen part of the tour is insane. Plus you learn things like the court drank approximately 600,000 gallons of beer and 300 barrels of wine in a year. And that their diet was 90% meat. And that the average Tudor courtier ate between 4,500- 5,000 calories a day. I can see why gout was an issue.
Also you learned an interesting fact about those famous savoury pies England is so famous for: in Tudor times the pastry wouldn’t be eaten. It was just chucked aside. Essentially it was just there as a type of bowl you didn’t need to wash up, and a way of keeping food warm.
Sam insisted this candid photo of me listening to the audio guide in the kitchens make it in to the post because he thinks it looks like I’m on the other end of the phone in the film “Taken”. And that makes him laugh. A lot.
All of those slots on the fireplace are for roasting various meats.
The Great Hall.
The Great Hall was where Henry VII dined with his courtiers publicly, but also where the dancing, singing, plays and other general entertainment occurred. Below you can see one of the costumed character actors trying to entertain visitors.
When you finish viewing all of Henry’s apartments, I recommend seeing the rest of the palace in chronological order. Starting with the Stuarts then moving to the Georgians.
The public dining room where William and Mary brought the art of napkin folding.
Yes, that horse is made of starched napkins.
There are murals everywhere.
My favourite part of the palace is the courtyard in the Georgian Wing.
I made some pretty good friends in the Base Court.
It’s amazing interiors aside, Hampton Court is famous for it’s lush and stunning gardens. It has over 60 acres that run down to the Thames; fully restored historical gardens; an awesome hedge maze; and weirdly the oldest grape vine in the world. (230 years old.) I was most excited about the maze, but Sam and I don’t have an amazing track record finding the centre, so I think he felt less excited.
If you pay for entry into the palace the gardens are included in the price of your ticket. However, you can pay a much smaller charge just for entry into the gardens for a lovely summer picnic! (Although Kew Gardens still hold the special garden place in my heart hostage.)
The Ponds Gardens
The Georgian Wing viewed from the gardens.
But find the centre we did! And I really felt as though I had accomplished something!