It’s a year of important anniversaries and none more precious than the 500th anniversary of one of my favourite historic landmarks – Hampton Court Palace.
A royal palace located in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Surrey, Hampton Court is sited on the banks of the Thames and was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII who, when he fell out of favour, passed the estate onto the King himself who enlarged it.
A century later, and King William III sought to emulate Versailles by starting a massive schedule of building works. Work halted in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque – a tale of two dynasties. Along with St James’s Palace in London, with whom it shares many stylistic similarities, it is one of only two surviving palaces owned by King Henry VIII. This Easter, it will be celebrating its 500th anniversary – 3rd – 6th April 2015.
Highlights (apart from the main palace of course) include:
The Great Vine – said to be the largest in the world – is over 240 years old. Capability Brown directed its planting in 1769 and by 1887, it was already 1.2 metres (4 ft) around the base. It is now 4 metres (12 foot) around the base and the longest rod is 36.5 metres (120 feet). The entrance to it is via the palace so we are told – we just couldn’t find it when we visited in the heat of summer so have no images of it!
The gardens cover an area of 26.7 hectares or 66 acres and have 42 full time members of staff. Some of the trees are around 300 years old. In the 1920s, the herbaceous border was planted and it remains the longest in the world.
A real tennis court – not to be confused with lawn tennis, Real Tennis dates back centuries and Henry VIII, Charles I, William III and Prince Albert all played at this historic court and when we visited, we watched a game in action – hence no images of the interior so play could continue unabated with camera noises.
King Henry VIII’s kitchens were built to feed the court of King Henry VIII so at least 600 people twice a day – that’s larger than most hotels these days – and with no modern conveniences. The kitchens had a number of Master Cooks, each with their own team of Yeomen and Sergeants working for them. The annual provision of meat for the Tudor court stood at 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild board. This was washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer.
The Chocolate Kitchen where Thomas Tosier, personal chocolate chef to King George I and II, performed his magic reopened February 2014 and is the only chocolate kitchen in Britain. It was built for William and Mary around 1689 but mainly served the Georgian kings. Chocolate was introduced to England around 1650 and was served as a drink. Solid chocolate came into being in the 19th century when the removal of cocoa butter created solid chocolate. Georgian chocolate would have been mixed with water, milk or wine and was more precious than tea and coffee. It was laced with exotic spices served in gold and silver pots and drunk from porcelain cups.
The Hampton Court Maze was designed by George London and Henry Wise and commissioned around 1700 by William III. It covers around a third of an acre, is trapezoid in shape and is the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze. On average, it takes 20 minutes to reach the centre
Historical actors – interact with these wonderfully-dressed actors wandering around the palace!
Go for a ride – with this horse and buggy – those shire horses are just beautiful. Very popular with rugrats.
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, KT8 9AU. Entrance is free to members of Historic Royal Palaces and there’s a half price online offer for tickets available until 13th February 2015 – GBP9.07 per person and GBP4.54 for children under 16. Winter opening hours are 10.00 – 16.30 with last entry to the Maze at 15.45. For Easter, the opening times are 10.00 – 18.00 with last entry to the Maze at 17.15. Follow @HRP_Palaces on twitter and on Facebook/HamptonCourtPalace.
The Party: 500 years of Hampton Court Palace – 3rd, th and 5th April 2015 18.30 – 21.00
Celebrate Hampton Court Palace’s 500 years with a spectacular son et lumiere show on the south façade with fireworks. Explore 500 years of music and food, with a programme of music and pop-up bars.
Music & Food
The programme of live period music through the ages starts at 6.30pm, with ensembles of period instruments and soloists. Henry VIII’s Apartments will be brought to life with Tudor music then we move into the 18th century with Baroque performances in the Queen’s Apartments.
Taste history at pop-up food and drink bars. In the Undercroft, we will be serving meat roasted by our Tudor cooks on the fire in the Great Kitchen. Upstairs in the Cartoon Gallery (over 12s only), a champagne bar will be serving a sophisticated taste of the Baroque court, accompanied by chamber music.
Son et Lumiere
The climax of the evening will be a 25 minute son et lumiere show in the Privy Garden.
Projections on the south façade of the palace and specially composed music will celebrate the 500 year history of Hampton Court Palace, from the laying of the first stone of Wolsey’s palace in 1515 to the present day. The show will end with spectacular fireworks above the palace.
The son et lumiere finale will take place in the Privy Garden at 8.30pm and will be standing so please dress for the weather.
There will be a dedicated viewing area in the Privy Garden for wheelchair users. The Privy Garden is accessible by ramp but please be aware that paths have a gravel surface.
Child £10 (under 5s free)
Family ticket £50
Tickets can be bought online or by telephoning the Contact Centre on 0844 482 7777.
Contributor & Photographer: Sue Lowry
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