UK Genealogy Archives logo

Hampton Court, Middlesex

Historical Description

Hampton Court, a royal palace in Hampton parish, Middlesex, on the river Thames, opposite the influx of the Mole, 1½ mile WSW from Kingston. A bridge connects it across the Thames with Molesey in Surrey, and a station of Hampton Court is there, at the terminus of a short branch of the L. & S.W.R. There are likewise a post, money order, and telegraph office of Hampton Court, under Kingston-on-Thames, and several good hotels. The manor of Hampton Court was given by William the Conqueror to Walter de-St Valery, went by gift of Joan Grey to the Rnights of St John, had a preceptory of these knights in 1180, was acquired in 1515 by Cardinal Wolsey, became by the cardinal's residence on it a scene of such splendour as to outrival the royal court, and was, as an act of policy, transferred in 1526 to the Crown. The palace was founded and partly built by-Wolsey, was much extended by William III., was repaired. in part by George II., and has in many portions been restored to its ancient magnificence by Queen Victoria. Henry VIII. resided much in it; Queen Jane Seymour gave birth in it to Edward VI., and died in it two days after; Queen Catherine-Howard was proclaimed in it; Queen Catherine Parr was married in it; Edward VI. kept court in it; Mary and William held in it their Christinas of 1558; Elizabeth held in it the Christmas of 1572 and that of 1593; James I. convened in it the famous conference of 1603-4 between the-Churchmen and the Presbyterians; the Queen of James I. died in it; Charles I. was in it in 1625-again in 1636-37- again as a prisoner in 1647; Cromwell was frequently in it -particularly when one of his daughters was married, and when another died; Charles II. was occasionally in it; James II. received in it the Pope's nuncio; William III. made it his favourite residence, and died in it; Anne kept her court in it; George I. used its great hall as a theatre in 1718; and George II. was in it in 1734. It has never since been occupied by royalty; it is famous now as one of the grandest national picture galleries in Europe; it has been open to the public since 1838; and it is partly occupied by families of gentlemen and gentlewomen recommended for admission by the Lord Chancellor.

The edifice mainly consists of three quadrangles, and has-a grand east front of 330 feet, and a grand south front of 328. It was so greatly altered, as well as extended, by William III., under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren, that much of its original character, and a considerable portion of its original buildings, were lost, and it now presents a huge mass of Renaissance architecture, not a little imposing, but in some respects not very artistic. The first quadrangle measures 167 feet by 162, and remains as when built by Wolsey. The second quadrangle is of similar size; bears the name of the Clock Court from a clock originally constructed in 1540, but which was reconstructed in 1880; was partly built by Wolsey, partly rebuilt by Wren, and has on the south side an Ionic arcade. The third quadrangle Li-called the Fountain Court, was all built by Wren, and has, on the south side, the King's Stairs, conducting to the statfr apartments. The grand staircase is decorated with allegorical paintings by Verrio; the guard chamber is hung½ with portraits of British admirals, and with arms and armour; the two presence chambers contain Vandyke's portrait of Charles I., portraits of other royal personages, and portraits of the ladies called "the Hampton Court Beauties;" the audience chamber has the canopy under which James II. received the Pope's nuncio, and is enriched with a variety of portraits and paintings; the King's drawing-room contains Beechy's portrait of George III. and ofher interesting works of art; King William's bedroom has a series of portraits by Sir Peter Leiy of " the Beauties of the Court of Charles II.;" the King's dressing-room and the King's writing-closet are also rich in works of art; Queen Mary's closet is hung with silk embroidery done by the Queen's own hand, and contains Vanberg's Queen Caroline and many other portraits and pictures; the Queen's gallery is hung with Gobelin tapestry representing the history of Alexander; the Queen's bedroom has the bed as originally put up, and contains.

Paul van Somern's portraits of James I., his queen, and their children; the Queen's drawing-room has on the ceiling Verrio's painting of Queen Anne as Justice; the Queen's audience chamber and also the drawing-room contain a variety of pictures; the banqueting-hall is hung with tapestry representing scriptural subjects, and contains, among other pictures, one of Duns Scotus by Spagnoletto, and one of a son of Philip IV. by Murillo. The great hall was begun by Wolsey and finished by Henry VIII.; is 106 feet long, 40 wide, and 60 high, and has a richly worked timber roof, stained glass windows, and hangings of Arras tapestry representing scenes in the life of Abraham. The chapel-royal was finished by Henry VIII.; suffered defacement during the civil war; was afterwards restored; contains some good carving by Grinling Gibbons, and is served by a chaplain appointed by the Queen. Another chamber of much interest is Wolsey's private chapel or oratory, an apartment which is approached from the Mantegna gallery. It is panelled in oak to the height of 7 feet, and above the dado there is a series of paintings in oil of sacred subjects. The ceiling is ornamented with a geometrical pattern very exquisitely designed.

The park and the chase were commenced by Wolsey and by Henry VIII.; and the gardens and other ornamental grounds were formed by William III. The park is extensive, borders on the Thames, includes the spot where William III. met with the accident which caused his death, and contains a large oak under which the children of Charles I. are said to have had their playground. The wilderness was planted hy William III., occupies 10 acres, and contains a maize or labyrinth with walks so formed on an area of only about a quarter of an acre as to have an aggregate length of about half a mile. The flower garden was laid out in the Dutch style by William III.; has formed walks and flowerbeds, and contains in the centre a pond with gold and silver fish. The private garden is a very interesting example of the quaint antique garden, with its terraces, its geometrical flower-beds, and crepuscular arcades, and contains some large orange trees and the celebrated black Hamburg vine planted in 1769. The stem of that plant is 38 inches in girth, the branches extend 110 feet, and the produce in a favourable season has been so much as 3000 bunches, or about 1200 Ibs of grapes. Pavilions were built in the park by Wren. The Lion Gate of Hampton Court stands opposite the long avenue in Bushy Park. Hampton Court Green was the residence of Wren. Toy Inn was built by Cromwell for his guai d. The state apartments are open to the public free every day throughout the year except Fridays and Christmas Day. The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from 1 April to 30 Sept., and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the remainder of the year. On Sundays they are not open until 2 p.m. The gardens, which are open all the week, close at 8 p.m. in summer, and at other times at dusk. For admission to the maze and vine-house a small fee is charged. See BUSHT PARR and HAMPTON.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5
DistrictRichmond upon Thames
CountyGreater London
Postal districtKT8