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Hampton (The Blessed Virgin Mary)

HAMPTON (The Blessed Virgin Mary), a parish, in the union of Kingston, hundred of Spelthorne, county of Middlesex, 13½ miles (W. S. W.) from London; containing, with the chapelry of Hampton-Wick, 4711 inhabitants. In the reign of Edward the Confessor, Hampton belonged to Earl Algar, a powerful Saxon nobleman; and after the Norman Conquest was held by Walter de St. Valeri, who probably gave the advowson to the priory of Takeley, in Essex, which was a cell to the abbey of St. Valeri, in Picardy. The manor subsequently became the property of Sir Robert Gray, whose widow, in 1211, left it to the Knights Hospitallers, and they at one period had an establishment here for the sisters of that order. Cardinal Wolsey, when in the height of his power, having determined on building a palace for his principal residence in the vicinity of the metropolis, fixed on Hampton for the site of it, as the healthiest and most pleasant spot which he could choose. He therefore obtained from the prior of St. John a lease of the manor and manor-house, and in 1516 commenced the erection of a magnificent mansion, which he furnished in a style of corresponding splendour, and, before the structure was completed, in 1526, presented to the king, together with his interest in the manorial estate. In 1538, an act of parliament was passed for making a royal chase, called Hampton Court chase, extending over several parishes in Middlesex and Surrey. It was inclosed, and stocked with deer; but on the petition of the inhabitants, after the death of Henry VIII., the inclosure was removed, though the tract which it comprehended is still considered as a royal chase, under the superintendence of an officer called the Lieutenant or Keeper of His Majesty's chase of Hampton Court. The order of the Knights Hospitallers having been suppressed in England, in 1540, the manor became vested in the crown; and in the same year a new act was passed, creating the manor of Hampton Court an honour, the office of chief steward and feodary of which, together with that of lieutenant of the chase, has always been conferred on a personage of high rank.

Hampton Court was completed by Henry VIII., according to the design of the architect employed by Wolsey, and, being made one of the royal palaces, was a frequent and favourite residence of his majesty and the court. Edward VI. was born at the palace, and in 1543 Henry VIII. was married in it to his last wife, Catherine Parr. It was the occasional resort of several of the sovereigns antecedent to William III., who rebuilt a considerable part of the palace, and laid out the gardens and park in their present form; Queen Anne resided here before her accession to the throne, and her son, William, Duke of Gloucester, was born in it, July 24th, 1689. George II. was the last sovereign who made Hampton Court the place of his abode; his successors have only been casual visiters. The whole of the buildings, except the state apartments and a suite of rooms under them, called the Duke of York's apartments, are now occupied by private families, who have grants during pleasure from the Lord Chamberlain; the number of the residents, including servants, is about 700. This fine palace, situated on the north bank of the Thames, comprises three large quadrangles, with some detached buildings; but the first quadrangle, at the western entrance, alone remains as originally erected by Cardinal Wolsey; it extends 169 feet from north to south, and 141 from east to west. The second quadrangle, called the Clock-court, from a curious astronomical clock over the gateway, was partially remodelled from a design by Sir Christopher Wren, who erected an Ionic colonnade leading to the grand staircase and the state apartments. On the north side of this quadrangle is the great hall, built by Henry VIII., the noble roof of which was restored in 1820. It was used as a theatre in the reigns of Elizabeth and George I. and II.; and in 1830 was fitted up for divine service while the parish church was being rebuilt: it has been lately much embellished, and a profusion of stained glass added. The Fountain-court, or third quadrangle, was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, in 1690; it is 110 feet from east to west, and 117 from north to south. On the south side is the king's staircase, leading to the state apartments, and the walls of which are ornamented with mythological paintings by Verrio; while on the north side is the queen's staircase, with paintings on the walls by Laguerre. The principal state apartments are, the guard-hall, decorated with arms and armour; the presence-chamber; the audience-chamber; the king's drawing-room and writingcloset; Queen Mary's closet; the queen's gallery, ornamented with Gobelin tapestry; the royal bed-rooms and dressing-rooms; and the long gallery, in which are the Cartoons of Raphael. A variety of paintings adorn the walls of these apartments. The royal chapel, in which is some beautiful carved work by Grinlin Gibbons, is opened every Sunday. The gardens, including the site of the palace, comprise a space about three miles in circumference. In a hot-house in the private grounds is a vine of the Black Hamburgh kind, noted for its extraordinary fertility, often bearing 2500 bunches of grapes in a season. There is a fine canal three-quarters of a mile in length; and the gardens are ornamented with four beautifully sculptured marble vases.

The village stands about one mile and a half from the palace, on the north side of the Thames, over which is a wooden bridge at Hampton Court, and a ferry for carriages and foot-passengers at Hampton. It contains several handsome villas, particularly one that belonged to Garrick, on the lawn in front of which is a small temple dedicated to Shakspeare, with a statue of the great dramatist, the work of G. Garrard, A.R.A. Hampton races take place in June, at Moulsey Hurst, on the opposite side of the Thames. An act was passed in 1846 for a branch of the South-Western railway to the bridge; it was completed in 1848, and is 1¾ mile in length. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £10, and in the patronage of the Crown; net income, £356; impropriators, the Trustees of the free school: the tithes were commuted for land and a money payment in 1811. The church, having long been in a dilapidated state, was taken down at the commencement of 1830, and on the 13th of April, in that year, the first stone of a new edifice was laid. Here is a place of worship for Independents. A free grammar school was founded in consequence of a bequest of land by Robert Hamonde in 1556, and benefactions by Edmund Pigeon in 1657, and John Jones in 1691; the income is £327. 10. Queen Anne gave £50 per annum to the poor; and there are many other benefactions. Among distinguished inhabitants of the place who have been interred here, may be mentioned John Beard, patentee of Covent Garden theatre, and celebrated as a public singer, who died in 1791; and Tickell, the poet, who died in 1793.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.