Hampton Court Palace, Monday, 3/16/81
We made ourselves a breakfast at the house, then changed money and purchased a few necessities in Swiss Cottage before going downtown. We went to the Thomas Cook office at Marble Arch and bought tickets for the Evan Evans tour #566- York, Edinburgh, English Lakes, and Chester. We would depart the 24th and return the 27th. We then boarded the #73 bus at at Marble Arch, for Hammersmith Station. At Hammersmith we changed to the #267 bus for Hampton Court Station. The trip took about two hours. Across from Hampton Court Station we got a quick lunch of soup, sausages and chips, and then went into Hampton Court Palace.
Hampton Court Palace was purchased from the Knights of St. John by Cardinal Wolsey in 1514. In 1530 Wolsey fell from favor with Henry VIII by failing to obtain an annulment, and gave the castle to Henry in an attempt to regain favor. He was nonetheless arrested for treason shortly thereafter, and escaped certain beheading by dying en route to the trial.
Henry continued the building at Hampton, but construction stopped after his death. The Palace was later reserved for Cromwell, so the contents were fortunately preserved. William and Mary initiated the last building boom by bringing in Christopher Wren as architect and a team of fine craftsmen, including the painter Antonio Verrio and the master wood-carver, Grinling Gibbons. Due to finances Wren was forced to abandon plans to completely demolish the Tudor palace, and instead remodeled the East front and built a South front. The palace thus became a hybrid of styles. George II was the last monarch to reside at Hampton, and in 1839 Queen Victoria opened the Palace to the public.
The palace is laid out as a series of courtyards surrounded by the buildings. Through the front gate, which is the original Tudor entrance, you enter the base court; then through Anne Boleyn’s Gateway you enter the Clock Court, named for the Great Clock over the gateway. It was made for Henry VIII in 1540, and on the 8 foot dial are indicated the hour, month, date, signs of the zodiac, year, and phases of the moon. It was brought to Hampton from St. James in the 19th century. The Clock Court was the main court of Wolsey’s palace. We went from there to the Fountain Court. at the end of the palace, which was designed by Christopher Wren.
We then returned to the Clock Court and purchased tickets to tour the State Apartments. We walked up the King’s Staircase, along the walls and ceilings of which is a large Verrio fresco denoting the the Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes of Greece and Rome. We then entered Wolsey’s rooms, where guests of the Cardinal stayed. These rooms are maintained in 16th century style, with wood paneling and Wolsey’s Badges decorating the ceilings. We then went through a series of Royal chambers, which were redone by later monarchs, particularly William & Mary and Anne. Paintings and tapestries decorated all the rooms in abundance, many of them dating back to the 16th century. Particularly in evidence were portraits of the nobility, both English and Continental (Charles V, Rudolph II, Maximilian I, etc.), and of notables of the time (e.g. Erasmus).
Our tour took us around the perimeter of the Fountain Court from here, and we saw Royal bedchambers, Audience rooms, the public dining room, etc. About 3/4 of the way around we re-entered the Tudor rooms, beginning with a great stone hall adorned with stag heads and antlers. We then entered the Chapel Royal (built by Wolsey but lavishly redone by Henry VIII) on a balcony in front of the King’s Pew. We finished by walking through the Great Hall, which has a magnificent Hammer-beam ceiling of carved wood. Unfortunately the hall was undergoing restoration and was filled with scaffolding, so we didn’t see much.
We then went through the Fountain Court to the grounds which surround the palace. We came out into the Great Fountain Garden, which is decorated with carefully manicured trees along the walks, which project like spokes from where we entered. Surrounding the Fountain Garden is a canal from the Thames, and in the middle of the Garden is the Fountain. We walked along the perimeter of the Garden, along the canal, back to the side of the Palace, and entered a series of gardens. The first, the Privy Garden, contains wilderness plantings, but laid in precise blocks, with statues in between. Then adjoining the palace are precise geometrical design plantings of flowers and very small hedge shrubs (about 1 foot tall). Adjoining the Privy Gardens are several formal gardens, very precisely laid out. and finally. the Vine. This grape vine was planted in 1768 under George III and now measures 7′ across at the base and produces 500-600 bunches of grapes each year, which are sold to tourists in late August/early September.
We then returned to the Great Fountain garden and took pictures of some purple and white crocuses coming up in the lawn, and then went down the other side of the palace, where more spring bulbs were coming up, such as jonquils and daffodils.
By now it was 5:30, so we got the bus back to Hammersmith, and took the underground to Marble Arch, where we had dinner at the Indira restaurant on Seymour Street. The meal was alright, but neither the food nor the price could compare to the Strand Tandoori. After dinner we met with some friends of Bill Wilson’s, and then returned to Swiss Cottage.