Hampton Court Palace

About 17 miles from central London

Dream Vacation in England: Castles-to-Sleep-In—Hampton Court Palace


The Palace at Hampton Court was begun in 1514 by Thomas Wolsey, who was born a commoner, but became entitled to build a palace when he became a Bishop, a Prince of the Church. Wolsey, a valued friend of King Henry VIII, soon was elevated to Cardinal and appointed Lord Chancellor of England. Hampton Court grew with his advancement until its magnificence rivaled the palaces of the King.

But when Henry tried to have his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled so he could marry Anne Boleyn,  he felt Wolsey opposed him. Wolsey gave Hampton Court Palace to the King in 1528, in a desperate effort to curry favor, but he lost the office of Lord Chancellor and died soon after, probably just in time to avoid being executed.

Henry used Hampton Court as he used all the royal palaces: he and his entourage would move in, live there until the stench of too many people living with inadequate plumbing grew too strong, then move on to the next castle in the rotation, leaving the last one to air out.

Henry made Hampton Court one of his principal residences but initially it was too small to accommodate the 1000 or so members of his court comfortably so Henry embarked on a major building campaign to extend it, starting with the kitchens. Huge fireplaces were built in rooms with soaring ceilings to carry away the smoke.

A fireplace in the Tudor kitchens                                                                                    Fish Court

A deep court was built in the middle of the kitchen buildings, to provide additional ventilation. The area was used, among other things, to house the apartments of the pastry chefs, but later generations thought it had been used for fish, and it is now called Fish Court. The door at the far end of the court is the entrance to the Fish Court Apartment. The window above the door opens into the apartment.

Henry turned Hampton Court into one of the grandest royal palaces in Europe, but in 1689, when William and Mary came to the throne, they decided to tear most of it down and replace it with designs by Sir Christopher Wren. They made a good start, but their plans were never completed. The present palace is primarily a mixture of the original Tudor architecture and Wren’s NeoClassical buildings.

While Hampton Court remains a Royal Palace, the Royal Family has not lived there since the 18th century. When King George III came to the throne in 1760, he decided not to use 

Fountain Court, designed by Sir Christopher Wren

the Palace, and began the practice of  granting Grace-and-Favour apartments to exiled royalty and people who had served the country with distinction.

About 50 Grace-and-Favour apartments were created out of the 1,000 rooms in the Palace. The Fish Court Apartment has been used as a grace-and-favor apartment by the Countess of Bellamont, the Admiral of the Fleet and his wife, Lady Seymour, and the curator of the Palace’s art collection. In 1992, the Landmark Trust was asked to oversee the rental to the public of two apartments at Hampton Court, Fish Court and the Georgian House. We stayed in the Fish Court apartment for four nights in October of 2009. A full report will follow.


For information on Hampton Court Palace:


For information on staying in the Fish Court apartment:


Delightfully decorative brick chimneys mark the roofline of the Tudor sections of Hampton Court Palace


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