Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for HAMPTON COURT

HAMPTON COURT, a royal palace in Hampton parish, Middlesex; on the river Thames, opposite the influx of the Mole, 1½ mile WSW of Kingston. A bridge connects it, across the Thames, with Moulsey, in Surrey; and a railway station of Hampton Court, with telegraph, is there, at the terminus of a short branch of the Southwestern railway. There are likewise a post office of Hampton Court, under Hampton, London S.W., and two good inns. The manor of Hampton Court was given, by William the Conqueror, to Walter de St. Valery; went, by gift of Joan Grey, to the Knights 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 out rival 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 WilliamIII.; 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 Christmas 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 1636-7, -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 about forty 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 feet. 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 put up by Tompion, and superseded in 1835 by one by Vuillamy; was partly built by Wolsey, partly rebuilt by Wren; and has, on the south side, an Ionic arcade. The third quadrangle is called the Fountain Court; was all built by Wren; and has, on the south side, the King's Stairs, conducting to the state apartments. The grand staircase is decorated with allegorical paintings by Verrio; the guard chamber is hung 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 other interesting works of art; King William's bedroom has a series of portraits by Sir Peter Lely, 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, and contains nearly 200 pictures; 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; and the long gallery contains seven cartoons by Raphael, executed about 1516, intended as designs to be copied in tapestry, and so very valuable as works of art that they alone, if all other attractions were awanting, would be enough to give worldwide fame to Hampton Court. The state apartments altogether have upwards of 1, 000 valuable paintings, and are gratuitously open to the public on every day except Friday; and guide books, with complete catalogue of the pictures, are sold in the rooms. The great hall was begun by Wolsey, and finished by Henry VI II.; is 106 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 60 feet 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. 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. suffered 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 by William III.; occupies ten acres; and contains a maze or labyrinth, with walks so formed on an area of only about ¼ of an acre, as to have an aggregate length of about ½ a mile. The flower garden was laid out, in the Dutch style, by William III.; has formal walks and flower beds; 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, 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 30 inches in girth; the branches extend 110 feet; and the produce, in a favourable season, has been so much as 3, 000 bunches or 2, 500 lbs. of grapes. A small fee is demanded for admission to this garden. 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 guard. See BUSHY PARK and HAMPTON.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a royal palace"   (ADL Feature Type: "residential sites")
Administrative units: Hampton AP/CP       Middlesex AncC
Place names: CLOCK COURT     |     HAMPTON COURT
Place: Hampton Court

Go to the linked place page for a location map, and for access to other historical writing about the place. Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.