Although I was brought up in London, I am embarrassed to say that this was the first time I had visited Hampton Court. My two sisters and I decided to meet up to celebrate my mother’s birthday – she would have been 99 today!
There are a couple of car parks near to Hampton Court – and one on site although this one doesn’t allow dogs to be left in the car even on a cold February morning. The Palace is also accessible by train or by bus.
Before heading out into the gardens, wander round the Palace rooms and also look out for the terracotta roundels by Giovanni da Majano on the west front – they are among the earliest examples of the Italian Renaissance in England.
The Fountain Court with the magnificent Baroque facade by Sir Christopher Wren.
Walk out of the Palace into The Great Fountain Garden. It’s a wonderful layout with the central avenue leading to the circular pond and Home Park beyond with two flanking avenues at 45 degree angles. Turn immediately right to the Privy or Private Garden.
This Garden was created for William III in 1702 however he died before it was finished. Anxious they might not be paid, the gardeners kept meticulous notes of the hours they worked. This has allowed the Hampton Court Palace team to restore the garden using the gardeners’ accounts as well as the original plans which included which plants were used. It is magnificent!
From the Privy Garden, continue your journey with the Palace on your right. The Knot Garden is next. This was laid out in 1924 by Ernest Law to show the type of garden that Henry VIII would have enjoyed when he lived at Hampton Court. On your left are the Pond Gardens.
In the sixteenth century, these sunken gardens were filled with water and would have held fish such as carp and bream – perfect for feeding the Royal Palace. When William and Mary arrived at Hampton Court in 1689, these ponds had dried up. Queen Mary decided to use the area for her ‘exotick’ plant collection.
At the far end of the Pond Gardens is a Banqueting House. Banqueting houses or ‘types’ were used for entertaining, especially for eating, and usually had windows so that the family and their guests could look out over the garden and the wider landscape. It was also somewhere to escape from the prying eyes of servants. [For more information about gardens during the Tudor period, click here]
Next to the Knot Garden is the Orangery which housed Queen Mary’s tender plants in the winter and the Lower Orangery Garden and Terrace. And don’t miss the Great Vine at the far end which was planted by ‘Capability’ Brown in 1768.
Retrace your steps to The Great Fountain Garden. Walk to the far end and enjoy the view over Home Park.
From there walk to the twentieth century garden, the Wilderness, Maze, the Tiltyard and The Kitchen Garden
Walk back through the Rose Garden, pop into the Royal Tennis Court – a favourite sport of Henry VIII’s – and back to The Great Fountain Garden.
Cardinal Wolsey began building Hampton Court in 1515 but in 1528 he gave the Palace to King Henry VIII to try and regain his popularity. Henry enlarged the building and laid out the grounds although nothing remains of the garden from this period. During the seventeenth century, avenues were planted and the Long Water was created as well as the Maze which was planted in 1690s by George London and Henry Wise for William III; it has since been replanted.
There’s a shop and lots of places to eat at Hampton Court.