An A-Z of Hampton Court

Part 2 – N-Z

N- New Year 1604

William Shakespere, National Portrait Gallery

King James would spend Christmas and New Year of 1604-5 at Hampton Court. Included in the festivities would be a performance of a Midsummer’s Nights Dream (my favourite Shakespeare play) in the Great Hall by the Kings Men whose dramatist was none other than William Shakespeare.

O- On Location

Hampton Court Palace has been the location of many blockbuster movies and TV shows, the most recent being scenes from The Favourite starring Olivia Coleman and about Queen Anne and Lady Marlborough. Scenes were shot in the Great Kitchens, The Serving Place, and the Cartoon Gallery.

Filming on location at Hampton Court Palace for The Favourite

Other films include Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), The New World (2005)The Young Victoria (2009) and The Libertine (2004) to name a few. TV shows, as well as documentaries, include Little Dorrit (2008), John Adams (2008), and The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2001). 

All the proceeds made from filming at the Palaces goes back into the conservation of the Palace.

P- Sybil Penn

Sybil Penn was the dry nurse to King Edward VI and a woman of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth I. It was while at Hampton Court Palace that Elizabeth came down with Smallpox so severely that the Drs thought she would not survive. Penn would nurse Elizabeth day and night to help her sovereign recover back to health, which Elizabeth did. Unfortunately, Penn did not and succumbed to the disease. It is said that she is one of the ghosts at the Palace and sightings only started when her grave was disturbed at the parish church. She is believed to be a grey spectre wandering Clock Court and responsible for working a spinning wheel in a room where there is nothing there.

State Apartment Warder stands on the Silverstick Stairs acting as ghost tour guide. Historic Royal Palaces

Q- Queens at Hampton Court

Jane Seymour, National Portrait Gallery

Several English Queens have lived at Hampton Court and experienced times of sorrow and joy in its walls. It was one of the final places visited by Elizabeth of York before she died after childbirth complications at the Tower of London in 1503. The Palace underwent some changes to make way for Anne Boleyn in 1536 but as soon as she fell from grace all reminders of her were removed. Her successor, Jane Seymour would die at the Palace in 1537 after giving birth to Edward. Her rooms no longer exist today but her ghosts are said to haunt the Silverstick staircase. Her heart is buried in the Chapel. I have already spoken about Catherine Howard at the Palace.

Queen Mary, I would take her confinement at the Palace when she was convinced she was pregnant in April 1555. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a phantom pregnancy and eventually her husband King Philip of Spain spent more and more time away from her.

Queen Mary, the granddaughter of King Charles I and her husband William of Orange would work in partnership in the redesigning of Hampton Court into its Baroque splendour. Sir Christopher Wren found in her a keen and willing patron to create the longed-for Palace, which he had wanted to; build (even though the plans were scaled down). She was the drive behind the changes to the palace and would have detailed discussion with Wren about how to proceed due to her husband being in French campaigning. On her death, plans came to a standstill at the Palace or a time.

Mary’s sister, Queen Anne spent the last four years of her life at Hampton Court making vast improvements including the Chapel Royal, which we see today. In her reign, she would use the Palace as a midway point from London and her country retreat of Windsor and when in residence the Palace became the site of political intrigue and factions.

R- Real Tennis

 Tennis or real Tennis (a tag added at the end of the 19th century to separate it from ‘lawn tennis’ was a popular sport in the Tudor Period and Henry VIII enjoyed playing it in his younger days. Wolsey had a tennis court built at Hampton Court Palace between 1526 – 1529. The current one dates from 1625.

The Interior of the Courts at Hampton Court Palace, Historic Royal Palaces

The Real Tennis Champions Trophy takes place at Hampton Court Palace every summer, supported by Mitsubishi Electric. 

S- Spider

The Cardinal Spider is said to have its name from Cardinal Wolsey’s fear of them. They were a common sight around the Palace, and can grow quite large!

T- Tapestries

In the Great Hall at Hampton, one cannot miss the magnificent Tapestries hung on its walls. In the Tudor period, tapestries were a sign of wealth and status.

These Tapestries are a series of 10 panels most likely commissioned by Henry VIII and show scenes from the life of Abraham from the Book of Genesis. Completed in 1546, they were woven in Brussels from wool, silk and thread of Gold and Silver. They would have been a bright burst of colour (unfortunately, the colour has faded over time).

The Tapestries hanging in the Great Hall today, Laura Adkins

After King Charles I execution in 1649 they were valued at £8,260 and would have been the most valuable item in the late king’s collection. They are considered one of the finest pieces of decorative artwork from the period.

U- Unicorns

The Welsh Dragon, Laura Adkins

Yes, there are Unicorns as well as Dragons at Hampton Court Palace, although only pretend ones. The unicorns can be spotted outside the main gatehouse as one enters the Palace. It is part of eight carved beasts, known as the Kings Beasts, which were originally installed at the request of King Henry VIII. Each carving represents the ancestry of either Henry or his third wife Jane Seymour. There is the Lion of England, the Royal Dragon, the Black Bull of Clarence, the Yale of Beaufort, the white lion of Mortimer, the White Greyhound of Richmond, the Tudor Dragon, the Seymour Panther, and the Seymour Unicorn.

V- Antonio Verrio

Heading towards William III State Apartments, one cannot miss the beautiful painting on the staircase titled ‘Victory of Alexander over the Caesars. Italian artist Antonio Verrio painted it. Verrio would work for the English monarchy for 30 years and earned himself lodgings and a pension at Hampton Court where he died in 1707.

The Verrio Staircase, Places to Go

The 12 Caesars represents the Catholic forces that William has ousted in the Glorious Revolution. William is the hero, Alexander.

W- Wolsey

Cardinal Wolsey was the Chief Minister of King Henry VIII and was the last of his type to be seen in England. The son of a Butcher Wolsey worked his way up to be King in all but name. As a result, he, therefore, needed to live like one and would inherit several luxurious sites which came with his various titles which he improved, making them fit for a King. Hampton Court he would acquire privately of Lord Daubeney and was to be his country retreat to entertain.

His developments to the Palace which we can see today is the spectacular entrance, Base Court, the along Gallery and his suite of rooms with their ribbed ceilings which is still there today. Wolsey would also add a suite of rooms for not only the King but also his wife and eldest daughter Princess Mary.

Cardinal Wolsey, National Portrait Gallery

Many would say Wolsey downfall was a result of him getting too greedy and living better than the king himself. Wolsey, however, would say that as he represented the King he, therefore, needed to live like him so he could do Henry justice. He even allowed Henry the use of all his homes to use at his leisure.

Wolsey downfall was mainly due to the fact of not being able to get a resolution the Kings Great Matter – his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He fell, and he fell hard. He would eventually die on way to the Tower of London to face trial in 1503

X- Rosa X Alba

In Chapel Court, there is a beautiful garden, which was created to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIIIs ascension to the throne. The insertion for the garden came from the Family of Henry viii portrait, which shows Henry with all three children and his third wife Jane Seymour. Although the setting for the painting is from Whitehall Palace, there is a garden in the background, which would have been similar to those at Hampton Court.

Some of the plants included in the garden are Irises, Periwinkle, Miny, Gilly Flower, the Red rose (of Lancaster) and the White Rose of York (Rosa x alba). Henry VIII parents being from each of the Houses and supposedly uniting the warring houses in what was termed by Shakespeare the Wars of the Roses.

Chapel Court Gardens from a few years ago, Danny Parlour

Y- Yeoman of the Guard

William III apartments show what life would have been like a Court for a courtier who wanted an audience with the King. Each room from the Guard Chamber to the Bedroom each gets more lavish in style and each room the closer one got to the monarch.

The first room to get through would have been the guard chamber and one would have been met with the yeoman of the Guard. They would make sure that couriers were suitably dressed and well behaved before allowing them to progress further. 

Next, they would enter the Presence Chamber, the official throne room followed by the Privy Chamber where on statement and courtiers who were close to the king would have been permitted. The Great Bedchamber was where one could watch the king’s ceremony of dressing in the morning; he slept in the room next door – the Little Bedroom.

Z- Zone 6 

Hampton Court Palace lies in Zone 6 of the London Underground. It takes 50 minutes from Waterloo to get there by train and once you arrive you cannot but be in awe of the great Palace. It sits right onto of the River (and sometimes you can even take a boat ride there instead and be like the nobility of old). 

Meeting King Henry VIII himself from a few years ago.


Davidson, C (2009) How to read buildings: a crash course in architecture. Heret press London.

Worsely, L and Souden D. (2012) The Official illustrated History of Hampton Court Palace. Merrell in association with Historic Royal Palaces: London

Anon (nd) Chapel Court. Available from: [Accessed 02/09/19]

Anon (nd) The Story of Hampton Court. Available from: [Accessed 02/09/2019]

Anon (2015) Hampton Court Palace Ghost Stories. Available from: [Accessed 31/08/19]

Jones, B (2015) The Eavesdroppers of the Great Hall. Available from: [Accessed 02/09/2019]


An A-Z of Hampton Court Palace

Part 1 – A-M

This week I wanted to look at the history of another of London’s great Royal Palaces – Hampton Court. As you can guess there is a lot to tell and I could not decide what to choose so I decided to do something a little different for my Main Monday post and give you an overview with not only well-known facts but maybe lesser-known ones in the form of an A-Z. Maybe you will learn something new or it may encourage you to visit.

A- Astronomical Clock

When entering Hampton Court Palace through Clock Court one cannot help but notice the beautiful clock sitting up to the gatehouse. This clock was designed by Nicholas Kratzer and built by Nicholas Oursian in 1540. Not only does it tell the time but the phases of the moon, signs of the zodiac, the suns movement and the time of high tide at London Bridge.

B- Baroque 

Hampton Court Palace is a tale of two Palaces – at the front, the visitor is met with the magnificent Tudor red-bricked frontage from the time of Henry VIII. At the back and what greets the visitor, approaching from the Gardens is the impressive classical Baroque Palace from the time of William and Mary. 

They originally had plans to knock down the whole Palace and rebuild it in the Baroque style with the help of Sir Christopher Wren. However, due to costs, only parts of the old Tudor Palace were destroyed and paved the way for the modern.

Baroque was a style, which became popular across all of Europe and England in the 17th Century. It took the classical designs but recalibrated it to create a sense of drama to the buildings. It was a grand elaboration of detail and space. It also used the orders of pilasters to unify storeys.

C- The Chapel Royal

Possible one of my favourite places at the Palace the Chapel Royal is a beautiful place. Built at the request of Henry VIII in his improvements to the Palace one cannot help but look up in awe at the vaulted ceiling, which was completed in the 1530s.

The Chapel stayed pretty much the same until Christopher Wren remodelled it at the request of Queen Anne in 1710.

Up above the main body of the Chapel is a single room like a box at the Theatre. This would have been where the royal family would sit when worshipping. Today there is a replica of the Crown worn by Henry VIII while at the Palace. It was here that Henry received a letter from Archbishop Cranmer outlining accusations of adultery by Catherine Howard.

D- Lord Daubeney

Lord Daubeney was a great supporter of Henry VIII and acquired the manor of Hampton Court from the Knights Hospitaller in 1494. He fought on the Battlefield of Bosworth and was the Lord Chamberlain of Henry VII household. He enlarged and improved the Manor at Hampton court including adding the great kitchen. He made it grand enough to entertain royalty of who visited several times. It was after his death that his son would sell Hampton Court onto Cardinal Wolsey.

E- Eavesdroppers

Another great sight at the Palace would have to be its great hall. Today it is considered one of the greatest medieval halls of England. It measures 108 feet by 40 feet and rises 60 feet in height.  

Its decor consist of the walls being hung with great tapestries telling the story of Abraham, the light comes from the stained glass windows and at one end a raised dais where the king would have feasted.

What is its most beautiful feature is the hammer-beam roof. Decorating the hammer-beam roof is several shields of those who were important to the Tudor Court; in 1536, this would have included the wooden initials of HA representing Henry and Anne Boleyn. With her fall from favour, all traces of her were removed but one it seems was forgotten and can be found on the ceiling in the great hall. Also in the ceiling are carvings of Eavesdroppers. These would have been placed around the ceiling of the great hall to remind all that nothing stays a secret and someone is always listening.

F- Favour

The final royal to use the Palace would be King George II who in 1737 decided he no longer wanted to use it. Many of the rooms at the Palace

would be put to new use and became and favour apartments. 

This meant that the property is owned by the monarch but leases it free to a person of their choosing, usually as gratitude for services rendered. At this time, those living in the apartments were aristocratic widows whose husbands had given service to the King. The Grace and favour apartments at Hampton court continued with the last being granted in the 1960s.

G- Gardens

Hampton Court Palace is surrounding by 60 acres of beautiful gardens. With each new royal family and change to the Palace came new designs to the gardens also. Most of these gardens still survive today. There is William and Marys Great Fountain Garden to complete their new baroque palace. It has 13 fountains and two avenues of Yew Trees. There is also the Privy Garden first designed as Henry VIII heraldic garden and today a 1995 reconstruction of William III 1701 formal Privy Garden, which is met by the magnificent Tijo Screen designed by Jean Tijou in 1690.

The Wilderness garden began as an orchard until it was modernised by Charles ii mistress Lady Castlemaine. Inspired by the Italian grove or Bosco, it was an area of interwoven trees and paths to create outdoor ‘rooms’. It is also, where the maze is located and my favourite of all the gardens.

H- Historic Royal Palaces

 Historic Royal Palaces are the charitable organisation who run and manage Hampton Court today. They took over management of not only Hampton Court but also of Kew Palace, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace State Apartments, and the Banqueting House. They took over from the Department of the Environment in 1989. 

I- Imprisonment

Imprisonment does not come to mind when you visit Hampton Court but in fact, it was a ‘prison’ for two royal monarchs who both would be beheaded for their crimes. The first was Catherine Howard, Henry VIII fifth wife who would be confined to her apartments at Hampton Court when Henry was made aware of her misconduct as his wife. The story goes that she managed to escape her guards and ran towards Henry in the Chapel through the Long Gallery but before he could hear her pleas and cries, she was dragged back to her suite of rooms. Today this gallery is said to be haunted by her spirit.

The Second Monarch to be held at here was King Charles I. He was taken there in 1647 and although he was a prisoner, he was allowed to still lead a comfortable and elegant life at the Palace where he would have visits from his children who he was overjoyed to see. Even Cromwell visited him whilst he was imprisoned here. Cromwell soon learnt his mistake of allowing the King such lapsed imprisonment as Charles would escape one evening in October and would not be recaptured for another two years. This time however he was not taken to Hampton Court but kept in a more secure setup and would eventually be executed outside the Banqueting House in 1649.

J- The King James Bible

In January 1605, a great conference was held at Hampton Court Palace that would impact the way the Bible is read. This conference, chaired by King James I was to lead to the authorised translation of the Bible into English, which would be known as the King James Bible. Both Puritans and members of the Church of England represented the conference. 

K- Kitchens

Another great survival of the Tudor Palace it is Kitchens. The ones at Hampton Court were the largest in Tudor England and would produce 800 meals a day for Henry’s household. They would be in use for another 200 years and were an essential part of the daily running of the Palace. Go and visit the kitchens yourself and feel the warmth of the great fire.

L- Louis XIV

The Palaces of King Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, heavily influenced much of the Stuart developments at Hampton Court Palace and its design. The layout and design of his Palace of Versailles were used to create the Cartoon Gallery and other areas. William and Marys new apartments were based on the designs used at the Louvre, in Paris. 

Also, it was not just designed but how ceremony and tradition which the English monarchs looked to the Sun King for. Our monarchs adopted his ceremony of dressing and undressing. 

M- Maze

The maze, which was originally one of three, is the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze. It is believed that it was commissioned by William III and designed by George London and Henry Wise. It covers a third of an acre and is located in the Wilderness Garden. How long will it take you to find the exit?

Hidden in plain sight – All Hallows by the Tower

“It having only burned the dyall of Barking Church, and part of the porch, and was there quenched. I up to the top of Barking steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw; every where great fires, oyle-cellars, and brimstone, and other things burning. I became afeard to stay there long, and therefore down again as fast as I could…”

Samuel Pepys

Originally dedicated to St Mary – All Hallows by the Tower is the oldest church in the City of London. It has witnessed many events in its time including the Great Fire of London in 1666 where Samuel Pepys climbed its steeple to watch the flames engulf London. Its proximity to the Tower meant that those executed on Tower Hill would usually be brought to the church post death before being moved for burial. Although rebuilt many times in its history, the foundations remain and the thousands of tourist and commuters in the City overlook its history.

Founded by the Abbey of Barking in 675AD under the Bishop of London, Erconwold, the first church was 24ft by 70 with no isles. Unfortunately, the only part of the church for this period to survive is an arch.

In the crypt, during excavations in the 1920s a mosaic floor was uncovered indication that the site was in use during the Roman period. The floor is still in situ and can be seen today. In other parts of the church recycled roman tiles and brickwork has been used, indicating that a Roman house may have once stood there. The church was re built in the late 11th century, about 10 years after the tower.

During 1309-10, the some of the Knights Templar’s would be questioned within the church during the suppression of their order. Most of the inquisitions carried out in London would have taken place in Holy Trinity Priory but a few happened at All Hallows. In November 1309, four Knights were questions at the church and denied all charges placed before them bar one. Another three knights had the same treatment in the January and a few more a few days later. All would declare them delves innocent and obedient servants to their faith. The prisoners were re questioned again later, this time after being submitted to torture and three of their number would admit to their charges and made a public confession. They would eventually be absolved of their crimes and sent to do penance among their enemies, stripped of all belongings.

A lady chapel was built in the churchyard in the 13th, which under Edward VI was placed as a royal chantry to pray for his family, and his own soul once departed. Unfortunately, all trace of the chapel no longer remains as it was demolished in 1547.

In 1650, an explosion occurred near the churchyard of All Hallows. Some gunpowder barrels caught alight and destroyed at least 50 house nearby and killing around 67 people and destroying the tower. Repairs were made and parts of the structure rebuilt in 1658, making All Hallows the only Church to have work carried out on it during the Commonwealth.

The luck, which seemed to have saved All Hallows in the Great Fire of London in 1666, would run out in the blitz. On 29th 1940, a firestorm would hit the church destroying all above ground bar the tower and one of the external walls. The rebuilding would start years later with the Queens mother laying the foundation storm to commence the re build. It was re dedicated in 1957 and was designed by Seely and Paget.

IN FOCUS – Seely and Paget:

John Seely and Paul Paget were partners in an architectural firm in the interwar years, which Seely set up for them both in 1922 (Paget was not an architect but became the ‘face’ of the company). They had met while studying at Trinity College, Cambridge and from there the two became inseparable, referring to themselves as ‘partners’ – in both life and work.

‘It was just the marriage of two minds … we became virtually one person’. – Paget.

Their masterpiece would be the transformation of Eltham Palace (see

All Hallows is about 3,569 miles from Pennsylvania in America yet it has close links with its founder and one of Americas Presidents. William Penn, who would be the founder of Pennsylvania was baptised in the church and educated in the school room before growing up and emigrating to the new world. John Quincy Adams the 6th America president was married within the church walls in 1797 before he too would leave England. Their entries in the books can be seen in the crypt museum today.

The records were only discovered purely by chance in 1923. A carved lead-lined cistern was found and opened and inside were a number of documents including those listed above. It is believed that one of All Hallows Vicars may have felt it better to preserve the records in something that was fireproof and placed it within the tower where it would eventually sit untouched for over 200 years.

Today the church is a grade I listed building which is still in regular use. It is open to the public and has the museum in the undercroft, which one can usually get to oneself, as it is not very busy. Along with the Roman Mosaics still in situ, you can see a model showing London when it was known as Londinium, a barrel used as a crow’s nest by Shakelton on his last arctic voyage and Saxon crosses discovered on the site.

The Museum is open on … For more information please visit their site


Hibbert, C (1988) London’s Churches. MacDonald Queen Anne’s Press: London

Anon (nd) All Hallows by the Tower – A History. Available from: [Accessed 18.6.19]

English Heritage (nd) Seely and Paget at Eltham Palace. Available from: [Accessed 30.6.19]

Historic England (nd) Church of All Hallows by the Tower.

Lilian J Redstone, ‘The architecture of All Hallows’, in Survey of London: Volume 12, the Parish of All Hallows Barking, Part I: the Church of All Hallows (London, 1929), pp. 54-66. British History Online

Paterson, M (2012) All Hallows by the Tower. Available from: [Accessed 30.6.19]

Ross, D (nd) All Hallows by the Tower, London. [Accessed 30.6.19]

Whitehall Palace – the remains

I love visiting the ruins of a castle or abbey. There is something hauntingly beautiful about them, small fragments of the past that have survived. Yes, there are sites like the Tower of London that survived the centuries through restoration and rebuilds, but ruins – they are the skeletons of these ancient buildings.

Readers of my blog will be aware of my love of Whitehall Palace, nothing of which remains today. Well, nearly nothing. Most of the Palace, which was a mismatch of buildings linked together, fell victim to two fires in the late 1600’s. The fire would destroy much of the Palace, once the largest in all of Europe. No complete building was left standing, and the remaining ruins were soon dismantled and removed to make way for new buildings.

Looking down on Horseguards Parade from the roof of the Banqueting House (Laura Adkins)

So what is the aim of this post? Well as many historians will know, if you keep looking you can often find what you are searching for. The same for Whitehall Palace. Although the structure is gone, what is represented is echoed in Whitehall itself today, even the name of the area stems from the days of the large Tudor Palace.

And some elements do survive; Banqueting House being one (see …) and St James Palace (see …). Other parts of the Palace survive, each representing a different era of Whitehall’s history and giving us a glimpse into this magnificent royal Palace.


To begin with, the oldest surviving part of Whitehall Palace harks from the time when it was known as York Place, the home of Cardinal Wolsey, Archbishop of York. The structure was originally his wine cellar and would have been situated under his great hall.

Today the complete cellar still exists, hidden from the public eye and with restricted access. This is not because it is difficult to get too, but because it is situated underneath the MOD building and therefore not open to the public much. If you ever get the chance to see this structure then do, as it is an amazing room. To think it once belonged to Wolsey is incredible.

Around the Wine Cellar is metal encasing created in 1949. The wine cellar was in the way of the new development happening in Whitehall and the new MOD building. At the request of Queen Mary (the widow of King George V) it was saved. Dismantling it was not an option so instead workmen dug around the cellar. Once the work was complete, it was encased in steel and concrete and moved 9 feet West and 19 feet lower so it was no longer a disruption to the new building works. Inside there are information boards on the structure, which is sometimes used for MOD events.

Moving on the next remenat of Whitehall Palace in Whitehall itself is that of the Steps of Mary of Modena. Situated at the front of the MOD building these steps would have lead to the river Thames (before the embankment moved the river back). King James II’s wife would have had apartments looking onto the Thames and these steps would have led to a wooden barge where her boat would wait to take her wherever she wanted. The River at the time was a popular way to travel to those who could afford it. The steps were added in 1691 and designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The terrace they connected to would have stretched 70 feet into the river and across 280 feet. The curving steps we can see part of were built to connect the Royal Apartments to the State Barge. Excavations carried out in the area in 1939, for the development of new government buildings, would uncover the steps along with the river wall.

A little further down Whitehall, near the Banqueting House, lies Downing Street, the home to British politics and number 10. Within this now closed off-street lies a Tudor wall which used to be the passageway to the Tennis Courts of King Henry VIII – cockpit passage. The remeneat of the wall has somehow survived and it is great to see it. Again if you ever get the chance do go. I have only managed to glimpse it from the outside and I imagined Anne Boleyn would have walked this passage to watch Henry play real tennis on his courts not far from where horseguards parade is today.

Henry VIII built a tennis-court, a tiltyard, on the site of the Horse Guards–a bowling green and a cockpit. The exact site of the cockpit has long been a matter of uncertainty, but it is believed that the entrance was just where the present Treasury entrance is. Plasterwork found in the location of the galley between the Tennis play area indicate that the passage was plastered and originally painted white with a black dado or skirting. In addition, wooden batten found indicate that the walls were probably tapestries.

Horseguards parade is a popular tourist attraction where people stop to watch the changing of the guard and it  has very close links to Whitehall Palace. When restored to his throne in 1660, King Charles II would install his private guards who escorted him across the Thames opposite his private residence in Whitehall to keep them close by. It is why there is a base there for soldiers today and it still officially marks the processional entrance to St James Palace.

A lot of the furniture of Whitehall was destroyed in the fire but at Knole House in Kent you can find a number of items which had sat in the halls and rooms of the Palace. How did they come to be in Kent? Purley by circumstance?

Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset, was probably the person responsible for bringing a lot of the Whitehall furniture to Knole. This was through his time as Lord Chamberlain of the Household to William III between 1689-97. It was the Chamberlain’s right to take any of the furnishings in the royal palaces deemed to be worn out or dated.

We know of some of these items as they have the letters WP and a stitched-in crown on top. Items with links to Whitehall include The King’s bed, and this was most likely used by William III’s cousin, Prince Louis, during a state visit in January 1694 when it still stood in the former Queen Mary of Modena’s apartment at Whitehall. Other items include some Carved Walnut chairs, two Walnut armchairs and six stools, a Crimson silk damask, and my favourite, a Close Stool made from Crimson Velvet, possibly used by Charles or James II.

There are a huge number of paintings no longer in existence, which once graced the Palace walls. Many of these were sold off after the execution of King Charles I and eventually at least half were brought back when Charles II came to the throne. The list is too long to document here, please message me if you wanted to know more on these.

If you visit or live in the Somerset area then you are also close to a fragment of Whitehall Palace. In St Andrews Church, Burnham on Sea, there lies two beautiful statues of angels. These statues were carved by Grinling Gibbons, a famous sculptor of his time and designed by none other than Inigo Jones! They once stood as part of a magnificent altarpiece in the Chapel Royal. The Chapel Royal itself was built and designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1686. James II gave the commission for the later piece to Inigo. On completion, the statues stood about 12 metres tall. Complete, the piece would resemble the facade of a baroque church.

The alter would be dismantled after James fled the country and placed into storage at Hampton Court Palace until 1706 when it would be sited in front of the medieval alter at Westminster Abbey.

Removed again in 1820, the statues were offered to Walrwe King, Bishop of Rochester and vicar of St Andrews Church in Burnham on sea. Here the altarpiece was erected once more in full glory. Unfortunately, much of the altarpiece would be dismantled and parts discarded once more. All that remains are the angel statues at the church and ,randomly, two columns from the second tier, which now sit at Sledmere House, Humberside.

On a final note, I want to turn to Hampton Court Palace. To gain an understanding of what the Tudor design of Whitehall Palace would have been like, one only needs to visit. The tapestries in the great hall, the gilded ceiling in Wolsey’s apartments and the magnificent terracotta roundels on the courtyard entrance would have all been familiar sights to the courtiers visiting Whitehall. Even the small courtyard gardens with their heraldic beasts give a sense of Tudor Whitehall.

Also within Hampton Court lies a painting. It is a copy taken at the request of King Charles II. The original, painted directly on the walls of the Palace, was destroyed in the fire at Whitehall. The painting was a Hans Holbein Mural of King Henry VIII and his family. It is believed that the Holbein Mural (1537) was situated high up in the Privy Chamber wall with panelling below, similar to Wolsey’s closet at Hampton Court Palace. It was considered Holbein’s greatest achievement and includes the most well known depiction of Henry VIII, despite the fact that an accidental fire in Whitehall Palace destroyed the mural in 1698.

The Privy chamber was the most private place for King Henry VIII, all his important meetings would be held there and so Henry wanted a setting to overawe his visitors. Anyone of consequence would have seen the mural within Whitehall. The original mural survived intact in the Privy Chamber of the palace for 162 years, during which time prints were made of the painting, and in 1667, Remegius van Leemput painted a full copy of the piece, although at a much smaller scale than the mural which had been life-sized and depicted the four figures at their full height.

The Holbein mural is important as it defines Henry VIII. It immortalizes him. Holbein has used Henrys very large person and emphasizes it in his stand. Many portraits have since imitated this image of Henry by Holbein. Henry is depicted as powerful and commanding, a man in his prime and confident in his future.

I have discovered if we delve further into those building’s history, which have been lost in time to us, it can be brought back to life by what remains and the archaeology buried underneath the surface.

The remnants help us understand the structures and how these buildings looked and were lived in. By looking at the layout of the area where these palaces once stood, and looking at the names of streets, it allows the picture to be built up even more and eventually we get an idea of what these buildings stood for, and they are just as spectacular as those that still exist.



Foreman, Susan, (1995) From Palace to Power. The Alpha Press Ltd. London.

Oakley, J. (1972) Royal Palaces. Robert Hale. London.

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Midweek Mini – St Olaves Church, Hart Street

When I used to work in London and exited at Fenchurch Street Station, I would usually pass a small tower, which is all that remains of a church, which was intriguing in itself. What attracted me more to finding out about the place was the three skulls carved into the stone on the entrance. The building was St Olaves Church and it has a very interesting history.

Photo Laura Adkins

The church is one of the smallest in the City

Surviving the Great fire of 1666, (the flames stopped 100 metres away) St Olaves was built in the 13th Century although in all probability a wooden structure existed beforehand. It would be rebuilt during the 1450s and have many alterations in its lifetime.

The church has close associations with Samuel Pepys, the diarist. His diary includes many observations of what was happening in St Olaves and would refer to it as ‘our own church’. His body was entombed alongside his wife’s at the church when he died in 1703.

Samuel Pepys, by John Hayls, 1666

The churchyard gateway, which I mentioned above, was built in 1658 and is referenced by Charles Dickens in the uncommercial traveller as St Ghastly Grim.

is a small small churchyard, with a ferocious, strong, spiked iron gate, like a
jail. This gate is ornamented with skulls and cross-bones, larger than the
life, wrought in stone; but it likewise came into the mind of Saint Ghastly
Grim, that to stick iron spikes atop of the stone skulls, as though they were
impaled, would be a pleasant device. Therefore the skulls grin aloft horribly,
thrust through and through with iron spears. Hence, there is attraction of
repulsion for me in Saint Ghastly Grim, and, having often contemplated it in
the daylight and the dark, I once felt drawn towards it in a thunderstorm at
midnight.” (The Uncommercial Traveller)

Quite a fitting design of carving as less than 10 years later, in 1665, 300 plague victims were buried in the churchyard including the woman accused of bringing the plague to London.

During the Second World War, like much of London St Olaves would be severely damaged in the blitz but not completely destroyed. Enough of its structure and masonry remained that it was restored and re opened in 1950, with the guest of honour being King Haakon VII of Norway who had worshipped in the Church during the War.

St Olaves is dedicated to the Patron Saint of Norway – King Olaf II. He fought alongside Ethelred the Unready against the Danes during the Battle of London Bridge in 1014. On his death, Olaf was canonised and it is said the church was built on the site of the battle.

The build was listed as a grade I in January 1950. Its style is Perpendicular Gothic, which is emphasized by vertical lines. The church is open to visitors and worshippers today. For more information head to the website below:

A Palace for Government – Westminster Palace part 2

The Houses of Parliament

The current structure for Westminster Palace sits majestically by the Thames for all to admire and see. It looks as if it has been there for many hundreds of years when it has in fact has been there for only 149 years old. Tsar Nicholas II described it as ‘a Dream in stone’ and is ranked as number three of 940 London attractions by Trip advisor in London. However, what is its story? In part one we learnt all about the original Westminster Palace, part two will look at its reincarnation into the Houses of Parliament.

After the fire destroyed the Palace in 1834, Prince Albert set up a Fine Arts Committee to fine an architect to design and rebuild the Palace. Their vision was to combine the fine arts and sculpture with the buildings architecture. There was much debate about what style should be used for the new build. A discussion was had about neo classical style, which was used for the White House in America, but it was felt that this design was associated with revolution and republicanism so another style was chosen – Gothic Revival.

Painting by T Baynes

At the time, gothic style architecture was seen as an English style, which was also picturesque and romantic. Characteristics of the style include pointed arches, sloping roof, and ornamental patterns. The style was coming back into trend in many churches. The earliest document example in a residential property is that of Strawberry hill.

Strawberry Hill – Photo credit evening Standard

In 1836, a public competition was held for architects across the country to design a new palace. 97 entries were received, all identities withheld from the judges, the deigns were finally whittled down until one was left, a design which incorporated the emblem of the Portcullis. The portcullis being symbol of strength and security and crown is symbol of royal power, which is given to parliament by the monarch. This emblem was used by both houses and is still done so today. The architects name was Charles Barry.

by John Prescott Knight, oil on canvas, circa 1851

Part of Barry’s design was to incorporate the old remaining parts of Westminster Palace but to have a completely new layout. It combined classical planning and picturesque outline. “The buildings regular bays, with identical pavilions projecting ast north and south ends are broken up by three asymmetrically placed towers.” (The Palace of Westminster pg 72) Much of his inspiration would come from Henry VIII chapel over the road in Westminster Abbey along with the Gothic revival style. 

Construction would begin in 1840 with end date of six years (which actually would be 30 years and costing over 2 million). Barry however would spend 20 years on the Palace as he died when it was still being built. His third son Edward was chosen to complete his father’s work.

by Unknown artist, oil on canvas, circa 1840

Barry was already a famous architect having built several churches and winning a number of competitions. Nevertheless, his style was more classical than gothic. He would turn to a man named Augustus Wilby Pugin to help him design the Gothic Palace. Pugin was a young catholic architect whose passion was in the gothic architecture style. Barry would pay him £400 for his assistance in the drawings and would contuse to use his help in the construction and interior design of the Place. Although he was not happy with the Palace, which he had helped create. Pugin too would not live to see the Palace completed, due to the long hours and endless worry, Pugin’s health was soon affected, and he was committed to Bedlam for a short time before his death in 1852. The Palace of Westminster was completed in 1870.

There are a number of rooms and pieces within the Palace, which hold a particular function or role. The most iconic would be the Elizabeth Tower, often referred to at Big Ben, which is in fact the name of the bell inside the tower. Pugin’s drawing for this tower would be the last work he did for Barry. The tower stands at 316 ft in height. I will be exploring this tower more in a separate blog.

Photo credit Visit London

Along with the Elizabeth tower there is the Victoria Tower, which at 323 ft in height makes it the tallest secular building in the world. It is home to the parliament records. The third and final tower is the Central tower, which is immediately above the central lobby. Octagonal in shape it is the shortest of the three at 330 ft. It has a spire and contains the largest known gothic vault without a central pillar.

The largest room in the Palace is the Royal Gallery, which is designed to be imposing to those who enter it and walks its 110 ft length. The paintings in the gallery were meant to show the military history and glory of the country but only two were ever completed. They would be the largest work commission for the entire palace.

The Royal Gallery – Photo credit Parliment UK

The Lords Chamber is the grandest room and is decorated as such. It is where the pillars of Britain’s society come together – monarch, church, and parliament. It leads onto the Central lobby, which marks the central part of the whole building.

The fire in 134 would be the Palaces biggest disaster but not its last. In 1885 two fenians bombs were planted and detonated in the commons chamber and the chapel of St Mary Undercroft, no one was killed and four injured.

Then during the blitz in World War Two, bombs were dropped on the historic building. One landed though the roof and into the House of Lords, luckily it did not explode. The same cold not be said for the next bomb which struck. On the night of 10.5.1941, a bomb hit the House of Commons and destroyed it. It could have been saved but it was decided to save Westminster Hall instead as that too had been hit. Giles Gilbert Scott would re build it in very sedate fashion when compared to the rest of the Palace and reopened in 1950.

Bomb damage in WW2

Today the Houses of Parliament is owned by the State and is home to the British government. It can be visited by members of the public. For more information on how to book please head over to the following link:

It is currently undergoing a huge restoration project due to the condition and safety of parts of the building. The renovation is believed to take 6 years to complete and means that the whole of parliament will move out of the Palace for the first time since the Second World War.

Inside the Palace, there are crumbling walls, leaking pipes, collapsing roofs and many issues, which one would associate with an old building including a number of fire risks.

Photo credit NBS

The Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster said: “The Palace of Westminster, a masterpiece of Victorian and medieval architecture and engineering, faces an impending crisis which we cannot responsibly ignore.

It is believed the project will cost around six million and is due to start in 2025. Let us hope it is enough to save this historic and iconic building before it goes beyond repair.

Photo credit NBS

Part 3 and the last part of this blog will be called Ceremony and Art and will look at Westminster Palace as a place of British ceremony and being a home to a large art collection – coming soon.


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A Palace of Government – Westminster Palace

 Part 1 – The Medieval Palace of Westminster

The Houses of Parliament – a UNESCO heritage site and seen by millions every year. It is the home of the English government and where the decisions of the country are made. The current building covers 5 acres and has 1,100 rooms. Did you know that it’s official title is the Palace of Westminster and that its history goes back to pre 1066?

The king, newly crowned, the day before his coronation, shall be brought forth in royal robes and shall ride from the Tower of London to his Palace of Westminster with his head uncovered, being accompanied on horseback by his temporal lords, his nobles, the commons of London, and other his servant (the Ancient form of the Coronation of Kings and Queens of England)

Since the coronation of Harold Godwinson in 1066, nearly all of the monarchs of England the same route and been crowned in Westminster Abbey. After the ceremony, they would head over to the Royal Palace of Westminster, to have a large banquet.

The Palace would have its beginnings with Canute, a Danish King who ruled England in 1016-35. He first established a Palace in the area we now know as Westminster. His Royal Palace was further developed by Edward the Confessor when he decided to build a large abbey and wanted to live nearby. It was the building of the new Abbey and Palace, which would elevate Westminster to the status of the primary royal residence of the monarch.



We do not know much of what Edward the Confessors Palace would have looked like. We know he would have had a great hall and private chambers. We can gain a small glimpse from an image of him in the Bayeux tapestry. His Palace was completely demolished to make way for a larger one.

The first major change to take place at the Palace since the conquest of William the Conqueror in 1066 was by his son William Rufus. He was responsible for building the great hall that still exists. A great hall is an important element of any noble residence. Williams Rufus’ Great Hall was really something to see. Even today, one stands in the hall in complete awe of the beauty and the power it emits.

Today it is the oldest building on the estate and almost in its original form. The roof was replaced in 1394 and is the largest hammer-beam roof in northern Europe – 20.7m by 73.2. The hall itself is 240 feet long by 67.5, with walls 6.5 thick. Inside one can see the beautiful roof along with a number of statues of kings dated from 1385. Much of the stonework on display dates from the 19th century.

WESTMINSTER HALL (News desk 9/5/2017)

There have been a number of events taking place in the great hall from marriage feasts, meetings of parliament and state trials. The majority of great events in medieval Westminster would usually be marked by a state banquet. The first would be in 1099.

THE PAINTED CHAMBER – William Capon 1799

The banquet in the medieval sense was a means of displaying the great wealth and importance of the monarch. All of their servants would be on display with much pomp and ceremony. The food would be decorated with gold and served on expensive plates accompanied by playing throughout. It was also for the monarch to show their status and generosity. During the reign of Henry III, a number of feasts for the poor would be held in the hall In 1237, 6000 of the poor were invited into the hall to eat and drink to celebrate the Queen’s coronation. Ten years later, more were invited over the Christmas period to feast and be warm.

In 2006, remains of the King’s Seat and table used in the hall were found during some archaeological work. This seat and table were not only an indication of the king’s also the power of the law. have used the table include Henry V, Richard III, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Originally made of wood and later of Purbeck marble, placed in a fixed position, it became a symbol of royal authority and judgement.


Under Henry Palace would become a royal hub of activity and status. He would add royal apartments, including the painted chamber, which took 60 years to paint. Originally known as the Kings Chamber, the Painted Chamber was a sight to see in the Palace. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a from and accounts, we can gain an understanding of its decor which took so long to complete. There are two ceiling panels located at the British Museum, which once were in  the Chamber, and there are paintings by Charles Stohard. We also know that biblical paintings were on the wall, with a canopied bed of state and a painted scene of Edward the Confessor.

Two Painted Panels – British Museum (c)

As well as being the home of kings, the Palace of Westminster would also become the home to Parliament. Parliament would have its beginnings at the palace. It can be said that the first instance of a parliament, being held, was in 1295 when Edward I summoned the Model Parliament at Westminster. It was the first time that those of the Representative Assembly were elected rather than nominated.


Another important building of the Palace was St. Stephens Chapel. It was the first to be built in England in the perpendicular Gothic style (final gothic phase in England. late 14-early 16th century. A style with strong vertical lines, ornate roofs, vaulting and large windows.) and was built at the request of Edward I. He was also trying to out show the French king Louis IX and wanted his chapel to rival that of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. St. Stephens Chapel had three master masons over its time of creation and development, these men were called Michael of Canterbury, Thomas of Canterbury, and William Ramsey. The roof vault was added in the 1320s and the painting of the chapel was by Hugh of St. Albans.

It was a two-storey structure with St Stephens above at St Mary’s undercroft below and would be built in a number of stages between the years 1292-1363. The buildings accounts for its construction still exist today and can be seen at the National Archives and give an idea of the many people who worked on the chapel.

Later, it became but the dimensions of still kept, in addition to studs on the floor showing where the and the chair, would have been placed. St Stephens Hall would be the location where King Charles I tried to arrest five members of parliament before the outbreak of and where William Wilberforce would argue against slavery.

St Mary’s undercroft, situated below is still in existence today. It was called such to distinguish it from the small chapel of St Mary Le Pew upstairs in the Palace. It has a lower ceiling and was much darker than the chapel above. Aside from a number of services, its main use was for burials. There are at least twenty people in the records who asked to be buried in St Mary’s undercroft including William Lyndwood (adviser to the King and Bishop of St Davids, Wales) who is buried in the walls.


Another building, which is still in existence is that of the Jewel Tower. Today it stands alone, nearly hidden from many in the shadow of the abbey it was once a working building charged with housing the Kings personal treasure of precious stone, gems and silverware

The Jewel Tower is an L shaped three-storey building built of Kentish ragstone and was completed in 1365 by Henry Yevele a famous architect of his day. The  window embrasure and a door on the second floor still survive from the medieval period. In 1621, it housed government documents and in 1869 it was an official weight and measurement office.

“The tower was in other words, an office as well as a treasure house and its day to day workings may not have been very unlike those which we know from the black book of the household of Edward to have been followed at the jewel house in the tower of London (English 2011. p8)

The Palace would have two main courtyards – the Old Palace Yard and New Palace yard and along with Westminster Hall, these places would be witness to trails and executions in the Palace walls. The Hall, as previously mentioned was used for state trials. Historical figures such as William Wallace, Thomas More, Guy Fawkes and King Charles I were all placed on trial within the hall before being sentenced to death. Guy Fawkes and those tried with him would later be executed in the Old Palace-yard. In 1618, Walter Rayleigh was executed there and buried in the nearby St Margaret’s Church. Today the statue of Richard the Lionheart marks the site of the yard. Originally, Old Palace Yard was actually a place of peace and meditation. It connected the Palace with that of the Abbey, such a contrast from one period to the next.

OLD PALACE YARD – Thomas Allen (British Museum)

There were many alterations to the Palace over time by a number of Sir Christopher Wren and John Soane. 1690s was to maintain the Kings Palaces, including that of Westminster. He was responsible for lowering the height of the Queens Hall and changed the interior to give it a neo-classical style. He felt the medieval stone looked outdated.

John Soane’s involvement with the Palace came in 1791 when he was appointed Clerk of Works for Westminster, Whitehall and St. James’s. However, this ended in 1799. His second involvement with Westminster came twenty years later when he became an Attached Architect to the Palace and was asked to add temporary galleries to the House of Lords for the trial of Queen Caroline. He would also build a brand new Royal Entrance from Old Palace Yard to the House of Lords with a Gothic arcade and grand Scala Regia, a decorated royal gallery with columns in addition to a new library next to the Painted Chamber.

Alas, the medieval palace is no longer in existence except for Westminster Hall, St. Mary’s undercroft and some of the cloisters.  As with a number of Royal old buildings a fire would be the culprit for destroying the Palace and what that did survive (aside from what has just been mentioned) was demolished later to make way for the new Palace.


By the 18th century, the Palace was considered inadequate for its function as a home to Parliament. It was a mixture of buildings and additions all linked with lanes and corridors in a mixture of styles. For some, it was a maze of rooms and structures. Many had planned to rebuild it was never actioned until fate made that decision for them.

In 1834 when some workmen were disposing of the exchequer tally panelling caught alight and fire took hold. This was not the first fire to take would be responsible for utterly destroy the Palace. A fire in 1263 destroyed the original interior of the painted chamber, and then another in 1298 laid much of the Palace to waste. In 1512 the residential part was burnt out, it was this that led Henry VIII to eventually move the principal royal residence to Whitehall.

With all these fires one would think caution would have been taken. There were even reports highlighting the concern of what a fire would do. One of these reports was signed by 14 architects, including John Soane. Still, the burning of the tally sticks was allowed to happen and the fire spread, allowing their predictions to come into existence. It would be the largest conflagration in London, aside from the Great Fire in 1666 and the Blitz.

Although destroyed it was not the end of the Palace of Westminster, from the embers it would rise like a phoenix from the ashes once more. This time in a Gothic style by Charles Barry. Next week we will find out all about the new Palace of Westminster and its iconic role in English politics.


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