Spelthorne Hundred: Hampton Court Palace, architectural description

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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'Spelthorne Hundred: Hampton Court Palace, architectural description', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton, (London, 1911) pp. 371-379. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol2/pp371-379 [accessed 11 April 2024]


With such a history as it can boast, having been built and furnished in the most magnificent and sumptuous manner that the taste and ambition of its first owner could devise, and having passed from him into the hands of a king whose love of splendid buildings became proverbial, it is not to be wondered at that Hampton Court has always been a favourite and carefully-maintained possession of the Tudor, Stuart, and Hanoverian dynasties. Even in the days of the Commonwealth its atmosphere and traditions moved the 'Lady Protectress' and her attendants to uncouth attempts at regal dignity, and such alterations and losses as it has experienced in its existence of nearly four hundred years have assuredly not been due to neglect.

When Wolsey began his great work in 1514, the site was already occupied by a building consisting of a hall with a parlour, kitchen, buttery, and stable, and a chapel which had a tower containing two bells. After the fashion of the camerae of the Hospitallers, the buildings differed in no essential way from those of an ordinary mediaeval manorhouse, except, perhaps, in the relative importance of the chapel. It is not likely that they were of sufficient importance to influence the setting-out of Wolsey's buildings, or that their incorporation in the new work was ever contemplated; at any rate, they have long ceased to exist, leaving no trace behind them.

From 1514 to 1529 the work of building went on under Wolsey's direction and at his expense, although during the last few years the palace had become the property of Henry VIII, and it is hard to say at what point the king took up the cardinal's design. The general setting-out of the plan shows none of the passion for symmetry which was to influence the English architects of Elizabeth's day, although the first or base court follows a regular scheme, having a great gateway tower in the middle of its west or outer side, and a second gate-tower-the clock-tower-corresponding to it on the east. On the east side of the second or clock court is a third gateway, and the centre line of the building passed through a fourth gateway on the east front of the palace. The approach to the palace being from the west, this front is more regular than the rest, being flanked on the north and south by projecting blocks of building, which are, however, additions to the original design, and not of equal size, bearing only a superficial resemblance to each other. The apportionment of the various parts of the building followed that of other great houses of the time, the outer court being devoted to lodgings for guests, long rows of chambers opening to corridors running along the inner side of each wing; while the second court contained the principal sets of rooms, with the great hall on the north side, adjoined on the east by the great chamber, and on the north and west by the kitchens and domestic offices. The chapel stands to the east of the great chamber, separated from it by a small court, and approached by galleries.

The whole of the buildings are of brick, generally of a deep red colour, but by no means uniform in tint, and the wall-surfaces are varied by the insertion of black bricks set in a lattice pattern, often very irregular, and sometimes without any definite design. The string-courses, plinths and copings, and the masonry of doorways and windows, are of stone, for the most part called Reigate stone in the original building accounts, but Caen stone and Barnet stone are also mentioned. The bricks appear to have been made on the spot in vast quantities, and many references to them occur. A long series of the building accounts has been preserved, the earliest dating from 1514, but unfortunately there are many gaps in them between that year and 1529. After this date they are fairly complete up to 1540. (fn. 1) On one point of great interest they do not, however, give much information, that is, who occupied the position of architect or designer of the work. Certain overseers are mentioned, as James Bettes, 'master of the works'; Master Lawrence Stubbes, paymaster in 1515-16; and Mr. Henry Williams, priest, 'surveyor of the works,' the last-named probably more nearly fulfilling the duties of a modern architect than the others; but in no case is it clear that the actual designing was done by any of these. In 1536-7 one Mr. Lubbyns is mentioned as being paid £3 6s. 8d. as a half-year's wages, side by side with an entry for 'paper Riall for plattes' for his use; from which it would appear that he certainly set out details of the work if he did not design them.

It is clear that from the first the work was pushed on with great energy. In 1514 there is mention of the chapel and gallery, and in 1515 of the great chamber, the king's dining chamber, the new lodging without the gate, &c.; and by 1516 the buildings were so far advanced that Wolsey could entertain the king at Hampton Court. Labourers were collected from distant parts of the country, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire being mentioned; and in the accounts for 1514 is a payment 'for the statutes of the last parliament bought, forasmuch as in them were comprised the statute of labourers and artificers,' much as anyone proposing to build at the present day might arm himself with a copy of the London Building Act.

The absence of the greater part of the building accounts during the years when Wolsey was in possession makes it impossible to determine the order in which the various parts of his palace were set up, but it is reasonable to suppose that the principal buildings, the hall, chapel, great chamber, &c., would be undertaken first. Henry added to and rebuilt a certain amount of the cardinal's work, but his additions were for the most part at the south-east, on the ground now occupied by Wren's buildings; and it seems probable that when Wolsey finally left Hampton Court in 1529 its area was little less than it is at the present day. The outer or base court as it now stands, a good part of the Clock Court, the range of kitchens and offices on the north, including the Lord Chamberlain's Court, the Master Carpenter's Court, the Fish Court, &c., together with parts of the chapel and perhaps some of the range to the north of the Chapel Court, all seem to be in the main of his time. His Great Hall, though no doubt a fine building, was evidently not fine enough for the king, who pulled it down in 1530 and finished the splendid hall which now exists about 1535. At the same time Henry seems to have remodelled, and partly rebuilt, the fine range of rooms to the east of the hall and the eastern range of the Clock Court, and in 1535-6 he refitted the chapel, adding the organ chamber on the south, but apparently not rebuilding the chapel nor making any important structural alteration. It is, indeed, called in one place of the accounts the King's New Chapel, but this does not necessarily imply a rebuilding; and in the entry relating to the enormous sum of £451 spent on the wooden vault and the royal 'holyday closettes,' the heading is for 'payntyng, gyltyng, and varnesshyng of the vought,' and the making of pendants and other details.

The tennis court-the 'close tennys play' of the accounts-and a 'close bowling alley,' at the north-east of the palace, were among the first additions made by the king in 1529, and he also lost no time in adding new kitchens and offices, being evidently no more content with the cardinal's kitchens than with his Great Hall.

Of Henry's immediate successors neither Edward VI nor Mary has left any mark on the palace, and Elizabeth is only commemorated by a little work on the south front, close to the southwest angle of Wren's building, where a bay window bears her initials and the date 1568, and by another panel on the east side of the entrance gateway of the first court. Inigo Jones was appointed surveyor of Hampton Court, among other places, in 1615; and though there is no record of anything done about this time to the buildings, the block forming the east side of the Chapel Court shows detail belonging to the early years of the 17th century, and may preserve this evidence of Jones's supervision. Charles I, in the earlier years of his reign, was much occupied in furnishing and adorning the palace and gardens, but does not seem to have built anything of importance.

The extent of the buildings at the end of his reign is very clearly set forth in the survey taken by order of the Parliament in 1653, when it was proposed to sell the palace and its grounds in a number of separate lots, and to pull down all the buildings.

Beginning from the west, a green court inclosed, being the outer court, is first noted, from which a bridge led over the moat into the first court, also called a green court, that is, the present Base or outer Court. The ranges of buildings surrounding it are then noted, and a description of the Pond Garden, or Pond Yard, on the south follows. The Clock Court-then the Fountain Court-is next described, as 'paved with stone with a ffountayne standing in midst thereof,' with the buildings round it, the great hall being merely called a range of building like the rest. Then comes the Cloister Green Court, on the site of the present Fountain Court, with the Privy Garden and the Mount Garden to the south. The chapel, with its court and surrounding buildings, is summarized as 'severall other buildings, with the severall yards or courts lying betweene and amongst the sayd buildings.' The outlying buildings are then noticed, beginning at the north, though here again the tennis court &c. are not mentioned by name; then comes the Tilt-yard at the north-west, with its five buildings or towers, and then the projecting block at the south end of the west front, with a 'greate howse of easement,' now destroyed, standing over the moat. Finally the buildings on the south, towards the river, are surveyed, the Feather House and Hott House, with the Store Cellars, formerly the old Bowling Alley, between them, and the Stillhouse and Water Gallery to the east of them. On the south side of the Outer Green Court was the wood-yard, having to the west the Privy bakehouse, the Poultry Office, and the Scalding-house, and at the southwest angle of the same court a house called the 'Toye.' (fn. 2)

Hampton Court fortunately escaped the threatened destruction and became the residence of Cromwell and the scene of his sorry court, passing through the days of the Commonwealth with much loss of its furniture and treasures, both by the great sale which lasted from 1650 to 1653, and by the peculations of Cromwell's family after his death, but not suffering any material damage in its buildings.

Hampton Court Palace: Chapel Court from South-west Corner

Charles II made a good many internal altera tions, of which some evidence yet remains, and spent a great deal of money in refurnishing the depleted rooms. He paid special attention to the tennis court, which had evidently become somewhat old-fashioned, and the extent of his work at the palace may be estimated from the fact that in 1662 nearly £8,000 was paid over to Hugh May, master of the works, for charges and repairs.

In spite of all these changes, the buildings of Hampton Court remained to the outward view much as Henry VIII left them until the Revolution of 1688. William III was at once attracted by the quiet and secluded situation, but found the palace itself old-fashioned, and not at all to his taste, and soon decided to rebuild the old state apartments, whose historical associations stood for very little with him. Indeed, a far more extensive scheme of rebuilding, having for its object the making of a new approach to the palace from the north, on the line of the avenue in Bushey Park, was contemplated; but, however fine the result might and doubtless would have been, it is impossible to regret its abandonment. As it is, the destruction of the Cloister Court, which must have been, after the hall and chapel, the finest part of the palace, is infinitely regrettable; and though one would not willingly spare any part of the old buildings, it is to be wished that William could have decided to sacrifice almost any other court of the palace than this. The work was entrusted to Wren, who set out a new court, now known as the Fountain Court, on the old site, with great ranges of buildings on the south and east, 315 and 300 ft. long respectively, harmonizing to some extent with the older work in the use of red brick with stone dressings, and in themselves very charming examples of his work, but undeniably out of scale and character with the Tudor palace, to the picturesque irregularities of which their stiff classic lines cannot adapt themselves. In spite of various hindrances, quarrels with Talman the 'comptroller of the works,' and a good deal of injudicious meddling on the part of his royal client, Wren carried on the work, so that in 1691 it was in a fair way to completion. One source of delay had been the failure in the supply of Portland stone, owing to the presence in the Channel of a victorious French fleet. The fitting up and decoration of the new buildings was a lengthy and costly business, Grinling Gibbons and Caius Gabriel Cibber being employed among other less known sculptors, Laguerre among the painters, and to Jean Tijou and his assistant, Huntingdon Shaw, was given the work of making the well-known gates and screens of wrought-iron which inclosed the gardens on the south. The works were brought to a standstill for a time by the death of Queen Mary in 1694, but begun again after the burning of Whitehall in 1698, Verrio the painter being first employed, as it seems, in 1699, and the work of decoration was pushed on energetically. It seems that the scheme already referred to of building a great new entrance court on the north, and turning the great hall into a sort of vestibule, with flights of stone steps leading up to it on the north side, was now drawn up. It would have involved the destruction of the great watching chamber and all the eastern range of the Clock Court, as well as of the great kitchens and much of the work near them; and though the palace would thereby have obtained a very stately faÇade and a dignified approach, the wholesale destruction of the Tudor work would have been an irreparable loss. There is ample evidence, too, that it would not have stopped here, and if William had lived he would probably have rebuilt the whole palace, and thereby destroyed a chapter of English history for which no masterpiece of Wren's creation could compensate us. The problematical 'little gentleman in black velvet' did good service to others than the Jacobites who drank his health. The year 1699 was marked by a further attempt by Talman to discredit Wren, which came to nothing, and when the king returned from Holland late in the year he was full of admiration for what had been done. Under Queen Anne the works continued, the most important item being perhaps the refitting of the chapel in 1710; but the unfortunate aversion of the queen to paying the debts incurred by her predecessor and herself made her reign a period of ceaseless 'dunning' by the various artists employed, such as Verrio and Tijou (who appears as John Tissue), and the builders and masons and sculpture-merchants. Under the Georges various works were carried on, and the fitting up of Wren's buildings may be considered to have been completed in the time of George I, which was otherwise and less pleasantly signalized, as already stated, by the disgraceful supersession of Wren in his old age in favour of the incapable Benson. George II has left his mark on the east range of the Clock Court, a good deal of work being done by Kent at the time, c. 1730. The scheme for altering the Great Hall was now again brought forward, but fortunately abandoned. After this time the interest in the buildings gradually declined, George III entirely abandoning Hampton Court, and leaving it neglected. In spite of this certain considerable repairs were carried out, such as the rebuilding of the Great Gatehouse in 1773, and the repair of the Great Hall in 1798. With the revival of interest in archaeology the buildings naturally received more attention, and at the present time everything is admirably and systematically cared for, about £5,000 a year being spent in repairs and maintenance. The beginning of the reign of Edward VII was marked by the making of a fine and complete plan of all the buildings, from which the plans which accompany this description are reproduced by special permission.

The approach to the palace is now, as always, from the west. The entrance to the precincts is through a gate with stone piers, the work of Kent, c. 1730, surmounted by lead figures of the lion and unicorn and trophies of arms. The roadway thence runs in a slanting direction to the main entrance, the gatehouse on the west side of the first court, passing on the left hand a long line of late 17th-century brick buildings of two stories, built for stabling and offices. In the past two years the appearance of the entrance front of the palace has been immensely improved by the clearing out of the wide moat between the wings at either end of the front, which had been filled in about 1690, and the uncovering and repair of the stone bridge crossing it. This bridge was built in 1536 by Henry VIII, replacing a bridge probably of wood, built by Wolsey, and from the full details remaining in the building accounts it has been possible to reproduce the lost portions, that is, the parapets, pinnacles, and shield-bearing beasts set thereon, with a high degree of certainty. The gateway to which it leads was largely rebuilt in 1773, losing greatly in dignity and interest thereby. The old gatehouse, of which several drawings exist, the most accurate being some measured drawings by Kent made about forty years before its rebuilding, was of five stories, and much taller than the present building. Instead of a single arch in the middle it had two arches, a large one for carriages and a small one for foot passengers, opening into the gate hall, and the large arch was in consequence not on the centre line of the gatehouse. This affected the oriel window over it, which, being set over the arch, was likewise not in the middle of the elevation. The openwork parapet above flanked by pinnacles has been reproduced in the present gateway, and the octagonal angle turrets stand on their old bases. About 1873 a stone vault was added to the gate hall, and the pinnacles of the parapet continued downwards as buttresses, precisely on the line of the parapets of the stone bridge, which, as now restored, butt against them.

As already noted, the wings at each end of the moat are additions to the original design, but are not of much later date, as the outer wall of the moat, built probably about 1537, is built against them. A staircase leads down into the south-west corner of the moat from the south wing, but there is now no evidence of any sluice for emptying the moat into the Thames, though something of the kind doubtless existed.

The buildings of the first court are of two stories with embattled parapets, the detail very simple, and the ornament confined to the pinnacles on the parapets and the chimney-stacks. The dark tint of the red brick walls is accentuated by the black pointing in the joints, an original feature, as may be proved by the entries in the building accounts for burnt hay for colouring the pointing of the walls. The windows are for the most part of three lights with uncusped four-centred heads. Their stonework has been very largely renewed, and none of the cut-brick chimney-shafts are old. The gateways are the chief architectural features, being of greater height than the rest of the buildings, and having angle turrets and panels of the royal arms over the archways. They are further distinguished by the large terra-cotta roundels with portraits of Roman Emperors, of which there were originally ten in the palace, made for Wolsey by Giovanni Maiano in 1521. These, with the fine panel of Wolsey's arms over the gateway in the Clock Court, are the only examples of terra-cotta now to be seen at Hampton Court; but that there must have been more of it originally is clear, both from documentary evidence and from the pieces of architectural detail now kept in the Great Kitchen, having been dug up in the Round Kitchen Court not many years since. One very ornamental feature, now almost entirely lost, was the leaden cappings of the turrets; a good specimen still exists on the garden front of the Clock Court, with finial, crockets, and pinnacled buttresses. Such cappings are called 'types' in the building accounts.

Hampton Court Palace: Terra-cotta Panel of Wolsey's Arms

Behind the north range of the first court lie three small irregular courts, the Chamberlain's, the Master Carpenter's, and the Fish Court. Though much repaired, and the least imposing part of the 16th-century palace-all being part of Wolsey's work-they are extremely picturesque, and at the east of them are the two kitchens, fine and lofty rooms with huge fireplaces, ovens, &c., and the remains of open-timbered roofs. The chimney stacks and stepped copings over the fireplaces towards Tennis Court Lane are particularly good specimens of Tudor brickwork, though the shafts of the chimneys are modern. To the east of the kitchens is the serving-place, a wide passage into which hatches open from the kitchen, and from which the dishes were taken to the north door of the hall, across the long corridor which connects the Round Kitchen Court with the three small courts at the west. The windows of the corridor are glazed, and have ventilating panes of pierced leadwork copied from old specimens.

The Clock Court, formerly called the Fountain Court, from a fountain set here by Wolsey and altered by Henry VIII, is in some ways the most interesting part of the palace, as giving some idea of the appearance of the destroyed buildings to the east of it, which contained the finest rooms other than the hall and chapel. On the west and south sides the work is Wolsey's, though the latter range is masked by Wren's colonnade; on the east Wolsey's work, much rebuilt by Henry, has been considerably altered and refaced in the time of George II, while the north side is taken up by Henry's Great Hall, which, except for much external repair and the loss of its lantern and minor fittings, remains in good preservation. Over the entrance gateway at the north-west is the dial of the clock from which the court takes its modern name, a fine piece of 16th-century work, lately repainted and repaired. The Great Hall stands over a range of cellars, and having its floor at a considerable height above the level of the court, is approached by a flight of stone steps from the gatehall of the Clock Tower, leading to a fine door at the south end of the screens. A similar flight of steps on the north leads to the corresponding door, and served as the entry from the kitchens and butteries, &c., the disposition of the plan not allowing for these offices in the normal places at the lower end of the hall. There was, however, a pantry in this position, and the buttery was in the cellars under the west end of the hall. The hall measures 106 ft. by 40 ft., and is 45 ft. high to the plate and 92 ft. to the top of the gable. It is in seven bays, of which the eastern bay was occupied by the dais, the platform of which still remains, and is lighted by a splendid bay window on the south, rising to the full height of the wall, with a rich fan-vaulted stone ceiling and six tiers of lights with tracery above in the head of the window. The other bays of the hall have large fourlight windows, and in the western bay are the screens with a gallery over them; in both gable ends of the hall are eight-light traceried windows, with smaller windows in the gable above. All these are filled with modern stained glass, nothing of the old glass now remaining. The screen is a very fine piece of woodwork, the treatment of its two openings, with large round pillars on either side having moulded capitals and bases, being unusual. The details of the work are Gothic, and the initials of Henry and Anne Boleyn sufficiently mark its date; it is to be noted that its carver was the same Richard Ridge of London who made the Italianate pendants in the roof above. The original front of the gallery over the screen was long since removed, but its place is now supplied by a modern front. The roof of the hall is well known as one of the richest and most splendid of English roofs; its construction and outlines are Gothic, but much of its ornament is Italian in style, though made by English craftsmen. It has hammer-beam trusses with arched braces springing from the hammer beams to strengthen the collars, while the spandrels above and below the collars, and below the hammer beams, are filled with tracery. The purlins are similarly strengthened by arched braces with pendants, and the whole surface of the roof is coved and panelled, and is everywhere enriched with carving, colour, and gilding. The most remarkable features are the sixteen great pendants, nearly 5 ft. long, below the hammer beams, carved by Richard Ridge in 1534-5, at a cost of 3s. 4d. each. The building accounts of this roof are well worth study as a glossary of mediaeval carpenter's terms. Externally the roof is leaded, and is of much flatter pitch in the upper part than the lower; its appearance is much injured by the removal in the 18th century of the magnificent louvre or fumerel, a complete description of which can be obtained from the building accounts. Nothing equal to it is left to us.

To the east of the hall is the 'King's Great Watching Chamber,' which, with the vaulted cellar below it, was being built in 1534-5. It is lighted by a range of windows set high in the wall and a fine semicircular bay window on the southeast, and has a contemporary panelled ceiling with shields modelled in papier mâché at the intersections of the moulded ribs.

Jane Seymour's badge occurs twice on the ceiling, perhaps replacing that of Anne Boleyn.

At the north-west corner of the Watching Chamber is a smaller room known as the Horn Room; and in this, the Watching Chamber, and the hall are preserved the finest of the tapestries for which Wolsey's palace was famous. For a description of them see Mr. Law's History of Hampton Court.

On the east side of the Clock Court ran a series of five rooms opening from the Watching Chamber, the King's Presence Chamber and his private rooms, now so altered as to preserve little evidence of their former arrangement. For the disposition of the whole of Henry VIII's buildings round the Cloister Green Court, whose site is now occupied by the Fountain Court of William III, and the queen's lodgings on the east front of the palace, built for Anne Boleyn, but never occupied by her, the evidence of old drawings and an outline plan now at All Souls College, Oxford, and especially the many references to them in the building accounts, give very valuable materials which still await a thorough working-out. The great galleries of which mention is often made were evidently splendid examples of this peculiarly English feature, and of earlier date than any which have come down to our times; indeed, those which are recorded to have existed in Wolsey's palace, built about 1515-16, are the earliest of which any notice has survived in the kingdom.

To the east of the Watching Chamber is a small court known as the Round Kitchen Court, from a round building which, in its present condition, appears to date from the 18th century; drawings showing a scheme by Kent, c. 1730, for fitting it up as a latrine, are extant. On the north and east the court has a cloister, with a gallery over it, leading to the chapel, which is on the east side, and consists of a vestibule flanked by octagonal turrets, with the royal pew in a gallery above, and the chapel proper, an aisleless building of four bays with an organ chamber on the southeast. The walls are of Wolsey's date, but the organ chamber is an addition by Henry VIII; and the vaulted wooden roof is also of his time. The rest of the 16th-century fittings, except for a beautiful ceiling over the stairs to the royal pew, have been removed, after much damage in Cromwell's days, and the present fittings date from the time of Anne and later. The panelling of the vestibule and staircase, and the Corinthian altarpiece, are particularly good; but here, as in the hall, the roof is the most notable feature, with its coffered vault and three rows of gilded pendants, round each of which are grouped four figures of angels playing pipes, singing from scrolls, or holding sceptres. The west door of the chapel, opening to the cloister, has on either side a large stone panel with the arms and initials of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, supported by angels, though it seems that Anne Boleyn's arms were formerly here, and from the nature of the supporters Mr. Law suggests that the panels originally held the cardinal's arms. The entry of the carving of a crown for each of these panels in Henry VIII's time bears out this suggestion; but otherwise this work, though Italian in feeling, is notably inferior, and hardly what one would expect from Wolsey's workmen.

To the north of the chapel is the Chapel Court, bounded on the north by the range of buildings which were assigned to Prince Edward from 1537 onwards; they have suffered in recent years by fire, and contain nothing of their old fittings. Very little indeed remains in the palace of the magnificent decoration which was famous throughout Europe in the 16th century. In the west range of the Clock Court are some good linenpanelled rooms, and in the south range the rooms, traditionally Wolsey's private lodging, have some ceilings of the time; but the best idea of the splendour of Wolsey's ornament is to be gained from a room in the east range of the court, reached from the Mantegna Gallery on the first floor of the Fountain Court. This has a very rich geometrical ceiling, the panels of which have only recently been discovered to be of lead, with the 'gold and byse' colouring characteristic of its date, a narrow frieze with the cardinal's 'word' and badges, and below it some oil paintings on panel, of the Last Supper, the Scourging, the Bearing of the Cross, and the Resurrection, perhaps the work of Luca Penni or Toto del Nunziato. Below the paintings the walls were doubtless covered with hangings.

The south-east quarter of the palace is occupied by the Fountain Court, the work of Sir Christopher Wren. His buildings are in three stories, the ground floor towards the court being occupied by a cloister, and towards the gardens by ranges of rooms, now private apartments. Queen Mary seems to have used the walks of the cloister and part of the south range as a greenhouse and orangery, and Defoe mentions in his Tour Through Great Britain that 'the lower part of the house was all one as a greenhouse for some time.' The principal apartments are on the first or chamber floor, with a mezzanine or half-story over, the area of which is thrown into the largest rooms to increase their height. The third or attic floor has always been divided into suites of rooms, which still retain their official name of Galleries. The principal elevation is that facing east, 300 ft. long and 60 ft. high, divided into twenty-three bays, the seven middle bays forming a symmetrical composition, more elaborately treated than the rest and faced with Portland stone. The three in the middle have on the ground floor square-headed gateways, opening to a vestibule leading to the cloisters of the Fountain Court, the piers between the gateways being of Portland stone with drafted joints, and serving as plinths for half-columns of the Corinthian order, which with their cornice frieze and architrave occupy the full height of the first floor, and carry a pediment whose apex reaches nearly to the top of the attic story. In each bay between the columns are tall stone-framed sash windows surmounted by cornices, and a band of carved ornament equal in depth to the capitals of the columns. The pediment incloses a group of sculpture by Caius Gabriel Cibber, 'The Triumph of Hercules over Envy,' carved between 1694 and 1696, for which the sculptor was paid £400. The two bays on each side of the middle three have square-headed windows on the ground story, and flat pilasters instead of half-round columns above. The cornice and band of carving beneath it is continued across them, and the attic stage above is divided by pilasters enriched with carving, carrying up the lines of the pilasters on the first floor. The attic windows are square, fitted with sashes like the others, the heavy sashbars of which make a most attractive feature, and the whole is finished with a stone balustrade, divided into bays like the rest by panelled pilasters. On either side of the seven stone-faced bays are eight more simply treated, without pilasters and with red-brick walling. The ground-floor windows have low arched heads with prettily carved keystones, and the first-floor windows are like those in the middle bays, but over them runs a line of circular windows, lighting the half-story, and having carved keystones of very good style. Immediately above is a cornice ranging with that in the middle bays, but of much less depth and projection, and the treatment of the attic over has the same modifications of the design of the middle bays as that of the first floor.

The south elevation is of twenty-five bays, four at either end projecting 8 ft. in front of the rest, and has a stone-faced central composition of three bays with Corinthian columns on the first floor carrying a cornice inscribed 'Gulielmus et Maria RR.F.' The treatment is simpler than that of the east front, but, on the other hand, the seven bays on either side are not mere repetitions of each other, as on the east, but their middle bays have pediments over the first-floor windows surmounted by the royal arms of William and Mary supported by cupids, and the bays on either side have swags of fruit instead of the round half-story windows. The arms seem to be Gabriel Cibber's work, but much of the purely architectural decoration both here and on the east front was probably done by Grinling Gibbons, or under his supervision. Various payments to him between 1691 and 1696 show that a great deal of the ornament on Wren's building must be his work.

The least satisfactory part of the design is the sky line, now unbroken except by rows of singularly unattractive chimneys, but originally a little relief was given by four statues standing on the middle bays of the balustrades on each face; they were removed in the 18th century.

The elevations to the Fountain Court, although following the same lines as those of the fronts, are distinctly more attractive, partly no doubt from the contrast of light and shade which their foursquare arrangement produces, but also because the horizontal lines of the cornices over the first-floor windows are here replaced by pediments, and the open arches of the cloisters beneath, with their well-carved keystones, (fn. 3) and lunettes filling the heads of the arches, are far more effective, backed as they are by the cloister walks, than the external range of windows of the ground story. The round halfstory windows are here made the most ornamental features of the elevations, being encircled by wreaths of foliage over which are hung lions' skins, arranged with a care for symmetry which is almost comic, especially in the treatment of the tail of the beast. The west elevation of the court is of two stories only, and consists of the cloister walk with a corridor above-the 'Communication Gallery' of the old accounts-masking the older buildings on the east of the Clock Court. (fn. 4)

Hampton Court Palace: Fountain Court From The North-West Corner

The internal arrangements have, from the point of view of planning, almost as much interest as those of the older buildings, both representing, it must be assumed, the best traditions of their time.

The State Apartments occupy the first and principal floor of the buildings on three sides of the Fountain Court, and their disposition shows little advance on those of the Tudor palace. The King's Great Staircase at the south-east corner of the Clock Court leads to the King's Guard Chamber in the projecting block at the west end of the south front, overlooking the privy garden, and from it a series of rooms runs eastward, opening one from another, the Presence Chamber, the second Presence Chamber, the Audience Chamber, the King's Drawing-room, and his State Bedroom. These occupy rather more than half of the width of the range, the other part towards the Fountain Court being taken up by the Great Gallery or Council Chamber, which can be entered from either end of the king's suite of rooms, at the southeast from the State Bedroom, and at the west, through an anteroom, from the second Presence Chamber. On the west side of the Fountain Court, and opening to the north side of the anteroom, is the gallery which leads to the Queen's Staircase and State Rooms. These are not so symmetrically arranged as the king's suite, the Guard Chamber and Presence Chamber, which occupy the north side of the court, opening through a lobby to the Public Diningroom at the east, from the south-east corner of which the rest of the Queen's Apartments are reached, consisting of three rooms, Audience Chamber, Drawingroom, and Bedroom. These face eastward, and occupy the middle of the east front, having the Queen's Gallery to the south of them, while the west side of this range, facing towards the Fountain Court, is divided into a set of small rooms, the private apartments of the king and queen. The three small rooms and a staircase at the angle of the south-west wings are also private apartments, but open one from another, completing the passage round the outer side of the two fronts. The north end of the east front, beyond the Public Dining-room, is occupied by a set of three rooms and a stair, known as the Prince of Wales's Apartments. Practically the whole of the State Apartments have now become picture-galleries, and the remains of their sumptuous decorations and furniture can claim at best only a divided attention. The grandiose wall and ceiling paintings of Verrio and Laguerre, however admired in their own day, have lost their vogue, and it is impossible to look at such decorations as those of the King's Staircase without a certain impatience at the riot of feeble allegory which they present. They are the work of Verrio. A banquet of the gods occupies the ceiling, and continues down the east wall, where it merges into a medley of Roman history, in which the twelve Caesars appear in the company of Æneas, Romulus, and the Wolf, presided over by the genius of Rome. On the north wall are Flora, Iris, Ceres, Pan, Apollo, and the Muses, in a crowd of cupids, nymphs, and river gods, and on the south wall Julian the Apostate is talking to Mercury. The Queen's Staircase is more simply, but not more attractively, treated in monochrome, with its ceiling painted to represent a dome, and scrollwork and 'property' figures on its walls, the work of Kent. Its wrought-iron handrails, however, like those of the King's Staircase, are another matter, and very beautiful work of their kind. The King's State Bedroom has a ceiling by Verrio, with Diana watching the sleeping Endymion, and a figure of Sleep, while in the King's Bedroom the ceiling shows Mars and Venus. It is in Queen Anne's Drawing-room, however, that the most important remains of Verrio's work are to be found, painted in 1704-5. On the ceiling the queen appears in the character of Justice, with scales and sword, attended by Neptune and Britannia; on the west wall she is seated receiving the homage of the four quarters of the globe; on the north wall her husband, Prince George, stands armed, and pointing to the British fleet; and on the south wall Cupid is being drawn over the waves by sea-horses. The wall pictures having only been uncovered in 1899, after being hidden for more than 150 years behind canvas, are wonderfully fresh and brilliant, although a good deal of repair has been carried out. In the Queen's State Bedroom is a ceiling painted by Thornhill, with Aurora rising from the ocean in her chariot, and in the cornice are portraits of George I, Queen Caroline, George II, and Frederick Prince of Wales. The rooms are panelled either to the full height or on the lower parts only, the finest panelling being that of the Great Gallery in which Raphael's cartoons used to hang. This room was fitted up in 1699, and is no less than 117 ft. long by 28 ft. high, and 24 ft. wide, divided into six double bays by pairs of Corinthian pilasters carrying a rich cornice, above which hang the tapestries which take the place of the original cartoons. All the details of the woodwork are admirable, and only equalled by their state of preservation, the oak being absolutely sound and perfect; the carving is probably due to Gibbons and his assistants, and many other examples of equally beautiful work from his hand are to be seen throughout the State Rooms. A number of the chimney-pieces are, however, the work of Kent about 1730.


  • 1. In the P.R.O.; Chap. House Accts. New Misc. Bks. Exch. T.R. no. 235-46. They are folios of about five hundred pages each, beautifully written, and giving most minute details of the work.
  • 2. Pulled down in 1857. The bakehouse, poultry office, and scalding-house survived for a few years longer.
  • 3. The heads on nearly all these keystones were replaced about five years ago by careful copies of the original heads.
  • 4. One doorway in the Fountain Court has Wren's cipher above it; this is believed to be the only one in the place. See p. 367.