Hampton Court Palace has stood proud and magnificent in the London borough of Richmond ever since Tudor times. During his time as Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey transformed what had been a relatively modest manor house into a lavish palace fit for royalty. Over the centuries that followed, various members of the Royal Family renovated and embellished both the buildings themselves and the surrounding landscape. Over time the outside space became a wondrous garden of many facets, its predominant style changing to the whims and tastes of the palace’s long line of occupants. Today, Hampton Court Palace boasts some of the UK’s very best public gardens. A very popular tourist destination, if you ever pay a visit there are a few areas you should be sure to see.
The Privy Gardens
Hampton Court Palace’s Privy Gardens were originally created in 1702. Soon after, this style of formal, immaculately presented and controlled gardening fell out of fashion with the great houses. Instead, their occupants were experimenting with more free-flowing lines and a romantic aesthetic. However, in recent years, the Privy Gardens’ geometric patterns, elegant stone statues and intricate ironwork panels have been recreated, allowing modern-day visitors to enjoy the fine vision William III laid out for his personal private garden.
Hampton Court Palace Maze is one of the venue’s most famous attractions. Another William III commission, the Maze is genuinely a puzzle, in which adults and children alike enjoy losing themselves. At a third of an acre, the maze is now formed of yew but would originally have been planted using hornbeam. It is the UK’s oldest hedge maze and was originally just part of a larger section of garden named the Wilderness. Designed as a ‘place to wander’ (as opposed to an area left to grow freely), the Wilderness would have featured high hedges, secret seating areas for romantic trysts, and a series of interlinked hedges.
The Great Vine
Planted in 1768 by famous gardener and horticulturalist Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the Great Vine is a thick, winding singular plant that fills an entire glasshouse. Its longest stem (or ‘rod’) is a Shiva Grossa grapevine some 36.5 metres long. When the vine was originally planted, Victorian gardeners believed that a single plant carefully cultivated to fill a greenhouse would produce the largest crop of grapes. During the summer, when the leaves of the 240-year-old plant are at their fullest, it creates an enchanting tunnel of green light and space in the glass structure it clings to.
The National Plant Collections
As well as the fantastic garden areas to explore, Hampton Court Palace Gardens is also home to three important national plant collections. This means that the venue acts as guardian to three comprehensive collections of plants belonging to the same species, preserving them for future generations. The three are Heliotropium, Lantana and Queen Mary II’s Exoticks.
The venue boasts all this plus a packed events programme, the highlight of which is the RHS Hampton Flower show which rolls around each July. Whether you’re a keen gardener, a history lover, or simply someone who enjoys getting back to nature amidst beautiful environments, a trip to Hampton Court Palace Gardens is always a treat.