As a lifelong fan of medieval fiction, I have a fascination with the era. Visiting Hampton Court ranks right up there as one of my most memorable stops in London. But to see the kitchens where these huge meals were prepared and then to visit the restored Royal Kitchen Garden? Oh my. That’s dream-come-true status.
(I also liked visiting Italy very much.)
So, Hampton Court Palace was the home of Henry the Eighth and the famous Tudor Court. There was lots of fancy. Lots of court intrigue. And lots of people who needed to eat. The palace housed 600 people on a day to day basis! That’s like hosting a giant event — every single day. And for more than a single meal!
The Royal Kitchen at Hampton Court
While I enjoyed seeing so much of the historical palace (I mean, a red velvet covered loo!?), the kitchens were my jam.
Yes, multiple kitchens. The huge roasting room had giant hearths for cooking. There was an active fire burning in one, making it easy to imagine just how hot it must have been with so many people working to prepare meals.
And there were separate rooms for all manner of food preparation. A larder, a cellar, a bakehouse for making pies, and a confectionary for preparing sweets. And this room filled with stacks and stacks of serving trays and dishes.
This video gives a great look at some of the kitchens and the work entailed in creating (or recreating) some of the dishes that would have been served to Henry’s court.
Seeing the inner workings of the palace was a thrill, but getting a chance to see where much of the fresh food came from back in the 1500s? Amazing.
The Royal Kitchen Garden
The kitchen garden is a restoration of King Henry’s garden. It’s a fairly new project, just completed in 2014. But oh, it’s a thing of beauty.
The restored layout replicates how the garden may have looked during the 1800s. There are large beds of every kind of vegetable imaginable, including many greens. There was a stunning purple kale that caught my eye called Rote Krauser. Talk about a beautiful — and edible — plant!
A speciality of the Georgian era were the Grand Sallats. Many published recipes featured intricate arrangements of ‘no less than 35 ingredients’ – well suited for adorning the royal table.
We may recognise some of the components, such as lettuce, rocket, endive, cucumbers and parsley. But how about Costmary, Hartshorn, Sweet Maudlin and Trick-madame?
We are growing these, alongside more familiar vegetable crops, in the central area of the Kitchen Garden. Peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries and plums grow on the sheltered walls and a formal, box edged bed of soft fruit and standard dwarf apples completes the look.https://www.hrp.org.uk/
While the garden beds near the center were filled with all number of veggies and herbs, the outer edges of the garden featured fruits trees, many of them trained into beautiful espalier trees. There are also plenty of flowers mixed in with the vegetables to attract pollinators.
We visited in the fall so there were ripe pumpkins and gourds piled high.
Visiting Hampton Court and the Royal Kitchen Garden
Tickets to see inside the palace and some of the grounds are required and slightly more than 10 Euros for adults. Budget travelers will be happy to note that visiting the Royal Kitchen Garden is FREE.
In season, the gardens host a weekly farmers market where visitors can pick up fresh produce. Just think! Produce grown in the King’s very own garden!
Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU
The palace is situated outside of London proper by about an hour.
Interested in reading more about Tudor England before your visit? This book list will help!