Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Garden Archaeology at Hampton Court

Though this article is from 1994, I still found it extremely fascinating! It discusses the excavation of the Privy Garden at Hampton Court, originally built for Henry VIII, and later transformed by William and Mary.

After the fire at Hampton Court in 1986, historians at the palace not only restored the Palace interior, but also William III's Privy Garden. Using old plans and excavations, they were able to restore it to the best of their knowledge.

When built for Henry VIII, the Privy Garden severed 
"as part of a triangle of ground between the palace and the River Thames. To the west was the Pond Yard where ornamental pools were stocked with freshwater fish for the kitchens. To the east all types of game roamed in House (later Home) Park. Between these two ‘larders’ were the Privy Garden and Mount Garden, so named after a central mound with a banqueting house at the summit. A long building known as the Watergate linked the ensemble with the river and provided access not only for the King but also for important courtiers and foreign visitors, so that views of the Privy Garden would have been amongst their first impressions of Hampton Court. This was a ‘heraldic’ garden, laid out like a chess board, with individual squares filled with red brick-dust, white sand and green lawn. There were bushes, made into topiary that was clipped into human shapes and mythological figures. The whole was dominated by heraldic beasts on painted poles, designed as a display and reminder of royal power."
By the time of William and Mary, this type of garden was out of style, and the more modern symmetrical gardens seen today were installed.

The Recreated Tudor Garden
Read more about the archaeology and installation of William's garden here.

Luckily, a Tudor garden can still be seen at Hampton Court. I had the lucky experience of stumbling upon it during my last trip there. I happened to walk into one of the palace's many courtyards and found myself transported back to Tudor England (as if I hadn't already felt that walking through the Great Hall...)! The recreated Tudor Garden has been planted with herbs and flowers available in the 16th Century, as well as laid out with painted rails and posts, topped with heraldic beasts. Simply stunning.

Edit: After posting this article, I was contacted by a rep of Hampton Court Palace who passed along this link to me. It goes into a lot more current detail about the state of the Privy Gardens at Hampton Court palace, including information on restoring the Privy Gardens, information on why you should see them, and downloadable resources. Be sure to check it out!
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  1. Lovely reconstruction people. Nice to finally see what the church looked like. Not too shabby a place to be laid to rest, peaceful and respectful. Cheers

  2. The dig on the gardens gives a real look into the way it was personally and carefully laid out for Henry and the reconstruction, in which I have been several times, matches many of the features. The paths and the entire gardens and the lovely groves and the knots are clear to see. The beds are also well planned out. Many thanks for the photos.