Over the past months we’ve been putting together a definitive guide to London’s piers, showing you all the amazing ways that London can be enjoyed via the River Thames. We’ve been to Tower Millennium Pier, Canary Wharf Pier and Greenwich Pier, and now we’re off to Hampton Court Pier.
The most Westerly of all the piers in Central London, Hampton Court Pier is the gateway to Hampton Court Palace and the perfect stop if you’re looking for something a little different from your London boat trip. Heading east from Hampton Court Pier is one of the greenest and prettiest trips you can do in London by boat, surveying Southwest London’s picturesque landscapes and sites of great historical interest. Canbury Gardens, Richmond, Ham House, Marble Hill, Kew Gardens, Putney and Chelsea are all east of Hampton Court Pier, and all look great from the Thames.
Visiting Hampton Court Palace
One of reasons many people go to Hampton Court Pier is to visit the Royal Palace. Hampton Court Palace is a sight to behold and hugely important for understanding British history. In many ways the Palace is the story of two significant eras in British history, the stories of the Tudors and the Stuarts.
The grounds of the palace were acquired by Cardinal Wolsey in 1514 who had the intention of building the finest palace in England, something many would argue he achieved over the following ten years in which the Cardinal spent vociferously on building the palace, hiring Italian craftsmen to add Renaissance ornaments to the Tudor structure, and using the existing manor house as the basis from which to extend. The aim was to show foreign embassies that the British had glamour, something he certainly achieved. Astonishingly, much of Wolsey’s building work still remains unchanged, with the first courtyard and second, inner gatehouse still intact. Once building work finished in 1525 King Henry VIII immediately came to stay.
It’s fair to say that Henry VIII was a big admirer of the palace and following its completion he plotted to remove Wolsey from the Palace. Sensing his downfall, Wolsey decided to give the palace to the King as a gift, doing so in 1528. Once Henry VIII took charge he began rebuilding works, enlarging the kitchens and rooms to accommodate his huge staff, which numbered in the thousands. Edward VI, Henry VIII’s only legitimate son, was born at Hampton Court Palace.
Edward VI would become king at the age of just 10 years old after his father’s death in 1547. He would be followed by Mary I and Elizabeth I, who both continued to use the palace (amongst the many other royal palaces in the British kingdom) until the Tudors reign came to end in 1603 when Elizabeth passed away, to be succeeded by James I, harking in a new era of Stuarts. This would have repercussions for Hampton Court Palace as the Stuarts would alter rebuild the palace in their own style. It wouldn’t be until 1689 that the palace became a focus of attention again with William of Orange and his wife, Queen Mary II, recruiting Sir Christopher Wren as their architect on a major rebuilding work, replacing many sections of the Palace. The idea was for it to take on a new Baroque style, heavily influenced by Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles.
And that’s it for our potted history of Hampton Court Palace. It’s quite a story I’m sure you’ll agree. And there’s plenty more to be discovered about Hampton Court Palace. Did you know for instance that it was used as a set for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides? [We love film trivia, as you can tell from our blog post, Five Films Set On The Thames.]
To find out more about Hampton Court Palace and what you can do when you visit, including the Gardens, art galleries, exhibitions, mazes, rare collections and plenty of historical must-sees, please go to hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace.
Rent A Boat from Hampton Court Pier
If you want to see Hampton Court Palace how Henry VIII did then your only option is to hire a boat from Hampton Court Pier. After all, this was how the King used to get around some 500 years ago.
Hampton Court Pier is the perfect choice if you want a boat party with a bit of charm, getting to see some of London’s beautiful nature and wildlife, while enjoying the perennial marvel that is the River Thames.
For a full list of the piers that we operate from please go to our Thames Pier Maps page.