Warning, this post has many photos of the Tudor kitchens at Hampton Court Palace — some of which are blurry due to lack of time, lack of light, and the need for more (and better) lenses for my SLR camera.
Hampton Court Palace, located on the outskirts of London, was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey. It first became famous for being a favourite palace of King Henry VIII, and later on was the subject of King William III and Queen Mary’s massive rebuilding and expansion project.
Visits to Hampton Court Palace are set up in a way that you can “experience” a special day in the life of Henry VIII’s life; throughout my visit, actors in full costume played out parts in Henry’s court and got everyone involved in the wedding day of Henry and Catherine Parr.
The palace’s Tudor-era kitchens are extensive, which was needed in order to feed the approximately 1000 people of Henry’s court. Many of the rooms have fake food in them to illustrate how the kitchens worked. This is the pie room. The pastry was used as a preservation and cooking tool, and the pastry itself was not eaten. (The soundtrack from Sweeny Todd kept running through my head as I stood in this room. 😉 )
On the other side of the room was a Tudor stove top/slow cooker/fireplace.
When you climbed the short staircase, you found a giant built-in pot filled with something that looked brown and goopy. Gruel? Porridge? Pie filling? Use your own imagination.
This walkway in the kitchens served as a natural refrigerator; the walls and placement blocked out the sun, but allows the cooling rain to filter into the hallway. It was quite cool all along this passage, which had doors lined all along the way that led to larders.
The end of the walkway led to a large room where herbs and veggies were prepared.
One of the many great fireplaces in the kitchens. Notice the giant tongs, spits and other sharp implements used to haul around hot food.
Mmm. Roasted peacock anyone?
Another fireplace and some cooking pots.
The same pots as in the above photo. Notice the many openings for stoking the fires. It makes our tiny modern four range stove tops look puny in comparison.
They had a fire going in one of the giant fireplaces, complete with a man decked out in fire protection gear to man it and shoo people from standing too close. You can see all the black marks from the fire; it gives you an idea of how much smoke and heat there would have been in a full running kitchen of this size. This room also had many, many giant hunks of fake meat spread out on wooden tables, but they looked so fake that I didn’t like any of the resulting photos.
Just one of the many bread ovens needed to feed all those people in the palace.
They recreated over 800 pewter plates, jugs, chargers, bowls, cups and eating utensils used in the palace.
The cellars. People in the Tudor age did not drink water due to suspicious about cleanliness, and so the wealthy drank wine and ale instead, and the not-so-wealthy had solely ale. Mead was also a popular drink.
The grand finale – King Henry VIII and his new queen Catherine Parr greet their subjects. We all had to kneel (and cheer) on the cobblestones, or off with our heads!
I totally underestimated the amount of time that I would need to tour Hampton Court Palace, and ended up spending the majority of my time in the Tudor kitchens, with only brief visits to the upper floors of the palace. I ended up skipping the whole William III and Mary wing altogether. I wish the souvenir shop had sold some Tudor-era cookbooks or the tea shop served some Tudor treats as it would have been a great way to cap off my visit, but alas I had to leave with just my photos and my newfound historical knowledge.