His Tears to Thamesis by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
Listen to 'His Tears to Thamesis'

I send, I send here my supremest kiss
To thee, my silver-footed Thamesis.
No more shall I reiterate thy Strand,
Whereon so many stately structures stand:
Nor in the summer sweeter evenings go
To bathe in thee, as thousand others do;
No more shall I along thy crystall glide
In barge with boughs and rushes beautifi’d,
With soft-smooth virgins for our chaste disport,
To Richmond, Kingston, and to Hampton Court.
Never again shall I with finny oar
Put from, or draw unto the faithful shore:
And landing here, or safely landing there,
Make way to my beloved Westminster,
Or to the golden Cheapside, where the earth
Of Julia Herrick gave to me my birth.
May all clean nymphs and curious water-dames
With swan-like state float up and down thy streams:
No drought upon thy wanton waters fall
To make them lean and languishing at all.
No ruffling winds come hither to disease
Thy pure and silver-wristed Naiadés.
Keep up your state, ye streams; and as ye spring,
Never make sick your banks by surfeiting.
Grow young with tides, and though I see ye never,
Receive this vow, so fare ye well for ever.

1758: A Description of The Thames, Binnell & Griffiths

HAMPTON Court, a magnificent Structure, and now a Royal Palace, first built by Cardinal Woolsey, in the Reign of Henry VIII. It has been greatly enlarged and beautified by King William III, who delighted much in its Situation. Its new Buildings and Gardens are truly magnificent, and the Avenues leading to it are very stately. It has two Parks adjoining; and among the rich Furniture within, are some of the finest Pictures in Europe, as the Cartoons of Raphel Urben, [Raphael & Ruben?] &c. which Cartoons were purchased by King James I. At what Price is uncertain, for a most extravagant Rate hath been set on them, as they are, indeed, invaluable. This Village is much improved by its Palace, there being several Inns near it, for the Accommodation of Strangers, as well as those who follow the Court.

1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall

Situated on the Middlesex side of the Thames, the village of Hampton rises from the river's edge, and its long series of villas, with their orderly looking trees and well-kept gardens, with here and there a fishing cottage peering from beneath thick masses of overhanging foliage, skirt the stream. At the entrance into Hampton from Sunbury there are several good houses, that stand back at some little distance from the Thames;
and in front of them the water-towers and other buildings of the London and Hampton works, for the supply of the metropolis with water, have been recently erected. An attempt has been made to impart an architectural character to these edifices, but they present a very questionable appearance after all. The passage across the water from Moulsey Hurst is effected by means of a truly primitive ferry-boat.
Immediately adjoining the landing-place stands Hamilton Church, occupying a commanding position on rising ground. To the edifice, however, unhappily may be assigned a "bad pre-eminence", as being among the very worst examples of the church-building of thirty years since. At that period the old church was pulled down, and the present wretched affair was erected at great cost. The village extends for some distance from the river towards the north; and at about a mile from the church in that direction it has very recently expanded into a second village, which bears the name of New Hampton. From the New Hampton road, Bushy Park extends to Kingston and Teddington, and for the space of half a mile it reaches almost to the river's side, below the Hampton Villas.

and in another minute we have landed close to the principal entrance to the Palace of Hampton Court. From the bridge itself, the view both up and down the stream exhibits English scenery in its highest perfection. But we hasten on to the Palace, passing a row of shops, hotels, and dwelling-houses, "Hampton Green" opens out before us, stretching away to our left, where it is bounded by a small cavalry barrack. In front of us are more houses, and immediately beyond them appear the noble hawthorns and horse-chestnuts of Bushy Park. This "Green", in the olden time, was the tilting-ground; it is now the scene of much holiday merry-making during summer months. The palace stables stand between the Green and the river. Here also are a few tolerable houses, of which more than one promises the best of "entertainment", "provided at the shortest notice", for visitors of all classes and of all tastes.

The "Toy", so long the recognised chief of the Hampton Court hotels, has ceased to exist in its former capacity, the building having been altered to form a group of private residences. A rapid "decline" preceded this "fall" of the "Toy." *
* Much speculation has arisen with reference to the singular title — the "Toy". It may, however, be derived from the tois or toils — movable fences of net-work that were used as barriers in many of the games, once played daily on the adjoining green — the tilting-ground, or (as it is styled in a survey of the year 1653) the toying-place of the Tudors and Stuarts.

[Gilbert White refers to the "bridge at the Toy, near Hampton Court" which may have been a bridge before the Chinoiserie Bridge]

In the days of Dutch William, who spent much time at Hampton Court, many were the rump-steak dinners given by the monarch himself at the "Toy" to his courtiers; and on these occasions, dense, without doubt, were the clouds of tobacco-smoke that enveloped both the guests and their royal host. The present "Toy", however, is an excellent hotel.

The palace itself is shut off from the Green by a long and massive wall of dark-red bricks, having in front of it a broad walk, now deeply shadowed with noble elms and chestnuts, leading from the river to Bushy Park. This was a favourite promenade with Mary, the consort of William III.; and here, also, the Low Country maids of honour and other ladies, who in those days graced with their presence the English court, might continually be seen. Hence the place obtained the popular name of the "Frau Walk", which has since degenerated into the "Frog Walk", by which it is now known.

At the entrance to the palace precincts, on either side, a lion and a unicorn discharge their patriotic duty of "supporting" the royal arms. We enter. On our right are some porter's-lodge-looking buildings, with a single good red-brick house — a family residence. On the opposite side, stretching away towards Wolsey's noble gateway-tower, is a long range of cavalry barracks, with their guard-house, stables, canteen, and other accessories. Our barracks are generally successful specimens of the art of unsightly and inconvenient building; and here, where something better might have been expected, this unworthy art has achieved its climax. The associations of "Royal Hampton's pile", however, which throng thickly upon our minds, are not interwoven with deeds of chivalrous valour or of military renown, — except, indeed, such as are inseparable from the present purposes to which the palace is so happily applied.


"The o'er-great cardinal" and his unscrupulous master rise before us; then come visions of the unfortunate Charles, of phlegmatic William, of decorous "Anne", and of the first George with his broken English. Rich, indeed, is the palace of Hampton Court in materials for a domestic history of almost unparalleled interest. We can but glance at the more salient points in the sketch for such a history.

In the time of Henry III. the manor of Hampton ("Hamntone" it is written in the Domesday Survey) was held by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, and from them Wolsey obtained a lease for the purpose of building on the site of the old manor-house his stately palace. The works were commenced about the year 1515, and they were urged on with such rapidity that the cardinal shortly after made Hampton his residence, or, as Skelton would have it, he held his "court" there. The splendours of Hampton Court when in the hands of Wolsey speedily produced that dangerous "envy" which in 1526 induced him to present his palace with all its sumptuous furniture to the king. Henry VIII. accepted the gift without hesitation; and, in return, graciously "licensed the lord cardinal to lie in his royal manor at Richmond at his pleasure"; also permitting him occasionally to occupy Hampton Court itself. In 1527, Montmorency, the French ambassador, was received at Hampton Court in such a style that the Frenchmen did "not only wonder at it here, but also make a glorious report of it in their own country".

The great hall was built by Henry VIII., after the palace had come into his possession, and he added other buildings to the pile, "till it became more like a small city than a house". With his characteristic selfishness, he also afforested the country around, converting a wide tract of the adjoining lands into a chace, which he stocked with deer. Henry spent much of his time at Hampton Court. There Edward VI. was born, and there Jane Seymour died. With Edward himself Hampton Court was a favourite residence, and so it continued to be during several succeeding reigns. James I. held there the "conference" of 1604. Many of both his happier and his most anxious days were spent there by Charles I. *
* It was from Hampton Court that Charles I. fled to the Isle of Wight, on the night of November 11, 1647, and so brought to a climax the long rupture between himself and the parliament. The night was dark and stormy; the king was attended only by one servant, Lord Ashburnham, and Sir John Berkeley. They went towards Oatlands, and so through the wood there, the king acting as guide. In one of the letters he left behind him he says, "I confesse that I am loath to be made a close prisoner under pretence of securing my life." This journey was the last act of freedom of the unfortunate king.

In 1656 Cromwell purchased it, and made it his principal abode. It was in equal favour with Charles II. after the Restoration; James II. resided there less habitually; William III. and Anne may be said to have made it their home. The first and second Georges followed in the steps of their predecessors in so far as Hampton Court is concerned.

But since their time a change has come upon what Lord Hervey (Pope's "Lord Fanny") was pleased to call the "unchanging circle of Hampton Court". The state apartments and the hall are thrown open freely to the public daily, with the exception of Fridays only; and the rest of the palace is arranged to form a series of residences for families who may be considered to have claims upon their Sovereign and their country. Her Majesty the Queen is known to feel a warm interest in Hampton Court, and the appointments to the residences in the palace are made expressly by the royal command. Recent circumstances have greatly enhanced the interest which attaches to this royal house, thus converted into a palace of the people. In place of persons of high rank but narrow means, Hampton Court has now become, for the most part, the residence of the widows and orphan families of officers who have fallen in the Sikh war, and in the Crimea: and we may feel assured that many of those families who mourn the lost heroes of the fierce struggle in India — our Havelucks and Neills — will here find honourable and honoured homes.

The palace originally consisted of five principal quadrangular courts, but of these three only now remain. To these, however, must be added a variety of offices, and many ranges of subordinate buildings. The first and second courts are for the most part remains of the original palace, with the exception of very questionable classic additions in the second court and the great hall of Henry VIII. The third court is the work of Sir Christopher Wren, and is a dull and heavy affair. The hall has lately undergone a complete restoration, which has been thoroughly well done: the grand open timber roof, the finely proportioned windows with their brilliant new heraldic glazing by Willement, the showy array of banners, the groups of armour, and the quaint and still bright hued tapestry, all combine to realize the most romantic vision of a palatial hall. Adjoining the hall is a truly appropriate withdrawing room.

To the state apartments we ascend by the "king's staircase", at an angle of the second court. A series of wretched allegories cover the walls and ceilings of this staircase; they are the work of Verrio. *
* Verrio was one of the most famed of a school of artists, who, in accordance with a taste generated at the court of Louis XIV., covered the walls and ceilings of English mansions with enormous allegorical pictures. He has been immortalized by Pope in the lines descriptive of "Timon Villa": —

On painted ceilings you devoutly stare,
Where sprawl the saints of Verrio and Laguerre.

We first enter the "guard-chamber", where there are some curious weapons of bygone days. Here commences the miscellaneous collection of pictures, some originals, others copies, many curious and valuable, and more equally uninteresting and worthless, which cover the walls of the long range of noble rooms. There are a few relics of the state furniture also here, and a considerable quantity of fine china. The Cartoons demand a far more detailed notice than our space will admit: we content ourselves, therefore, with a few brief words of ardent admiration, and a strong expression of hope that these most precious of our national "Art treasures" may be removed from the sombre gallery to which they are now consigned, in order to take their rightful place in a worthy "National Gallery" in London. Among the more remarkable pictures are some historical works of great interest, by Holbein and others; a group of the "Charles the Second Beauties", by Lely, and a companion group of portraits by Kneller of the ladies of the court of William III.; various other portraits; two fine Giorgiones; Andrea Montagna's really grand "Triumph of Julius Caesar", and the Cartoons. Two very remarkable pictures by Mabuse, which were sent to the Manchester Exhibition, were returned from thence to Holyrood instead of to Hampton Court; they were long supposed to be portraits of the Scottish James who fell at Flodden, and of his English Queen, Margaret, the sister of Henry VIII.; but the researches of Mr. David Laing, since they have been removed to Scotland, seem to prove satisfactorily that the portraits are those of King James III. and Margaret of Denmark, and that they were painted about 1484, for the Church of the Holy Trinity, Edinburgh. *
* An excellent "companion" to "Hampton Court" was compiled a few years ago by Henry Cole, Esq., C.B.: no doubt it has been since revised. It is sufficiently elaborate to answer all purposes of the visitor.

From many of the windows there are charming views of the gardens and the park. With these views we now hasten to form a more intimate acquaintance. We descend by a different staircase, and passing along the colonnades of the "fountain court", we enter the gardens.


They are admirably kept, and their formality is both characteristic and pleasing. There is a fountain in a circular basin opposite to the centre of Wren's facade; and here are a brilliant throng of such gold and silver fish as might have satisfied Wolsey himself with their size and their lustrous hues.

The gardens extend from the river to Bushy Park. In front of the palace, and also reaching to the Thames as it sweeps onward to Kingston, lies the "Home Park", with its splendid trees, noble deer, formal sheet of water, and the picturesque lodge of the ranger. A noble terrace-walk passes in front of the palace, and on reaching the river it is continued at right angles to its former course, and parallel with the stream; here, between the terrace and the "Home Park", are some fine specimens of wrought-iron work, that will repay a careful study.

Returning towards the palace, we observe the bell that summons the attendant gardener who has the charge of the "private garden". To this garden the public are admitted, but they are expected here to pay a small gratuity. The garden is well worthy a visit. It affords some fine views of the palace, and it also contains the famed "vine", which fills its ample hothouse, and displays such a collection of clusters as it is probable never elsewhere hung upon a single tree. *
* This vine produces the grape called the Black Hamburgh; it spreads over a surface of 110 feet, and in some seasons has yielded more than 2500 bunches of grapes.

We return to the open gardens, and walk past the palace. Leaving behind us a newly-built tower, we enter the "wilderness", a thickly-planted space to the north of the main edifice, where some of the finest trees in England are grouped together. *
* This wilderness was planted by King William III., with a view to hide the irregularities of the north side of the palace, where the old domestic offices were situated.
At the extremity of this wilderness is the "Maze". *


* This is a curious relic of the ancient taste in gardening, and was planted in the reign of William III. It consists of narrow walks between tall clipped bushes, which wind intricately to the open space in the centre. There is only one way by which it may be reached, and any deviation leads to a stoppage and a necessity for retracing the path.
We need no guide to lead us to the entrance that tempts all visitors to explore the intricacies within; for more than one of the pleasure-seekers of the day is there before us, and their laughter is by no means kept within the hedges of the maze, though it does not transgress beyond the bounds of moderation.

And this remark leads us to observe that the great boon of free public access to Hampton Court Palace and Gardens is thoroughly appreciated by the public. Rarely, indeed, is an individual to be seen who needs to be reminded that he is acting with impropriety. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons of all classes avail themselves of the opportunity so liberally afforded them of enjoying this beautiful place; and yet the few police who are on duty find their office almost a sinecure. This is as it should be.

1889: Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome

... and ran the boat on past Hampton Court. What a dear old wall that is that runs along by the river there! I never pass it without feeling better for the sight of it. Such a mellow, bright, sweet old wall; what a charming picture it would make, with the lichen creeping here, and the moss growing there, a shy young vine peeping over the top at this spot, to see what is going on upon the busy river, and the sober old ivy clustering a little farther down! There are fifty shades and tints and hues in every ten yards of that old wall.
If I could only draw, and knew how to paint, I could make a lovely sketch of that old wall, I'm sure. I've often thought I should like to live at Hampton Court. It looks so peaceful and so quiet, and it is such a dear old place to ramble round in the early morning before many people are about.

1955: Hampton Court, Francis Frith -

1955:  Hampton Court, Francis Frith
1955:  Hampton Court, Francis Frith

1610: Camden -

Afterwards [the Tamis] runneth hard by Hampton Court, a royall palace of the Kings, a worke in truth of admirable magnificence built out of the ground by Thomas Wolsey Cardinall, in ostentation of his riches, when for very pride, being otherwise a most prudent man, he was not able to mannage his minde.
But it was made an Honor, enlarged, and finished by King Henrie the Eighth so amply as it containeth within five severall inner Courts passing large, environed with very faire buildings wrought right curiously and goodly to behold. Of which Leland writeth thus:

A Stately place for rare and glorious shew
There is, which Tamis with wandring streame doth dowsse.
Times past by name of Avon men it knew,
Heere Henrie the Eighth of that name built a house
So sumpteous, as that on such an one
(Seeke through the world) the bright Sunne never shone.
And another in The Nuptiall Poeme of Tame and Isis:
He runnes by Hampton, which for spatious seat
Seemes Citie-like. Of this faire courtly Hall
First founder was a Priest and prelate great,
Wolsey, that grave and glorious Cardinall.
Fortune on him had pour' d her gifts full fast,
But Fortunes Bliss, Alas, proved Bale [doom] at last.

Alexander Pope wrote of Hampton Court -
Listen to 'Close by those meads ...'

Close by those meads, forever crowned with flowers,
Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers,
There stands a structure of majestic frame,
Which from the neighbouring Hampton takes its name.
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign tyrants and of nymphs at home;
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take - and sometimes tea.

[ Great Anna is Queen Anne. "Tea" used to be pronounced "Tay".
How different our national politics now is - when we can so happily trust the peaceable way in which our government handles "foreign tyrants"; and now that individual politicians are such great examples of personal integrity
... ]

Daniel Defoe -

if there be a situation on the whole river between Staines Bridge and Windsor Bridge pleasanter than another, it is this of Hampton; close to the river, yet not offended by the rising of its waters in floods or storms; near to the reflux of the tides, but not quite so near as to be affected with any foulness of the water which the flowing of the tides generally is the occasion of.
The gardens extend almost to the bank of the river, yet are never overflowed; nor are there any marshes on either side the river to make the waters stagnate, or the air unwholesome on that account.
The river is high enough to be navigable, and low enough to be a little pleasantly rapid; so that the stream looks always cheerful, not slow and sleeping, like a pond. This keeps the waters always clear and clean, the bottom in view, the fish playing and in sight; and, in a word, it has everything that can make an inland (or, as I may call it, a country) river pleasant and agreeable ...
for as to passing by water to and from London, though in summer it is exceeding pleasant, yet the passage is a little too long to make it easy to the ladies, especially to be crowded up in the small boats which usually go upon the Thames for pleasure.
The prince and princess, indeed, I remember came once down by water upon the occasion of her Royal Highness`s being great with child, and near her time - so near that she was delivered within two or three days after. But this passage being in the royal barges, with strength of oars, and the day exceeding fine, the passage, I say, was made very pleasant, and still the more so for being short. Again, this passage is all the way with the stream, whereas in the common passage upwards great part of the way is against the stream, which is slow and heavy.

Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Hampton Court from River
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.

1906: Hampton Court from the river, Mortimer Menpes -

Hampton Court, Mortimer Menpes, 1906
Hampton Court from the river, Mortimer Menpes, 1906

2000: an otter was spotted swimming near Hampton Court

John Eade punting below Molesey Lock, 1999
John Eade punting below Molesey Lock, 1999

[ This was about the last time I used a 20' wooden pole. I then converted to aluminium which I find much more user friendly. ]