The royal family may have left Hampton Court in 1737 but the palace and its apartments soon found another purpose. From the 1760s onwards, the palace was divided up for ‘grace-and-favour’ residents who were granted rent-free accommodation because they had given great service to the Crown or country. They lived, often with their own small households of servants above, underneath and around the state apartments.
Over the next two hundred years a wide variety of people became Hampton Court residents. Lady Baden-Powell, the widow of the founder of the Scout movement, had apartments within Henry VIII's kitchens.
The great experimental scientist Professor Michael Faraday (1791-1867) had a house on Hampton Court Green.
In 1838, the young Queen Victoria (r 1837-1901) ordered that Hampton Court Palace ‘should be thrown open to all her subjects without restriction.’
Conservation and restoration of Hampton Court Palace continues. The vast majority of the palace buildings are now either open to the public or used as office space and store-rooms, although a small group of grace-and-favour residencies remain.
Perhaps surprisingly, new building works are also commissioned: 2007 has seen the opening of the brand new Clore Education Centre outside the palace’s West Front.
Interpreting and explaining the palace to the visitor also remains an ongoing challenge. Hampton Court has many histories, and understanding – and finding your way around – the complex geography of the site can be challenging.
It is perhaps easiest to think of Hampton Court as the ‘story of two palaces’: a Tudor palace established by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and made even more magnificent by Henry VIII, alongside a baroque palace built by William III and Mary II.
It is recommended you allow at least 3 hours for your visit to Hampton Court. The friendly staff in the Information Centre off Base Court can assist you in planning your time.