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What Is Hampton Court Palace?

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  • Written By: L. Whitaker
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Hampton Court Palace, located in Richmond upon Thames in Greater London, is one of several royal palaces in the UK that are available for viewing by tourists. This palace was built in the 16th century, and for a time was the home of King Henry VIII. Highlights of this palace include a chapel, gardens, a hedge maze, an art collection, an astronomical clock, live demonstrations and performances, and a chance to catch a glimpse of several famous ghosts. The architecture of the palace showcases both Baroque and Tudor styles. Hampton Court Palace is open daily except for three days at Christmas.

Two features of Hampton Court Palace are said to be the oldest of their kind. The "Great Vine," a specimen of Vitus vinifera that produces up to 845 pounds (383 kg) of black dessert grapes annually, is known to be 240 years old. At the base, this ancient vine is approximately 12 feet (4 m) thick. The Hampton Court Maze is believed to be the oldest hedge-built maze in the world, having originally been planted in the 17th century. It is a large puzzle maze containing multiple dead ends and twists in a trapezoid shape.

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Another popular aspect of Hampton Court Palace is its gardens, which cover 66 acres (over 267,000 square meters). The gardens are closed only on Christmas Day. Many families and tourist groups enjoy a self-provided picnic on the grounds of the Hampton Court Palace gardens in fair weather. For those who prefer to eat indoors, food and drinks can be purchased at a variety of cafes and restaurants within the palace grounds.

A gatehouse within the palace features a pre-Copernican astronomical clock. This clock was installed in 1540 and is still working today. It shows moon phases and the current star and sun signs, in addition to the time, date, and other elements.

The palace's chapel, featuring a vaulted Gothic ceiling, is said to be among Britain's most magnificent religious sites. It is available for viewing throughout the week. Visitors are also able to attend the chapel's religious services, if desired.

Some visitors might be intrigued by areas of Hampton Court Palace that are believed to be haunted by ghosts. The most famous of these areas is the Haunted Gallery, so called because it is said to be frequented by the "screaming lady" ghost. Some say this ghostly figure is Catherine Howard, the wife of Henry VIII who was executed for adultery. Another ghost, that of a nurse who tended several members of the royal family during the mid-1500s, is believed to be seen occasionally in several parts of the palace grounds.

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