Exclusive Interview with Daniel Jackson, Curator at Hampton Court Palace
As we are one of the closest hotels near Hampton Court Palace, we thought it would be good to offer guests and visitors some expert insight into the history of the palace. We have been lucky enough to speak to Daniel, Curator of Historic Buildings at Hampton Court for an exclusive interview.
Our close proximity to the palace makes us a popular choice for guests all over the world who wish to stay near a site of such historic interest, learn about our country’s history and explore the beautiful grounds and gardens. In our latest blog we caught up with Daniel who has worked at Hampton Court Palace for almost seven years to learn about recent discoveries, interesting displays and free tickets for the Tudors…
Can you tell us a little bit about your favourite part of the palace? Do you have any areas that are of particular historical interest to you?
My favourite parts of the palace are those areas where the Tudor palace and the Baroque palace meet. It’s really exciting when you reveal fragments of Henry’s palace hidden behind later decoration added for King William III and Queen Mary II. There is a secret door in William III’s apartments which reveals an earlier Tudor door that was cut in half and left by Sir Christopher Wren when he was redesigning the palace in the 1690s. Part of my job is working out how all the puzzle pieces fit together, which is no easy task in a building with over 1000 rooms!
Can you share information about an artefact, room or something similar that people may not know about Hampton Court?
If you take one of the lifts to the first floor of the palace you will see the original eastern wall of the Tudor Chapel. This was blocked in during the 17th century and only revealed when the lift was installed to improve access for visitors in 1982. If you look really closely you can still see evidence of the bricks being painted. Lots of the external brickwork at the palace would originally have been painted with a black diamond-shaped design to add to the sense of magnificence, and this is one of the few places where it still survives today.
A lot of people claim that the palace is haunted – do you have any personal experience of this?
While I have never seen a ghost myself, lots of my colleagues have talked about witnessing mysterious visitations… and not just by people. Several curators have reported hearing a dog barking on the stairs which lead from the curatorial office to the infamous Haunted Galley but on going to look have been unable to find one!
Do you think that previous inhabitants would approve of all the varied events that now take place on the property? What events would Henry VIII for example, have held there?
Hampton Court was a palace built to entertain people, so it seems fitting that the events we host today maintain the spirit and intent of the original designers, though you no longer have to be a Queen or visiting ambassador to enjoy them!
As a curator I think it’s wonderful that we can continue to host the big events that Hampton Court Palace has always been associated with, from the drama of jousting re-enactments to spectacular weddings and even dragon hunts. Our previous inhabitants knew how to enjoy themselves and would definitely be asking for free tickets if they were still around.
We’ve got an exciting couple of months ahead, with the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival filling the elegant East Front Gardens this August Bank Holiday Weekend. From 12 October, the only surviving item from Elizabeth I’s wardrobe will go on display alongside the iconic Rainbow Portrait, in a new exhibition titled The Lost Dress of Elizabeth I. Recently identified by my fellow Historic Royal Palaces experts, the exquisite textile – once part of a skirt – is woven from the finest cloth of silver and covered in delicate embroidery, showcasing the majesty and spectacle of the Tudor palace’s golden age.
Have you noticed a particular space that visitors love to see?
The Great Hall is the absolute showstopper – it is one of the must-see rooms in the country, not just the palace. It’s a spectacular space, and you regularly see visitors jaws drop as they enter for the first time. It is situated at the very heart of Hampton Court and was the last royal great hall of its type to be built in England. It is lined with some of the most important surviving 16th century tapestries in the world, still in the very position Henry VIII intended them to hang.
As you walk from one side to the other, you’re walking in the footsteps of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and even William Shakespeare, whose ‘King’s Men’ first performed Hamlet here in 1603. It really is one of those places visitors really feel like they are stepping back in time.
Do you put on special members tours?
We make sure there are lots of special events and activities for our members, from exclusive members-only rooftop tours to evening talks by our experts and even vegetable growing workshops in our Kitchen Garden. Our members are some of the most enthusiastic champions of the work Historic Royal Palaces undertakes and play a really important role in helping us – as an independent charity which raises all its own funds – to conserve our wonderful buildings and share the history of this fascinating landmark. Memberships start at £53, and in addition to unlimited entry to Hampton Court Palace for an entire year, also provide access to the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, the Banqueting House on Whitehall and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens in Northern Ireland, making it great value whether you live locally or are visiting the UK on holiday.
Thank you for talking to us Daniel!
If you want to visit the palace, it makes sense to stay at one of the most traditional hotels near Hampton Court – we are just over the road and will make your visit unforgettable. Book direct for the best rates.