Everyone knows Henry VIII’s famous palace and garden that sits in splendour by the River Thames near London. However, few people are aware that there’s an equally as splendid Hampton Court Castle hidden away in the heart of Herefordshire that’s even older than it’s better-known namesake.
A Grade 1listed building just outside Leominster, Herefordshire’s Hampton Court was created by one Sir Roland Lenthall back in 1427.
The first property was built on land gifted to him by King Henry IV when he married the king’s cousin – Lady Margaret Fitzalan, who was the daughter of the Earl of Arundel.
Henry had already made a start on a house when he owned the land and Lenthall completed the place – a modest courtyard house. Despite additions over the following centuries, the original design has been retained and can be made out today.
In 1510, the house passed to the Coningsby family of whom there is little to say, other than the fact one of the daughters inspired a series of books known as the Lady Grace Mysteries. Even these weren’t a huge hit and have been out of print for 14 years.
In the early 19th century, Hampton Court was bought by the grandson of Richard Arkwright who was celebrated as the father of the modern industrial factory system and made a fortune by revolutionising the spinning and weaving industries.
From the 1830s to 40s, the place was altered dramatically by the Arkwrights to make it appear more like a castle. It was then sold in 1910 belonging to a series of different owners before becoming the seat of Viscount Hereford from 1924 to 1972.
It lay empty for several years and was used as a backdrop for the dystopian series The Survivors in the 70s. An American bought the place in 1994 and developed the amazing gardens the castle now boasts, including a rather wonderful organic kitchen garden complete with espalier fruit trees. It was also opened to the public for the first time.
The place was then bought by a property tycoon in 2008, with plans to turn it into an exclusive club along with its 1, 000 acre estate. However, it proved too much for the business to manage and it came back on the market in 2014.
The Castle and Gardens remain open to the public to this day. As well as the kitchen garden, Hampton Court has a maze created from a thousand yew trees with a gothic tower at the centre. There is also a secret tunnel, a Dutch garden and an impressive arch made from wisteria that’s said to be 150-years-old. In spring, the stunning magnolia walk is awash with colour and scent, but the entire 12-acre Victorian garden is awe-inspiring, divided by numerous canals, island pavilions and walkways.
Hampton Court is open from 10.30am every day until the end of October. The Orangery serves both lunches and teas and you can also visit the gift shop whilst you’re there.