Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Plate 2.27: Hampton Court Palace

Plate: Plate 2.27 was made for the Society of Antiquaries by the engraver John Pye (1746–after 1810), after a drawing copied by the antiquary Michael Tyson (1740–1780), with the assistance of two successive presidents of the Society: Charles Lyttelton (1714–1768) and Jeremiah Milles (1714–1784). The initiative, which resumed an earlier effort to publish a series of views of royal palaces (see Plates 2.23–24, 2.25), proceeded rapidly over several months between late 1768 and early 1769 (SAL Council Minutes I.158–59, 170, 171, 178, 180; SAL Minutes XI.14–15, 180). The original drawing was an anonymous seventeenth-century pen-and-ink watercolor bound into a volume of visual material assembled for Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) and acquired, along with the rest of the famous London diarist’s library, by his alma mater Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1723 (Pepys Library MS 2972, 210–11). The plate incorrectly ascribes the drawing to the celebrated Bohemian illustrator Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677). Modern opinion, as discussed below, is divided on the true attribution. The plate’s inscriptions, which have no basis in the Cambridge drawing, were conceived by the Society’s director Gregory Sharpe (1713–1771). The short Latin verses derive from the poem Connubium Tamae et Isis (The Marriage of the Tama and the Isis)—an epyllion tracing the course of the River Thames from source to mouth as excerpted by William Camden (1551–1623) in the final edition of his Britannia (Camden 1607, 303; Oruch 1967; Sutton 2013).

Object: Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames, London. The plate depicts the eastern and northern exposures of the sixteenth-century palace and gardens as they existed before the construction of the Baroque palace and gardens of 1689–1702.


Top: A VIEW OF HAMPTON COVRT as finished by K. HENRY VIIIth.

Bottom: HAMPTON COURT, A ROYAL PALACE built by CARDINAL THOMAS WOLSEY, enlarged, finished, and erected into an HONOR by KING HENRY VIIIth. / Alluit* Hamptoniam celebrem quae laxior urbis / Mentitur formam spatiis; hanc condidit aulam / Purpureus pater ille gravis, gravis ille sacerdos / Wolsaeus, fortuna favos cui felle repletos / Obtulit heu tandem fortunae dona dolores. Tamae et Isis Connubium. *Tamesis scilicet.

Bottom, inset: Sumptibus Societatis Antiquar LONDIN.


Bottom: “He [namely the Thames] flows to famous Hampton, which wider than a city’s / spaces imitates the form; this palace built / the purple father, that grave man, that grave priest / Wolsey, to whom fortune honeycombs with bitterness full / offered--oh, in the end, fortune’s gifts [are] sorrows!” The Marriage of the Tama and the Isis.

Commentary by Zachary Stewart: Plate 2.27 depicts Hampton Court Palace—one of the most famous royal estates in Britain. Located approximately fourteen miles upstream from London on the River Thames, Hampton Court was established on a site belonging to the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, who rented the manor to several well-connected tenants before transferring ownership to the Crown in 1531 (Thurley 2003, 3–13, 49). As noted in the plate’s inscription, the core of the palace was “built by” Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1470/71–1530) and “enlarged, finished, and erected into an honor” by King Henry VIII (r. 1509–1547). (The only significant portion of the earlier manor to survive are the kitchens built by Sir Giles Daubeney around 1500.) Wolsey’s building works have been dated to the period 1514–1529 (Thurley 2003, 15–41). Henry’s building works have been dated to the period 1529–1547 (Thurley 2003, 42–77). The transformation of the palace from an episcopal residence to a royal residence was one of the consequences of the powerful prelate’s fall from favor following his failure to secure an annulment of the king’s marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon (r. 1509–1533).

The quasi-panoramic view of the palace published in Vetusta Monumenta, taken from a small rise in adjacent Home Park, neatly illustrates this progressive history. Less prominent, on the one hand, are Wolsey’s architectural contributions (concentrated in the western part of the site). The only visible works are, at far right, the domed turrets of the Great Gatehouse in Base Court of 1514–1522 and, at middle right, the battlemented parapets of the three-story stair tower of the Royal Lodgings of 1522–1525. More prominent, on the other hand, are Henry’s architectural contributions (concentrated in the eastern part of the site). Visible works include, from left to right, the Mount Garden of 1533–37, the Privy Garden of 1529–1533, the Queen’s Lodgings of 1532–1536, the Queen’s Gallery of 1537, the indoor Tennis Court of 1531–33, the Great Hall of 1532, and the gallery of the outdoor Tennis Court of 1533. The only part of this impressive architectural agglomeration to have survived into the present day in something like its original form is the spectacular hammer-beam-roofed Great Hall—the last of its kind built in medieval England. Other structures preserved in more heavily altered states include the outdoor Tennis Court (converted to an indoor court in 1625–1626 and 1660–1661), the indoor Tennis Court (converted to lodgings in 1669–1670), and the Great Gatehouse (the towers of which were lowered by two stories in 1771–1773). The remainder were swept away with the construction of the new Baroque palace and gardens of King William III and Queen Mary II (r. 1689–1702).

Wolsey’s and Henry’s buildings at Hampton Court exemplify the distinctive style of domestic architecture that flourished under the early Tudors—an eclectic mode combining elements of Gothic and Renaissance design (Webb 1956, 202–8; Summerson 1993, 23–36; Thurley 2017, 226–46). Formal characteristics visible in Plate 2.27 include complex volumetric compositions, large bay or bow windows, battlemented parapets, domelet-crowned towers, domelet-crowned turrets, elaborate chimneys, and mixed stone-and-brick construction (indicated in exaggerated form in the drawing by means of the respective absence and presence of vertical hatching). Many of these elements had an immediate basis in the palace architecture of King Henry VII (r. 1485–1509), founder of the Tudor dynasty, most notably at the nearby riverside palace of Richmond rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1497 (see Plates 2.23–2.24). But they assumed even greater prominence in elite residential buildings commissioned during the reign of his son. Fortunately, a fair number of the building accounts for Hampton Court survive, allowing scholars to put names to many of the craftsmen who designed, built, and decorated it. Among Wolsey’s key personnel were the mason John Lebons (who also designed the prelate’s new foundation of Cardinal College, now Christ Church College, Oxford), the bricklayer Thomas Abraham, and the carpenter Richard Russell (Harvey and Oswald 1984, 172–73; Thurley 2003, 16). Among Henry’s key personnel were the masons John Moulton and William Dickinson (who both also oversaw work on the king’s new palace at Whitehall), the bricklayer John Wilson, and the carpenters James Nedeham, John Russell, and William Clement (Harvey and Oswald 1984, 83–84, 205–6; Thurley 2003, 43, 54).

The talent, flexibility, and ingenuity of these craftsmen can be appreciated in the two structures that dominate the middle of the plate: the Queen’s Lodgings (center left) and the Queen’s Gallery (center right). Both were designed by Dickinson and Clement. But each was distinctive. The former, built for Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn (r. 1533–1536), was taller and less regularly composed, bristling with towers and turrets (Thurley 2003, 55–58). The latter, built for Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour (r. 1536–1537), was shorter and more regularly composed, featuring a central bow window and two identical side bay windows (Thurley 2003, 65–66, 68–69). No doubt some of these differences proceeded from the divergent functionality of the two buildings. The upper floor of the Queen’s Lodgings accommodated a series of private rooms for the king and the queen. The upper floor of the Queen’s Gallery accommodated a long passage linking the royal apartments and a new suite erected in anticipation of the birth of the future King Edward VI (r. 1547–1553). But it is logical, given the evidence for royal involvement in the design of both edifices, to attribute a share of their architectural divergence to shifts in patronage, personality, and stylistic preference—circumstances admirably navigated by Dickinson and Clement. Viewed together, the pair bears witness to an important turning point in the history of English architecture, with the Queen’s Lodgings standing at the end of the tradition of the late medieval (“Gothic”) manor house and the Queen’s Gallery standing at the beginning of the tradition of the early modern (“Renaissance”) country house.

The pen-and-ink watercolor drawing on which Plate 2.27 is based is one of numerous surviving views of Hampton Court depicting its layout before the transformations wrought by William and Mary (Thurley 2003, pls. 17, 25, 57, 58, 59, 69, 70, 80, 86, 92, 93, 105, 108, 114, 115, 125). Internal evidence suggests that the undated drawing, which has been assigned stylistically to the second half of the seventeenth century, was executed before the addition of two features to the eastern part of the palace under King Charles II (r. 1660–1685): namely the surviving, though much altered, canal of 1660–1662 and the King’s Building “Next Paradise” of 1670 (Thurley 2003, 136–40, 207, 209). The former may be out of view in the drawing but the latter would have been clearly visible to the left of the Queen’s Lodgings.

The watercolor was in the possession of the diarist Samuel Pepys by 1700—the year in which it was bound into a volume of drawings and prints “relating to the citys of London & Westminster and their environs” (Pepys Library 2972, 1; Aspital 1980, 1). There it was collated into a section titled “THE THAMES & ITS VIEWS. Comprehending a Draught of its Whole Course, from the Source Thereof to the Sea: Together with the Pallaces, Colleges, Houses, Bridges, Principll. Landings, Shews, Diversns., & Other Singularitys Relating Thereto” (Pepys Library 2972, 205–72; Aspital 1980, 17–24). Approximately one quarter of these views depict royal estates on or near the river: from Windsor in the west to Greenwich in the east. And no fewer than four illustrate Hampton Court. The first is an unsigned mid-seventeenth-century drawing of the southern exposure of the site (209). The second is the drawing reproduced in Plate 2.27 (210–11). The third and the fourth, finally, are prints by Sutton Nicholls (fl. 1680–1740) depicting the southern and eastern facades of the Baroque palace built by William and Mary (212–13). Thusly arranged, the four images document the dramatic alteration of Hampton Court during Pepys’s lifetime, a process that may have interested the royal administrator given his personal knowledge of the site as described in diary accounts of a guided tour in 1662 and several business-related visits in 1665 and 1666 (Pepys 1893–99, 2:220; 5:10–11, 12–13, 22–23, 28–29, 208–9).

Precisely how Pepys, an avid collector, came to possess the watercolor later used for Plate 2.27 remains unknown. It has been suggested that the work may have been executed by the Dutch artist Hendrick Danckerts (1625–1680), court painter to Charles II, in conjunction with a cycle of four paintings commissioned for the walls of Pepys’s dining room in 1669 (Wren Society 1930, pl. XXII; Thurley 2003, pl. 57). The subjects of these “pictures” were to be the “houses of the King” at Whitehall, Hampton Court, Greenwich, and Windsor (Pepys 1893–99, 8:207). But, two months into the production process, a decision was made to substitute “a view of Rome” for Hampton Court (Pepys 1893–99, 8:280). None of these tempera (“distemper”) paintings, which were commissioned under the guidance of the amateur art collector Thomas Povey (1613/14–1705), is known to have survived into the present day (Liedtke 1991, 228–29). The fact that Pepys’s diary fails to mention any preparatory drawings calls into question the idea that the watercolor bound into Pepys Library 2972 was part of Danckerts’s commission of 1669. Indeed, in his seminal catalogue of Pepys’s prints and drawings, Arthur Aspital argued it was “doubtful” there was “any connection” between the two (Aspital 1980, 18). Thus, on the present evidence, the authorship, occasion, and original intention of the drawing must remain open questions.

Better documented, fortunately, is the subsequent history of the drawing as reproduced by the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) for Vetusta Monumenta. The story begins with the decision to produce a series of plates depicting royal palaces. This commenced with the publication of two views of Richmond Palace in 1765 (Plates 2.23–2.24) and one view of Greenwich Palace in 1767 (Plate 2.25)—each of which had to be produced from an earlier visualization given the destruction of the two sites in the seventeenth century. But the project hit a snag when a preparatory drawing for the next entry in the series, a view of the lost palace of Nonsuch, was judged inadequate. On 11 November 1768, president Charles Lyttelton intimated to the Council that there were “in the University of Cambridge, Drawings, by [Wenceslaus] Hollar, of the ancient Palace of Hampton Court,” and that these might prove suitable alternatives for reproduction (SAL Council Minutes I.158–59). (The assignation of the drawings to Hollar derives from an original annotation in the table of contents of Pepys Library 2972 ascribing the first, though not the second, of the two Hampton Court drawings to the famous illustrator; neither attribution is considered legitimate today.) Lyttelton died a little over a month after this episode. But his successor, Jeremiah Milles, carried the project forward by presenting a copy of one of the drawings—made “at the desire” of the recently deceased president by the young antiquary Michael Tyson—to the membership and the Council of the SAL, both of which approved the idea of engraving it in January 1769 (SAL Minutes XI.14–15; SAL Council Minutes I.170). Precisely how the Cambridge drawings came to Lyttelton’s attention remains unclear. But a likely source of information would have been the enterprising antiquary Richard Gough (1735–1809), elected to the SAL in 1767, who, in his historical gazetteer Anecdotes of British Topography (1768), had noted that Pepys’s collection included “two fine drawings by Hollar of the river and garden fronts of the old palace at Hampton-Court” (Gough 1768, 266). Significantly, Gough enjoyed regular contact with Lyttelton and Milles, working with them to publish what would become the first volume of Archaeologia (Sweet 2004, 95). And he was also close with Tyson—the two having met as undergraduates at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, during the mid-1760s (Pickles 2004).

Tyson, who had been elected to the SAL in 1768, presumably enjoyed easy access to Pepys’s drawing at Magdalene College since he was serving, at the time, as dean and bursar at nearby Corpus. A respected artist in antiquarian circles, he took pains to stress the fidelity of his reproduction, arguing in a letter read before the SAL on the occasion of its presentation that he had “endeavoured to copy most exactly the Original...even its Defects” (SAL Minutes XI.14). A critical comparison of the original drawing and the published print largely bears out this claim. Visible alterations, which are relatively few, include the omission of the original calligraphic title (“Hampton-Court”), the modification of minor details in the foreground, and the introduction of shading (in the form of hatching) on many of the east faces of the buildings. Only the last of these is problematic from an architectural perspective since it suggests a false distinction between brick and stone construction not borne out by other visualizations of the palace, most notably the “long view” of c. 1656–1670, which shows that both the Queen’s Lodgings and the Queen’s Gallery featured diaper-patterned brick facades (Thurley 2003, pl. 59). Whether these graphic changes were made by Tyson or by the engraver John Pye is impossible to say since the copy drawing remains untraced.

The plate’s inscriptions were the work of yet another individual, Gregory Sharpe, who occupied the role of director of the SAL at the time of the plate’s production in 1769 (SAL Council Minutes I.178). A well-connected clergyman with serious scholarly interests, Sharpe served as chaplain to both Prince Frederick of Wales (1707–1751) between 1748 and 1751 and to King George III (r. 1760–1820) between 1762 and 1771, during which times he may have personally visited Hampton Court (Courtney and Major 2004). His contributions to the plate were twofold. First were the English titles, presumably of his own devising, which, in attributing construction to Wolsey and Henry VIII, situated the palace within the context of national history. Second were the Latin versus, taken from William Camden’s fragmentary poem Connubium Tamae et Isis (The Marriage of the Tama and the Isis), which, in alluding to the cardinal’s infamous rise and fall, situated the palace within the context of national myth. The combination of the two worked to transform an otherwise ordinary landscape view into a dramatic visual set piece. The source of Sharpe’s inspiration for this two-pronged approach is unclear since it has little precedent in Vetusta Monumenta. But it is interesting to note that both gestures are anticipated, visually, by the organization of material in Pepys Library 2972: the factual, by the arrangement of “before” and “after” views of the palace; the fabulist by the arrangement of topographical views of sites along the Thames (which followed the “source to mouth” order of Camden’s poem).

No less interesting, finally, is the role of the plate’s engraver, John Pye, whose involvement was necessitated by a brief hiatus in the tenure of the Society’s long-serving engraver James Basire. On 2 February 1769, a meeting was held to hammer out the details of reproducing Tyson’s drawing (SAL Council Minutes I.171 Pye’s suggestion that it be engraved for between twenty-five and thirty guineas was rejected in favor of the Council’s suggestion that it be etched for twenty guineas. A proof was approved a little over two months later (SAL Council Minutes I.178). Production then went into overdrive in order to ensure that copies would be available for distribution to members at the Society’s anniversary celebrations on April 24 (SAL Minutes XI.106). The price for copies to be sold to the public-at-large was set at four shillings (SAL Council Minutes I.180). The table of plates of the second volume of Vetusta Monumenta (1789) indicates that Plate 2.27 was accompanied, like Plates 2.23–24 and Plate 2.25, by an historical “account.” However, there is no reference to the compilation of such a text in the Society’s minutes of the late 1760s, and the failure of recent attempts to locate a copy in surviving editions suggests that it may never have existed. The publication, in 1804, of a “supplementary” plate, engraved by James Basire II (1769–1822) from an anonymous seventeenth century oil painting now in the Royal Collection (RCIN 405791), is similarly unusual.

Plate 2.27 represents an important change in the Society’s approach to the publication of visual material insofar as it heralded the beginning of a period during which focus moved from producing smaller folio format prints to producing larger “antiquarian” format prints. (With the exception of Plate 2.28, a commemorative portrait, publication of plates for Vetusta Monumenta would not resume until 1780.) The result was the reproduction of several famous works whose selection seems to have been conditioned, like the preceding royal palace series, by a penchant for Tudorphilia; they included a painting of Henry VIII’s “Field of the Cloth of Gold” at Windsor (1775), a painting of the Battle of the Solent at Cowdray House (1778), and a painting of Henry VIII’s embarkation from Dover to Calais at Windsor (1781). These lavish standalone prints have been interpreted as evidence of the Society’s desire to advance its reputation by capitalizing on rising interest in history painting in general and patriotic subjects in particular—both inside and outside antiquarian circles (Sweet 2007, 113; Myrone 2007, 84–85). In that sense, Plate 2.27 was something of a harbinger, and the decision to etch versus engrave it should be seen in light of shifting attitudes toward printmaking that placed less emphasis on laborious depiction (as stressed by the Society’s former official engraver George Vertue) and more emphasis on alacrity, inventiveness, and expressiveness (as stressed by the printmaking theorist William Gilpin) (Myrone 2007, 106–9). Nonetheless, the plate clearly drew on well-established antiquarian traditions, as evidenced by its recuperation of a lost past, its implicit invocation of Camden, and its explicit invocation of Hollar. Thus, its production can be understood as a compromise between two opposing schools of thought concerning the objectives of antiquarian endeavors in late eighteenth-century Britain: one privileging the role of description and documentation and one privileging the role of invention and imagination. What emerged was an innovative concoction that not only reproduced a visual record of a vanished monument but also reinterpreted the subject of that record as a setting for human accomplishment both medieval and modern. As such, Plate 2.27 possesses a dramatic force with few parallels in Vetusta Monumenta, exploring, in brilliant fashion, the various ways in which one can access, activate, and delight in the past.

Works Cited:

Aspital, A. W. 1980. Catalogue of the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Volume III: Prints and Drawings. Part I: General. Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer.

Camden, William. 1607. Britannia or, a chorographical description of the flourishing kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the islands adjacent; from the earliest antiquity. London: G. Bishop and J. Norton.

Courtney, W. P., and Emma Major. 2004. “Sharpe, Gregory (1713–1771).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gough, Richard. 1768. Anecdotes of British Topography. London: W. Richardson and S. Clark.

Harvey, John, and Arthur Oswald. 1984. English Medieval Architects: A Biographical Dictionary down to 1550. 2nd ed. Gloucester: A. Sutton.

Liedtke, Walter. 1991. “Pepys and the Pictorial Arts.” Apollo 133, no. 350 (April): 227–37.

Myrone, Martin. 2007. “The Society of Antiquaries and the Graphic Arts: George Vertue and His Legacy.” In Visions of Antiquity: The Society of Antiquaries of London, 1707-2007 [Archaeologia 111], edited by Susan Pearce, 98-121. London: The Society of Antiquaries.

Oruch, Jack B. 1967. “Spenser, Camden, and the Poetic Marriages of Rivers.” Studies in Philology 64 (4): 606–24.

Pepys Library, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. MS 2972. “My Collection of Prints & Drawings... Relating to the Citys of London & Westminster and Their Environs.”

Pepys, Samuel. 1893–99. The Diary of Samuel Pepys, M.A., F.R.S., edited by Henry B. Wheatley. 10 vols. London: G. Bell & Sons.

Pickles, John D. 2004. “Tyson, Michael (1740–1780).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Society of Antiquaries of London. 1754–. Minutes of the Council of the Society of Antiquaries.

------. 1718–. Minutes of the Society’s Proceedings.

Summerson, John. 1993. Architecture in Britain 1530–1830. 9th ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Sweet, Rosemary. 2004. Antiquaries: The Discovery of the Past in Eighteenth-Century Britain. London: Hambledon and London.

------. 2007. “The Incorporated Society and Its Public Role.” In Visions of Antiquity: The Society of Antiquaries of London, 1707–2007 [Archaeologica 111], edited by Susan Pearce, 75–94.

Sutton, Dana F. 2013. “Introduction.” In William Camden, Poems and Epitaphs, The Philological Museum, edited by Dana F. Sutton and Martin Wiggins. The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham.

Thurley, Simon. 2003. Hampton Court: A Social and Architectural History. New Haven: Yale University Press.

------. 2017. Houses of Power: The Places That Shaped the Tudor World. London: Bantam.

Webb, Geoffrey. 1956. Architecture in Britain: The Middle Ages. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Wren Society. 1930. The Seventh Volume of the Wren Society: The Royal Palaces of Winchester, Whitehall, Kensington, and St. James’s. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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