The Knights Hospitallers
The Knights Hostpitallers of St John Jerusalem acquired the manor of Hampton in 1236 and used the site as a grange - a centre for their agricultural estates – where produce was stored and accounts kept.
Excavations and early documents suggest that the Knights had a great barn or hall and a stone camera (room) that they used as an estate office. There was probably very little, if any, residential accommodation.
Early royal visitors
By the 14th century, the Hampton estates of the Knights Hospitallers sat rather conveniently between royal palaces at Sheen and Byfleet. The grange was a perfect staging post for royal visitors and new building works at Hampton Court reflected its new use as a high-status guest house.
Byfleet was dismantled in the early 1400s, and the importance of Hampton Court declined at the same time. The Knights Hostpitallers already rented out a lot of their other estates and it seems that Hampton Court first became a tenanted property at about this time.
A courtier's residence
The first tenant we know much about was the courtier Giles Daubeney, who took out a lease on the property in 1494. Daubeney was on the way up (he became Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VII the following year), and needed a house close to London.
The area around Hampton was also becoming more popular with the royal family as Henry VII set about rebuilding the royal lodgings at Sheen as Richmond Palace.
Daubeney’s choice of Hampton Court was rewarded by a series of visits from the royal family. Henry VII and his queen stayed there on a number of occasions and seem to have particularly favoured Daubeney’s country residence as a peaceful retreat away from their London homes at Westminster and the Tower of London.
Little is known about Daubeney’s Hampton Court, but the value of the property increased considerably during his short tenure (he died in 1508). But any improvements Daubeney made were quickly eclipsed by the ambitions of Hampton Court’s next occupant, Thomas Wolsey.