Henry VIII's Kitchens
The largest kitchens of Tudor England
Built to feed the Court of Henry VIII, these kitchens were designed to feed at least 600 people twice a day. You can still see the largest kitchens of Tudor England at Hampton Court today, and they are often still used to prepare Tudor meals by our team of cooks in the kitchens.
About the Tudor kitchens
Between their construction in 1530 and the royal family’s last visit to the palace in 1737, the kitchens were a central part of palace life. For many people today, Hampton Court Palace is Henry VIII, and Henry’s abiding reputation remains a ‘consumer of food and women’.
But Henry’s vast kitchens in the palace were not for him. They were built to feed the six hundred or so members of the court, entitled to eat at the palace twice a day.
This was a vast operation, larger than any modern hotel, and one that had to cope without modern conveniences.
The kitchens had a number of Master Cooks, each with a team of Yeomen and Sergeants working for them. The mouths of the 1,200-odd members of Henry VIII’s court required an endless stream of dinners to be produced in the enormous kitchens of Hampton Court Palace.
The annual provision of meat for the Tudor court stood at 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar.
This was all washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer.
Live Tudor cookery events
Come and watch our intrepid team of historical chefs prepare a feast fit for a king.
A Spanish visitor to the Tudor court in 1554 said that the kitchens were ‘veritable hells, such is the stir and bustle in them … there is plenty of beer here, and they drink more than would fill the Valladolid river.'
Working in the kitchens could be a sweaty and dirty job. Henry VIII had to give orders that the scullions should stop going about ‘naked, or in garments of such vileness as they do now, nor lie in the nights and days in the kitchen or ground by the fireside’.
If you want to re-create some of our Tudor recipes at home watch our Tudor cook-along videos.
The Taste of the Fire
The Taste of the Fire was written by our own curators and food archaeologists, explores eating at court, the Tudor diet and food production in the kitchens. It contains many authentic Tudor recipes adapted for contemporary cooks.
Some files are provided in PDF format - you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files.