Henry VIII’s wine fountain recreated at Hampton Court Palace
Inspired by the discovery of the remains of a 16th century conduit (or fountain) during a major archaeological dig at Hampton Court Palace in 2008, the new fountain’s design is based on detailed historic research into wine fountains that were commonly used during festivals and celebrations by Henry VIII (reigned 1509 - 1547).
Taking shape in Hampton Court Palace’s largest inner courtyard, known as Base Court, on the site of the excavated Tudor conduit, the new wine fountain will act as a magnificent centrepiece to the courtyard, whilst also serving a functional purpose – it will run with red and (chilled) white wine on weekends and bank holidays (beginning 1st May), enabling visitors to raise a glass to Henry VIII and his magnificent Tudor palace!
Standing at over 4 metres tall, the fountain is constructed from authentic materials including timber, lead, bronze and gold-leaf, and like the recently discovered Tudor conduit, sits upon an octagonal base. A major source for the fountain’s design is the Field of the Cloth of Gold painting, created in the 1540s for Henry VIII and displayed at Hampton Court Palace. The painting depicts his meeting with the French King, Francis I, at Guines (near Calais) in 1520. Both kings sought to out-do one another with cultural displays and entertainments, and as shown in the painting, Henry VIII built an elaborate ‘pop-up’ palace with two large wine fountains for his courtiers to enjoy. Contemporary accounts of the these fountains have provided further details of their features that have been recreated on the new fountain, including the motto faicte bonne chere quy vouldra (‘let he who wishes make good cheer’), classical friezes and the appearance of Bacchus, god of wine.
Since some of the more detailed and intricate elements of the fountains cannot be seen very clearly in the painting, the Tudor palace itself has also been used as design inspiration – the new fountain features 40 gilded lions’ heads copied from the terracotta roundels that decorates the outer walls of the Tudor palace, 8 brass taps based on a surviving Tudor tap at the palace, the classical friezes taken from The Family of Henry VIII portrait (c. 1545) on display at Hampton Court, and 4 mottos spelt out in gilded lead lettering, inspired by the palace’s Chapel Royal.
The wine fountain will provide a new focal point to the Base Court, as part of independent charity Historic Royal Palaces’ long running ambition to bring the atmosphere back to this historic courtyard and restore it as the heart of Henry VIII’s best known and largest surviving palace. In Tudor times, Base Court acted as an open-air hotel lobby, where King Henry’s guests were welcomed and received by court officials. Over the course of the 20th century, however, the courtyard became increasingly sedate. In early 2009, following extensive archaeology, the courtyard was resurfaced, with Victorian lawns removed, lost historic paths and cobbling restored, and the remains of the newly discovered conduit carefully protected beneath the courtyard, enabling visitors to enjoy it once again as a bustling hub of activity.
Dr Kent Rawlinson, Curator of Historic Buildings at Hampton Court Palace commented: “Hampton Court was a ‘pleasure palace’ for Henry VIII, where guests were entertained with spectacular revels and festivities, and wine and beer were drunk in enormous quantities, as evidenced by the great cellars that still survive here. Now with the restoration of Base Court, and the introduction of our magnificent wine fountain, palace visitors can join a centuries-old tradition and raise a glass to King Henry at his famous royal residence.”
Notes to editors
Henry VIII’s wine fountain will serve red and chilled white wine between 3.45 – 4.45pm, from 1st May (May Day) on weekends and bank holidays. Each glass will cost £3.50 in addition to the palace admission price. Hampton Court Palace is open to visitors seven days a week. For opening hours and admission prices, please visit our website www.hrp.org.uk
The Tudor wine fountain has been completed ahead of a summer of spectacular events taking place at Hampton Court Palace, including:
- A performance of Tudor poet laureate John Skelton’s only surviving play Magnyfycence (1 -2 May) in the Great Hall
- A jousting tournament (29 – 31 May)
- Celebrations for Henry’s Honeymoon including a majestic river flotilla and fireworks (24 July)
- Live Tudor cookery in Henry VIII’s historic kitchens (1-3 May, 18-19 June, 3-4 July, 7-8 August and 28-30 August)
- An action-packed Sport for Kings weekend featuring fencing and falconry (28 – 30 August
For further information, interviews or images, please contact: Ruth Howlett in the Historic Royal Palaces press office on 020 3166 6338/6166 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The wine fountain is inspired by a number of historic sources including the Field of the Cloth of Gold painting and The Triumph of Bacchus tapestry (which shows wine-making and drinking around a large wine fountain) - both of which are displayed at Hampton Court Palace - and examples of Tudor decoration at the palace. Surviving contemporary accounts also show that it was common for wine to be run through the public fountains (known as conduits) as part of lavish festivals and celebrations, such as when the king or queen were formally welcomed into the City of London. When Anne Boleyn entered and processed through London for her coronation in 1533, many of the public conduits were turned into wine fountains as part of elaborate pageants.
Henry VIII’s palace possessed a sophisticated water system supplied by means of buried lead pipes from springs three miles away at Coombe Hill. This served a number of fountains, including an elaborate fountain built by Henry in Clock Court and a smaller fountain – or ‘conduit’ – in Base Court, the base of which was discovered in 2008 during archaeological works undertaken before we restored the cobbled surface. Henry also had fabulous temporary fountains made for feasts and revels.
Hampton Court Palace has been long-listed for The Art Fund Prize 2010, for Henry VIII: heads and hearts – the most ambitious programme of exhibitions, events, displays and preparatory conservation work ever staged at the King’s former royal residence, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the king’s accession to the throne in 2009. To find out more or vote for Hampton Court Palace to win, please visit: http://www.artfundprize.org.uk/
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors. These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. We believe in four principles. Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world. Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work. www.hrp.org.uk
Registered charity number 1068852