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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 symbolises Henry VIII and Henry’s abiding reputation remains as a ‘consumer of food and women’.
Henry VIII's Kitchens at Hampton Court were the largest of Tudor England and were designed to cater for around 400 people twice a day. This was a vast operation, larger than any modern hotel and one that had to cope without modern conveniences.
Today, the kitchens are still used by our team of cooks to prepare authentic Tudor recipes.
The kitchens were divided into a number of departments, each controlled by a Sergeant and a team of yeoman and grooms. The Kitchen department where meat was roasted were under the control of three Master Cooks, one for the King, the Queen and the rest of the Court. These staff toiled under a complex set of rules that determined which of the 1,200-odd members of Henry’s court qualified for meals as part of their pay.
In one year towards the end of the sixteenth century the provision of meat for the whole Tudor court stood at 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar, all washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer.
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’.
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.'
Henry VIII’s kitchens continued to be used for a further two hundred years, feeding the tables of Tudor, Stuart and Georgian monarchs and their many courtiers.
In more recent times the Kitchens have been brought back to life by our team of historic cookery experts. Interpreting history where it happened with regular demonstrations of Tudor roasting and experimentation with recipes, ingredients and methods, they provide the experience of the sights, sounds and smells of life in King Henry VIII’s kitchens.
Meet members of our team of history cooks in front of the roaring fire and discover what life was like cooking for the court of King Henry VIII.
A summer celebration of food and drink set in the magnificent palace gardens
Bank holiday weekend 26 - 28 August
A new play, written for Hampton Court Palace by Sarah Dickenson and directed by Jo McInnes.
Daytime Performances: Thursdays to Mondays until 21 August 2017, 11:00 & 14.45. Evening Performances: 28, 29, 31 August & 1 September 2017, 19.30