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Tudor kitchens: Henry VIII's food factory

The vast kitchens served the Tudor court with hundreds of meals a day

The vast kitchens served the Tudor court with hundreds of meals a day

A food production line

Ordering, preparing and cooking food on this scale required an efficient system, with raw food arriving at one end and finished dishes ready to be served at the other.

Henry VIII expanded and added to the kitchens at Hampton Court Palace, but they weren’t for him. The King had his own private kitchen.

Header image: The fire in the Great Kitchen at Hampton Court. © Historic Royal Palaces

Seymour Gate, looking west from Master Carpenter's Court.

Raw materials

Raw produce was brought into the palace through a ‘Tradesman’s’ entrance.

All goods passed under an archway into a cobbled courtyard, where they were all unloaded and checked scrupulously.

A team of accountants, known as ‘The Clerks of the Green Cloth’, kept meticulous records to ensure costs were kept under control.

Kitchen staff carried the goods into a series of smaller kitchens or to the stores.

Image: Seymour Gate at Hampton Court Palace, looking west from Master Carpenter's Court. © Historic Royal Palaces

Views of Fish Court leading into the Great Kitchen. Since re-opening on 5 May, new interactive technology will allow visitors to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a Tudor Kitchen.

Boiling House

One of the many smaller kitchens used exclusively to prepare and cook meat in the great boiling pot.

The meat then went into pies or was roasted, the boiling being used to reduce the time needed on the spit.

The pie cases were brought over to the boiling house from the pastry department.

Fish Court

Fish Court was a clever fridge system.

The courtyard is narrow, running north to south which means the area stays cooler, as the sun does not shine directly in.

The space is open to the air to keep the stone stores cool.

The Great Kitchen

Originally this kitchen was used for roasting meat, mainly joints of beef, in front of six huge fires.

In later centuries, a range of charcoal stoves were added along with a bread oven.

Image: Fish Court at Hampton Court Palace. © Historic Royal Palaces

A general view of the Great Kitchens.

A Tudor shopping list

The quantities of meat procured for the Court in one year during Elizabeth I's reign included:

  • Sheep - 8,200
  • Deer - 2,330
  • Pigs - 1,870
  • Oxen - 1,240
  • Calves - 760
  • Wild boar - 53

A Tudor recipe: Tarte owte of Lent

A really good 15th century cheese tart

The name derives from the fact that it contains all the things you’re not allowed to eat during lent - cheese, cream and eggs, cooked in a light pastry case! If you like a strong cheese taste, then this is the dish for you.

Take a look around Henry VIII's kitchens on our 360-degree image, created in partnership with Google Arts & Culture.

From kitchen to table

The kitchens produced a large amount of food and each room had a specific function. Food would be taken from larders and prepared in separate bake-houses. Meat was roasted in front of the big fires in the Great Kitchen.

Fresh water for drinking and cooking was piped into the palace from springs three miles away.


Dinner is served

The Clerk of the Kitchens, standing at the Serving Place, would allocate dishes to various diners according to their rank

The Wine Cellar, looking north towards stairs leading up to the entrance to the cellar. Wooden wine barrels are set on their sides in rows in the foreground.

Wine Cellar

All this food was washed down at court with gallons of wine and beer.

Entertaining the court in lavish style reflected the magnificence of the monarch and Henry kept his cellars well stocked.

Barrels of wine were sent from Europe and kept in cellars next to the kitchens, while beer was stored close to the Great Hall. Water was safe to drink at the palace.

Image: The wine cellar. © Historic Royal Palaces

A member of the Historic Kitchen Staff in Tudor costume cooking beef on a spit over a large open fire.


Discover more about Henry VIII's Royal Kitchens with our interactive story, created in partnership with Google Arts & Culture.


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