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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.

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.

Historic Kitchen Staff at Hampton Court Palace prepare roast beef on the spit in early Summer 2016.

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

Tudor recipie

Tarte owte of Lent - a really good fifteenth 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

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

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.

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