Royal tennis at Hampton Court

Learn more about the favourite game of Henry VIII

Learn more about the favourite game of Henry VIII

When

  • Open daily

Ticketing information

Access to the spectator viewing area is via the East Front Garden.

Included in palace admission (members go free)

Learn about the favourite game of Henry VIII at the Royal Tennis Court, where kings and their courtiers once enjoyed this fast-paced, exciting sport.

The display in the viewing gallery includes handmade balls, life-sized character illustrations and custom-made racquets.

Tennis and the Tudors

As a young man, Henry VIII was athletic, graceful and loved sports, especially tennis. He was a keen and talented player who spent hours on court.

In 1519, the Venetian Ambassador wrote: 'it was the prettiest thing in the world to see him play; his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest texture'.

Henry's second wife Anne Boleyn was gambling on a game of tennis when she was arrested to be taken to the Tower of London. She even complained that she couldn’t collect her winnings!

History of the Royal Tennis Courts

The first tennis court at Hampton Court Palace was built for Cardinal Wolsey between 1526 and 1529.

The current tennis court was built for Charles I in 1625. Three of its walls date from this period and the external wall to the right of the viewing gallery is one of Cardinal Wolsey's originals.

Learn more about the long history of real tennis in this short film.

The Real Tennis Champions Trophy takes place at Hampton Court Palace every summer, supported by Mitsubishi Electric. Tickets for the next tournament will go on sale in early 2020.

A match in progress in the Royal Tennis Court
Built in the reign of King Charles I and remodelled in the reign of Charles II, the tennis court is still is use today and is the venue for the British Open Real Tennis Championships

Visiting the courts

The Hampton Court Palace tennis club is for private members. Non-members and visitors are permitted into the viewing gallery to watch a game.

The club may close at short notice for private events and maintenance. However, it is a very active club, with many members, so your chances of seeing a game in play when the viewing gallery is open are very high.

Try your hand at real tennis

The club offers an introduction to the game, and if you like it you can apply to be a member.

Visit The Royal Tennis Court website

History of real tennis

Real tennis is the original indoor racquet sport from which the modern game of tennis is descended. It only acquired its 'real' tag at the end of the 19th century to distinguish it from the new-fangled 'lawn' tennis.

One of the first English guides to tennis in 1553 claimed, 'this game has been created for a good purpose, namely, to keep our bodies healthy, to make our young men stronger and more robust, chasing idleness, virtue’s mortal enemy, far from them and thus making them of a stronger and more excellent nature'.

A real tennis player hits a ball across a green tennis court
Visitors explore Henry VIII's Kitchens after re-interpretation in 2018.
Things to see

Transport yourself back to the heyday of Tudor feasting and entertainment in Henry VIII's Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.

Open daily

Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

The Haunted Gallery at Hampton Court, looking west.
Things to see

Walk Henry VIII’s route from his private apartments to the Chapel and see the infamous Haunted Gallery in the State Apartments.

Open daily

Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

The blue and gold vaulted ceiling of the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace
Highlights Things to see

Walk in the footsteps of kings and queens at the Chapel Royal, which has been in continuous use for almost 500 years.

Daily

Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

Clock Court at Hampton Court Palace in the sunshine

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Selection of books

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