Meet Henry VIII's Great Horses and enjoy a tram ride through 500 years of history
9 April 2021. Following the death of His Royal Highness, there will be changes to opening hours for the gardens at Hampton Court Palace and Hillsborough Castle. For further information, please read our FAQs page
Visit the Hampton Court Shires in the East Front Gardens at Hampton Court Palace.
The Shires are put to a horse-drawn tram giving visitors a relaxed tour of the hidden corners of the gardens, with great views of Home Park and the River Thames.
Once ubiquitous across London, today Shire horses are rarer than pandas, and Hampton Court Palace offers a unique opportunity to meet Henry VIII's gentle giants.
Rides last approximately 15 minutes and will be following social distancing guidelines. Our trams are fully accessible and can accommodate wheelchairs.
Please note, shire horse rides are weather dependent and will not run in adverse weather conditions, including rain.
The Shire horses at Hampton Court are part of the last herd of working Shire horses in London. They live in Home Park, where they also help maintain the wildflower meadows.
Each November, on Shire Horse Sunday, the herd is blessed by HM’s Chaplain prior to evensong at The Chapel Royal.
Nearly 500 years ago, Henry VIII started the process to acquire the ultimate war horse. In 1535 and 1540, he instigated two acts that governed the breeding of horses in England, with the aim to develop a horse that could carry a man in heavy armour into battle.
The King is credited for naming this powerful new breed of horses Shire – from the Saxon word schyran, which means to shear or divide, hence the name synonymous with 'county'.
Since then, the Shire became important both in agriculture and industry, until the combustion engine took over, making them almost disappear overnight.