The Wilderness

Wander through this treasure of the Hampton Court Gardens

Wander through this treasure of the Hampton Court Gardens

When

  • Open daily

Ticketing information

Entry to the Wilderness is free.

A Hampton Court Palace admission ticket includes entry to over 60 acres of historic gardens such as the Maze, Privy Garden and Kitchen Garden.

Free

Nestled within over 60 acres of historic gardens is the Hampton Court Palace Wilderness. This beautiful space was once Charles II's formal pleasure garden and is now a wild meadow filled with wildlife all year round.

Spring flowers and cherry trees

The Wilderness is at its most colourful in early April, when a sea of over a million daffodils and other flowering bulbs springs into life. This spectacle is further enhanced by the beautiful cherry trees, which also blossom in the spring.

The area provides nesting sites for many of Hampton Court's common birds such as blackbirds, blue tits and robins.

Learn more about the Wilderness and the sea of colourful daffodils that fill the area every spring with Greg Leeson, Horticulture Manager at Historic Royal Palaces, in this short video.

The history of the Wilderness

Photograph of a family walking through the Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace

Henry VIII's great orchard

The word 'Wilderness' first appeared in the Hampton Court records in the late 1600s, although before this time the area was used for Henry VIII's great orchard. The Tudor orchard was filled with pear, apple and cherry trees.

According to legend, it was here that Henry first learnt of the death of Thomas Wolsey, his former chief minister. By this time, Henry had taken over Wolsey's palace and gardens at Hampton Court and started remodelling them to reflect his own power and magnificence.

A formal Stuart pleasure garden

In the 1680s Charles II created a pleasure garden at Hampton Court in the French Bosquet style, where courtiers could take in the country air away from London. In England this formal style became known as a wilderness.

A wilderness typically consisted of several sections, which were often divided up by tall hedges and trees. The area was often set out with crossing geometric paths. An interesting feature, seat or statue could sometimes be found within each section.

In the original Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace, the paths were lined on either side with hedges of Hornbeam Carpinus betulus and large Elm trees.

The garden also contained the famous Hampton Court Maze, which is still one of the most popular parts of the gardens.

Changing fashions and a more natural appearance

As fashions changed, the pathways were gradually removed and the Wilderness lost its formal appearance. Many of the elm trees succumbed to Dutch elm disease in the 1950s and were removed.

The area was made even more natural with the massed planting of spring flowering bulbs, mostly daffodils, which began in the early years of the 20th century. The area is left un-cut for several weeks after the daffodils bloom in order for the bulbs to regenerate slowly in time for next spring.

Daffodils in the spring sunshine with blossom trees in the background.
A gold crown sits on a bright pink background covered in pink flowers
Events

Join us for a fun-filled celebration of summer in the stunning setting of Hampton Court Palace.

04-07 July 2019 (Preview evening: 01 July, RHS Members' Days 02 and 03 July)

Hampton Court Palace

Monday: 17:00-22.30; Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00-19.30; Sunday: 10:00-17.30

Separate ticket (advanced booking required)

Aerial view of a formal garden with green lawns on either side of a main path running towards the baroque palace. A fountain runs in the foreground at the centre of the path
Things to see

Explore the Privy Garden, now restored to its former glory and complete with its intricate Tijou Screen.

Open daily

Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

A visitor uses the DVG in Base Court at Hampton Court Palace

Hold the stories of Hampton Court Palace in your hands and experience history where it happened with an audio guide tour.

Daily

Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

Lifestyle imagery of picnic ware

Shop Picnicware

Enjoy fine dining outdoors with our magnificent picnic hampers. Discover our luxury hampers and exquisite picnic blankets.

Prices from £2.99 - £135

Historic Royal Palaces retail product - drinking glasses, books and deer cushion

Shop homewares

In our home section you will find stylish lifestyle home accessories and furnishings, including cushions, tapestries, ornaments and much more which will add those finishing touches to make your room complete.

Prices from £1.99 - £2500

Historic Royal Palaces retail product- Queen Anne Boleyn merchandise

Shop Anne Boleyn gifts

Shop our unique collection of Anne Boleyn books, jewellery and gifts. Anne Boleyn's letter jewellery, including her 'B' necklace and 'AB' brooch, are believed to have been passed down to her daughter Elizabeth I.

Prices start from £2.50