Press release

13 June 2016

13 June 2016

Look out for some unusual additions in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace this summer.

As part of the year-long celebration of its world famous gardens, 15 very special gnomes will be popping up around the Hampton Court estate from July, revealing hidden secrets to the intrepid explorers who can find them. Designed and created by a range of local community groups, these aren’t your typical common garden gnomes! From the whimsy of the maze, to the Privy Garden’s formal Baroque topiary, each will reflect a unique aspect of the remarkable landscape around the palace, which spans centuries of fascinating history.

It’s a little known fact, but Hampton Court Palace can lay claim to be the home of the English gnome. The first time the word gnome ever appeared in English was in Alexander Pope’s epic poem – ‘The Rape of the Lock.’ Set at Hampton Court, the poem features a gnome named Umbriel. Given a voice by actor Stephen Mangan, Umbriel will reappear in various guises in the palace gardens throughout the summer, recounting tales from the palace’s past.

Discover the tale of the ‘little gentleman in black velvet’ (a mole!) who burrowed up from the ground and unhorsed King William III, and find out what weird and wonderful objects have been left in the maze since the seventeenth century (including a few champagne flutes, shoes and a periwig!) The stories recounted by each gnome have been written by schools and community groups especially for the project. Children’s author Francesca Simon, Poet Michael Rosen, and Hampton Court’s very own Lucy Worsley have also contributed pieces.

Brought together by Historic Royal Palaces and Wild in Art, over 200 local people of all ages have been involved in the creation of these 15 unique sculptures. From Richmond’s Young Carers, to students of Brooklands College, to Hounslow’s Trinjan Women’s Group, 12 community groups and over 200 people have worked with a range of artists and writers to capture the mystery and charm of the palace gardens, and embody this in the form of their very own version of Umbriel.

Dan Ferguson, Head of Events and Partnerships, Historic Royal Palaces, said, ‘Everyone comes to Hampton Court to see our wonderful maze – which is fantastic fun – but in this year in which we’re celebrating our gardens, we wanted to find a way to encourage visitors to explore some of the forgotten places and stories in the palace grounds. It’s been great to get the local community involved in this project and we can’t wait for visitors to start enjoying their marvellous creations!’


Ben Reed, Project Manager, Wild in Art said, “The gnome is a brand new interactive sculpture we’ve developed to celebrate the historical gardens of Hampton Court Palace. Umbriel has got lots of fascinating stories to tell and, with the help of local people alongside talented artists and creative writers, the sculpture has proven to be the perfect canvas to tell these captivating stories and more through visual art and the spoken word.”

About Wild in Art

Wild in Art is the world’s leading creative producer of mass-appeal public art events that bring together communities across all sectors to collaborate in the creation of citywide trails of uniquely painted sculptures.

Wild in Art 2016 events: Pigs Gone Wild (Ipswich), The Great Big Rhino Project (Paignton), Pride of Paisley (Paisley), Herd of Sheffield (Sheffield), Snowdogs by the Sea (Brighton & Hove), Great North Snowdogs (Tyne & Wear), Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail (Dundee), The Big Read (West Midlands) and Gnomes Unearthed (Hampton Court Palace).


Notes for editors

For more information and images, please contact Laura Hutchinson in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office: [email protected]/ 0203 166 6338/07990 726 229.