Saturday, 25 October 2014

Royal Mews, Hampton Court Palace

In 1537 Henry VIII, wanted suitable accommodation for his horses at Hampton Court, so he commissioned Christopher Dickinson to build the Royal Mews. The stables were arranged around a square courtyard, at a cost of £130. The chosen site was between the river (Thames) and Hampton Court Green at quite a distance from the palace. The new building provided stabling for the King's Horses and also for those courtiers entitled to stabling. Above the stables were hay lofts, tack rooms and in the attics, accommodation for the officers of the stable.

Henry's daughter, Queen Elizabeth was to preside over a modest revolution in royal transport. Previously monarchs had traveled between London and Hampton Court along the River Thames, aboard the royal barge. The Queen however took to coach travel.  The bells of Kingston church were rung each time the queen passed by.  In 1570 the churchwardens' accounts showed that she increasingly passed by along the road. In 1571 the bells were rung eight times, but only on one occasion was it the royal barge that carried the queen. The end of one era and the beginning of another.

To house her carriages and horses, Queen Elizabeth built a new coach house of fourteen bays measuring 16' by 75' next to the original stables. A great central arch gave access for the coaches, and a stone plaque above it reads 'Elizabethe Regina 1570'.

How wonderful that after 450 years, horses are still kept in these stables. They belong to the Horse Rangers Association an organisation that teaches suburban children how to ride and care for horses.