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Tudor Kitchens Fact Sheet

From: Hampton Court Palace Tudor Kitchens


ABOVE: Game was obtained from the palace's own park, pheasant yard, and rabbit warren.

The Tudor Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace date back to 1514, when they served the household of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. After Wolsey surrendered the palace to King Henry VIII, the king ordered the kitchens expanded. Here's a factsheet about the kitchens, compliments of the public-relations staff at Historic Royal Palaces:

  • The kitchens at Hampton Court Palace, extended by Henry VIII in 1729, occupied more than 50 rooms and some 3,000 square feet or 279 square meters. In their heyday, they were staffed by 200 people providing two meals a day for the 800 members of the king's court who were entitled to eat there.

  • Sited on the cooler north side of Hampton Court Palace, the kitchens were reached through a separate gatehouse and grouped around three courtyards. The gatehouse was occupied by the Cofferer (the kitchen accountant) and his assistants, the Clerks of the Greencloth, who monitored the arrival of all supplies and staff to the kitchens.

  • The Spicery was situated on the western court and was filled with exotic spices imported from the Orient and Europe, as well as English mustard and herbs grown in the palace's own herb garden.The Office of Spicery was responsible for the huge quantities of fruit produced in the palace gardens each year, including apples and pears from Hampton Court's two orchards.

  • In the same courtyard as the Spicery was the Chandlery, where wax (for candles and tapers) andline were stored. There was also a Coal House in which charcoal was stored.This provided an alternative source of heat to the fierce wood fires most commonly used by the Tudor cooks.

  • At the eastern end of the central court was the Great Kitchen with its six large fireplaces. One of these fireplaces retains its spit-racks, and the other five openings would have had similar cooking apparatus. At eachend of the Great Kitchen were hatches at which liveried serving men would collect the completed dishes and take them to the Great Hall.

  • In the Confectionery, sweet dishes were prepared for the more important members of the Court. It was here that the wife who made the king's puddings worked--the only woman known to have been employed in the kitchen complex. In the Pastry House, both sweet and savoury pies and pasties were prepared in four ovens. The largest oven measured 12 feet 6 inches (3.8 meters) in diameter.

  • Meat stock and boiled meat were produced in the Boiling House, using a great boiling-copper on the east wall of the room with a capacity of about 75 imperial gallons (341 liters).

  • The Tudor Kitchens had three larders. Meat was hung in the Flesh Larder, fish was stored in the Wet Larder, and pulses and nuts were kept in the Dry Larder. Venison, culled from the Royal Parks, was hung in the Flesh Larder for as long as six weeks before consumption, while meat was also supplied from the palace's own pheasant yard and rabbit warren. The Wet Larder could be stocked with fish from the palace's Pond Garden for consumption on Fridays and during Lent.

  • A list from the reign of Elizabeth I reveals the quantity of meat cooked in the royal kitchens in one year: 1,240 oxes, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs, and a modest 53 wild boar.

  • The palace had three cellars. The Wine Cellar was used to store the 300 casks of wine drunk by the Court eachyear and had a drinking house attached (presumably for wine tasting). Wine and ale for the King and Queen were kept in the Privy Cellar, while the majority of the ale drunk by the Court (around 600,000 gallons or 2,228,000 liters per year) was stored in the Great Cellar. This had two locks on the door, and the keys were held by two different officials for extra security.

  • Today, the Flesh Larder is stocked with pheasants, rabbits, and wild boar, and the Great Kitchens are laid out as if for the Feast of St. John the Baptist in 1542. Pewter dishes (shown in the photo) are laden with pies and stuffed carp, ready to be carried into the Great Hall.

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