Henry VIII’s pleasure palace found at Hampton Court

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Archaeologists working at Hampton Court Palace have solved a mystery that has been puzzling historians for decades.

Henry VIII's pleasure palace found at Hampton Court
Archaeologists have found the location of one of the lost Tiltyard Towers 
Hampton Court Palace [Credit: Evening Standard]

The team has, for the first time, unearthed the remains of one of the Palace’s lost Tiltyard Towers, which were built at the height of King Henry VIII’s reign in the 1530s.

The five famous towers were among the earliest banqueting houses built in England, and once stood within the walled Tiltyard where Tudor monarchs held jousts and tournaments.

Henry VIII's pleasure palace found at Hampton Court
The historic tile floor is examined by an archaeologist 
[Credit: Richard Lea-Hair]

The first recorded tournament at Hampton Court took place in 1557, when Queen Mary I held a ‘grand spectacle of jousting’ to celebrate Christmas, and the tradition was continued by her sister, Queen Elizabeth I.

The exact location of the mysterious towers has eluded archaeologists for decades, until the green-glazed tiled floor of one was uncovered last week during routine maintenance work.

Henry VIII's pleasure palace found at Hampton Court
A gilded lead leaf discovered at the site 
[Credit: Richard Lea-Hair]

Palace curators hope that by finding one of the five towers they will be able to finally pinpoint the locations of the remaining four.

The towers, which were thought to have been used as viewing galleries for the tournaments staged on feast days, had been largely demolished by the 1680s, but the glimpses of them that appeared in 16th and 17th century images of the palace have tantalised historians ever since.

Henry VIII's pleasure palace found at Hampton Court
A contemporary drawing of Hampton Court Palace, showing the five Tiltyard 
towers Henry VIII had built for dignitaries [Credit: The Times]

Daniel Jackson, historic buildings curator from Hampton Court Palace, said: “We’re extremely excited to have uncovered the remains of one of the lost tiltyard towers – a mystery that’s been puzzling our predecessors for decades.

“Being able to plot the location of this tower will open up new avenues of research, perhaps finally enabling us to locate the others, and to better understand these exceptionally significant buildings, which we think were some of the earliest banqueting houses of their type built in this country.”

Author: Hannah Al-Othman | Source: Evening Standard [December 19, 2015]

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