Warm kitchens – and chilling tales of Tudor ghosts

Tudor palaces were often cold and draughty but at least the kitchens were warm – as QE’s Year 8 boys found out for themselves during a trip to Hampton Court on a particularly chilly day.

“The kitchens were designed to feed the Court of Henry VIII, which meant meals for 600 people twice a day,” said Head of History Helen MacGregor. “The working fire was very welcome in warming us all up, and the boys were particularly interested to see the roasting spits, where boys of a similar age to themselves would have spent the whole day turning the spits.”

The tour was peopled by actors dressed as characters from the Tudor age, including Henry VIII. “A number of boys spoke to him,” said Miss MacGregor. “He was very knowledgeable about Barnet and spoke to them about the Battle of Barnet in 1471, one of the key clashes of the Wars of the Roses.”

""The boys also saw his motto, ‘Dieu et mon droit’, which the School shares. This is written 32 times in the chapel at Hampton Court Palace. A number of other highlights included: the astronomical clock; Henry’s royal apartments and the great hall; the famous painting, Field of the Cloth of Gold; the apartments designed for William III by Sir Christopher Wren, and the Maze.

The palace is reportedly haunted by a number of ghosts, including ‘The Lady in Grey’. Sibell Penn was a nurse to Henry VIII’s only son, Prince Edward. Her grave was disturbed in 1829, when the old church was pulled down. It is said she returned to the rooms she inhabited, after which a spinning wheel could be heard from behind a wall. When that wall was demolished, a forgotten room was found, containing an old spinning wheel.

“The boys were very keen to hear the ghost stories!” said Miss MacGregor. “The Wolsey Closet is reported to have a strange atmosphere and some people refuse to enter it because it feels ‘evil’.

“Overall, this is an excellent trip because there is so much of interest to see, which augments what they have been learning in their History lessons.”