In Saxon times Kingston achieved strategic importance by being on the Wessex/Mercia border. It was in Kingston in 925 that Aethelstan was crowned as the first king of all England. In total six Saxon kings were crowned in Kingston.
Experts disagree as to when the first Kingston Bridge was built. Some say that it was built during Saxon times while others say that it was in the 12th century. What is known is that until 1729 when Putney Bridge was built it was the first river crossing upstream from London Bridge. Having a bridge meant that Kingston became a prosperous town. The bridge was damaged during the War of the Roses and also during Wyatt's Rebellion. The present bridge was opened in 1828 as a toll bridge. Tolls were abolished in 1870.
Hampton Court ParkThe area covered by Hampton Court Park (often called Home Park) was first enclosed by Thomas Wolsey and later became a walled park under Henry VIII. The park covers an area of about 750 acres. It borders on to the Hampton Court Formal Gardens and is separated from Bushy Park by the A308. The Long Water, surrounded by great avenues of lime trees, extends for ¾ mile from the formal gardens and was commissioned by Charles I but not built until the time of Charles II. The park has a herd of around 300 Fallow Deer which are used to maintain the park's acid grassland. Each summer, around 24 acres of the Park are occupied by the Hampton Court Flower Show. The park was opened to the public in 1893.
Hampton Court Palace
Thomas Wolsey began life as a butcher's son from Ipswich. He was then talent spotted and was sent first to Ipswich Grammar School and then to Magdalen College Oxford. He got his degree at 15 and had a distinguished academic career before becoming Royal Chaplain to Henry VII. When his father died a young Henry VIII became increasingly reliant on Wolsey who eventually became Archbishop of York and a Cardinal. As a result Wolsey became extremely rich. On becoming archbishop Wolsey acquired York Place which was a fairly run down property at the time. Wolsey then turned it into one of the finest houses in England. Wolsey, however, did not enjoy the best of health, in particular he suffered from kidney stones. He was advised that the purest water was to be found in Coombe Springs, and he acquired the property at Hampton from the prior of the order of St John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitallers). He then installed 3 miles of lead piping to take the water from Coombe Hill to Hampton Court.
Wolsey's fall from power was caused by his mishandling of the divorce between Henry and Catherine of Aragon and a failed attempt to become pope. Wolsey also made the mistake of developing Hampton Court into a property more lavish than Henry VIII's nearby Richmond Palace. Wolsey was forced by Henry to swap homes. Shortly after moving to Richmond Palace Wolsey died.
Henry needed a big palace in order to accommodate his 1000 strong court. During this time he build the Great Hall and Great Kitchens which remain today. Succeeding Monarch's used the palace as a place of residence. Oliver Cromwell also like staying there so it survived intact during the civil war years.
William III wanted a palace to rival Versailles and began a programme of extensive redevelopment under plans drawn up by Sir Christopher Wren. This programme ceased abruptly on the death of his wife Queen Mary II from Smallpox. William died at Hampton Court six years later when he fell from his horse which tripped on a molehill.
The last monarch to live in Hampton Court Palace was George II. His grandson George III had bad memories of Hampton Court because of an incident there when he was struck by his grandfather. Hampton Court Palace was opened to the public by Queen Victoria in 1838.
Hampton Court Maze is a hedge maze planted sometime between 1689 and 1695 for William III. The maze covers a third of an acre and contains half a mile of paths. It was originally planted with hornbeam, although it has been repaired using many different types of hedge.
Bushy Park now covers an area of 1100 acres. It is home to around 320 of Fallow and Red Deer who wander freely around the park. It is renowned for its acidic grassland which supports a large number of invertebrates.
When Henry VIII acquired Hampton Court Palace from Thomas Wolsey he also acquired the 3 distinct parks of Hare Warren, Middle Park and Old Park which he used extensively for deer hunting. James I built the main road through the park called Chestnut Avenue. Charles I added the Longford River and the many ponds. During Oliver Cromwell's time the ponds were linked together.
In 1713 the Earl of Halifax who was an advisor to the Queen Anne merged Hare Warren, Middle Park and Old Park into a single entity of Bushy Park. As part of that process he built the magnificent Water Gardens at Upper Lodge (now restored with lottery money).
The Arethusa Fountain was commissioned by Charles I for his wife Queen Henrietta Maria for her garden in Somerset House. Oliver Cromwell took a shine to it and moved it to the Privy Garden of Hampton Court. As part of the plan to redesign Chestnut Avenue by Sir Christopher Wren the fountain was moved into its present position in 1713.
The Duke of Clarence (later William IV) became ranger of Bushy Park in 1797. He cut down and sold a lot of the ancient oak woodland but later when he became king he opened Bushy Park to the public free of charge.
During WW1 the Upper Lodge was converted into a 400 bed hospital for the Canadian Army. In the inter war years it became a school for underprivileged children from the east end. When the United States entered WW2 Bushy Park became the headquarters of the USAF and later General Eisenhower used Camp Griffiths (named after an American flyer killed by friendly fire) as a base in the park from where he planned the D-Day invasion.
After the war the Woodland Gardens were developed and the park became what we know and love today.
Refreshments on route
The Pleasantry Plantation Cafe in Bushy Park
A ticket to Hampton Court Palace normally includes tickets to the Hampton Court Maze and Hampton Court Formal Gardens. The maze and the gardens can be visited independently of the palace. For prices etc http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/