Hampton Court Palace and the Grand Staircase


Dec 7, 2000
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Randy,

[While I address this to Randy due to previous discussions (carrying this on from the Olympic forum), of course anyone is welcome to join in.]

We previously began to discuss whether the Grand Staircase was of the "Jacobean" style, me being not sure just how the "William and Mary" style fit into the scheme of things.

Having visited Hampton Court Palace (just outside of London). I felt that the staircase was very much based on the style used in the William and Mary apartments at Hampton Court. Which may be why the "Shipbuilder" dubbed the style "William and Mary".

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(seen here last Saturday when I was there for the 2nd time)

Mary actually died before her rooms were ever completed at Hampton Court, however William did enjoy the finished apartments until 1702 (when he died). Randy I believe you said that the "Jacobean" period ended about 1700, which would place the construction of these apartments toward the end of that period.

The “Shipbuilder” reads for the Grand Staircase:

quote:

“The style is Early English of the time of William and Mary … The walls are covered with oak paneling, simple and dignified in character, but enriched in a few places by exquisite work reminiscent of the days when Grinling Gibbons collaborated with his great contemporary, Wren.”
I must admit that this latter part always confused me. It sounded like something out of Greek mythology and I never knew what it meant. Having been back at Hampton court, I learnt a lot more about the William and Mary rooms and now understand that comment perfectly.

As will be seen in following postings from me, the vast majority of the rooms are paneled in oak, the paneling being simple yet dignified. Now we’ll take a few steps back. Hampton Court Palace was originally built as a house for Cardinal Wolsey. King Henry VIII asking why Wolsey needed such a big house, resulted in Wolsey giving the palace to the king as a gift (as if Henry’s 59 other palaces weren’t enough for him). As such, it was originally a Tudor palace. In the late 1600’s, William and Mary were on the throne and decided to renovate the palace and add an extension … (continued)​
 
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They commissioned Christopher Wren to design the palace and interiors. Wren in his life had spent almost 50 years being the chief architect to the various royals throughout his time. He was commissioned to redesign and supervise the rebuilding of London after the great fire of 1666, and he was the one who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral … this is all probably common knowledge to most, but was news to me. I’m trying to emphasize his importance as a leading architect of his time.

Grinling Gibbons on the other hand was an incredible wood carver. He began work on the King’s apartments in early 1699, working according to the plans and designs submitted by Christopher Wren. Gibbons finished the monumental task of the carvings by December the same year. He had been carving for a quarter of a century and his previous themes to carve included spreading eagles, hanging game, musical instruments, flower baskets, vases etc. The carvings he did for Hampton Court were of flowers, fruit and foliage.

This is exactly the theme of carvings found in the grand gtaircase. The few places that were enriched by carvings were of course the sides of the column pedestals, the main clock panel between boat and A decks, the carvings seen around the paintings at half landings and surrounding the clock on the panels facing the main landing. People may be familiar with these panels from the photos of surviving paintings seen in some books (or otherwise at the recent auction of paneling) and the clock panel seen in Ken’s report - - all bearing the carved flowers, fruit and foliage.

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Seen here is a section of a room showing the carvings on either side of the painting above the door, and otherwise simple paneling. The next photo is of a large painting the paneling of which is very similar to the way the paintings were mounted and decorated with the carved foliage in the grand staircase at half landings … (continued)
 
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It is also very interesting to note that the frieze used in many places in the William and Mary apartments at Hampton Court (carved with slight variations) is very similar to the frieze used throughout Olympic/Titanic’s grand staircase.

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Seen here is a photo of the simple paneling (with the frieze above it) looking very similar to what was used in the grand staircase. The bottom picture is an enlargement of the the frieze. While not identical to what was used in the grand staircase, it is very similar! ... (continued)
 
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There could well be other “William and Mary”￾ buildings on which the staircase was themed, but I just know of this one place, which to me bears a lot of resemblance as being the inspiration for Olympic and Titanic’s grand staircases.

Regards,

Daniel.

PS. As a little curious observation, below is a photo of three doorways very near to the entrance of the William and Mary apartments (which is just to the left). If placed a little closer together, they begin to resemble the paneling and architraves of the elevator entrances.

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Tripp Carter

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Jun 27, 2004
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Daniel, that's some very interesting work you've done and it certainly helped me to understand the grand staircase' roots better. Thanks!
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Dec 7, 2000
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Tripp,

Thank you for your post. Dare I write more, but I just wanted to add that Gibbons and Wren had worked together before Hampton Court. St. Paul's Cathedral also has some carvings done by Gibbons (and of course it was designed by Wren). However I don't know how much Gibbons and Wren worked together (aside from Hampton Court) during the time of William and Mary. William had a particular taste/style, so I guess that in a way dictated what Wren designed for him ... which is perhaps why it may be called the "William and Mary" style.

Regards,

Daniel.
 

Tripp Carter

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Jun 27, 2004
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You're welcome. It would appear that their collaboration on such works turned out to be very "harmonious". I'm becoming pretty fond of William's style and I would love to someday find a way to replicate it in my home.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Great photos and tremendous report, Daniel. Hampton Court is one of my favourite locations - memories of clouds of daffodils in the 'Wilderness' in spring...legends of Anne Boleyn...the maze. Only thing I had issues with was not being allowed to take photographs in the Haunted Gallery (great legend, although dodgy in its base). Also nice to see Wren come into the discourse as well - I'm a fan of his pupil, Nicholas Hawksmoor, as well as of Wren himself.

Are you back in Oz yet?
 
May 12, 2005
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Great pictures, Daniel! Thanks for sharing them.

Your William and Mary argument is very strong and I agree that the staircase landing, the centerpiece of which is the wondrous clock, is primarily derived from the style. However, the rest of the assemblage, despite the Shipbuilder reference, is (in my opinion) not "pure" William and Mary.

First of all, the structure is wholly of oak, not mahogany which was (according to Titanic’s own decorating diva, Helen Candee) the new wood of choice in the William and Mary epoch. Also, the carvings at Hampton Court, while obviously of the William and Mary era if the estate was built in about 1700, still perfectly evoke the style called Jacobean, the earlier period which ended in 1689 and which was awash with oak, particularly black oak. Likewise, the pillars in the foyer of Titanic/Olympic resemble those used in the exteriors and interiors of houses built during the Jacobean era.

The carvings to me are what give the game away here. The relief work of flora, foliage and fruit, done in the manner that appears in the columns or pilasters on Titanic/Olympic — i.e., springing from a flat surface or background — is a Jacobean innovation, very likely attributable to Sir Christopher Wren, whom Daniel has mentioned. That Wren and Grinling Gibbons were still applying this technique to their designs in the later era of Dutch inspiration is obvious in the photos Daniel shows us above. However, the method began in the Jacobean period.

Basically, I believe the stairs on Titanic/Olympic were a melding of the Jacobean and William and Mary styles. Most of the ships’ period décor was a modification of the original — for instance the white-painted Jacobean paneling in the dining room was not at all an authentic 16th century treatment but a nod rather to the popularity of the French neoclassical mode of the late 18th century.

I have several photos showing Jacobean details, including columns and banisters with relief work and ceilings with domed effects (such as was replicated in the atrium roof of the stairs on Titanic/Olympic), etc. I will post these, when I can, to illustrate the extreme similarities to the motifs seen in Daniel’s pictures.

Since this subject previously caused some dispute, I want to make it clear that I am only trying to share my knowledge of interior design and its history, nothing more. I am not trying to be fussy or have the last word. I welcome Daniel’s input, which I encouraged from the beginning. He is a friend of some years standing and a researcher of genuine ability.

And besides, we are really not in any disagreement. I just think the stairs are not "all" William and Mary but a hybrid of that style and Jacobean.
 
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Inger!

Great to hear from you! I told you I was going to bore you with my comparisons, so I took up 4 posts on this thread, imagine if I dished it all in one, would be very hard to read, I think the breaks help.

I love Hampton Court, the only set back was that by the end of the 6 weeks (we went there the day before we left) I had to listen to the winging of a tired girlfriend who didn't want to walk anywhere anymore ... however it was Emily who took that great photo (that I posted at the beginning) after I dragged her and made her walk down the gardens.

This trip really opened my eyes about a lot of things. I didn't realise just how much Sir Christopher Wren had done in the 50 years of his work. I found [an expensive] book about Grinling Gibbons as well which I didn't buy, but I had a look at his work. That guy had a talent for making absolutely exquisite carvings, and this is quite evident at Hampton Court as well.

The maze was closed the day we were there, and I'd never heard of the Haunted Gallery!! Sounds like I'd have to go back again ;-)

I don't think we were allowed to take photos in the rooms either, but they were poorly patronised, so I took a few shots without a flash, a- no one noticed, b- I didn't do any harm to the paintings or furniture etc.

Yep, I've been back in Oz for a day and a bit now! :)

Daniel.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Randy,

I've been holding my breath waiting for your post! :) You opinions are always valued. I'm yet to fully read the book I got on the W&M rooms at Hampton Court, but from what I've read so far, William decided to build this new wing at Hampton Court in 1689, which coincides with the ending of the 1st Jacobean period/phase.

By the way, we're certainly not at argument here, we're discussing this, which is the whole point of the exercise. Also, I’m beginning to think, why does the William and Mary style have to be a style in its own right? It has strong characteristics of the Jacobean style, and as such is probably the late phase of this period. It just so happened to be that it was used to construct rooms for William and Mary. Perhaps by calling it “William and Mary” it simply means “late Jacobean”?

Having observed the panels when I was at Hampton court, the skirting boards were fashioned almost the same (if not identical) for the grand staircases, the ridges and carving of the rectangular field panels are also copied quite closely from the panels at Hampton Court, along with the garlands of fruits, flowers and foliage. Even the themes of paintings were used. There are various “Italian Landscape” paintings in the rooms, as well as a “Flower Piece” such as the painting that hung above the staircase leading down to D deck reception room. So it is fairly obvious that the William and Mary rooms were quite a strong inspiration to the staircase foyer décor. However this merely was a late Jacobean phase.

The balustrades on the stairs leading to William’s rooms while being intricate wrought iron, are not bulky like the O/T grand staircase which I agree with you has a very Jacobean appearance.

Here’s a comparison between the Olympic and Hampton Court frieze.

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Daniel.
 
Jun 18, 2007
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I see some similarities between the Hampton Court interiors and the Titanic/Olympic ones, but as said, it's more of a surface similarity than anything specific. But it's not unlikely that someone didn't have some sort of inspiration from Hampton Court when designing the interiors. But who would have had that inspiration, I wonder, if that were the case? Oh well, no matter.

"Only thing I had issues with was not being allowed to take photographs in the Haunted Gallery"

Any reason given for why you can't take pictures there? It's about that ghost legend, isn't it? Didn't seem to stop them from publicizing a so-called ghost photo a year ago involving a security door, but anyway....
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Good to have you back, Daniel!
quote:

however it was Emily who took that great photo (that I posted at the beginning) after I dragged her and made her walk down the gardens.
I was going to comment on that! It's a great shot - the ominous clouds against the crisp lines and colours, verdant green and brick red.

The 'Haunted Gallery' is the approach to the Chapel Royal - the legend is that the Fifth of Henry VIII's wives, Katherine Howard, broke free of her captors when she was under 'house arrest' and tried to reach the Chapel where Henry was attending a service. She was caught and dragged off, and her ghost is supposed to run screaming down the Gallery. Sometimes, so the story goes, it was simply the sound of her hysterical shrieks. I've read some fairly effective debunking investigations of the tale, but it's still wonderfully evocative! I was most interested in the portraits in the Gallery when I visited.

I don't think the so-called 'Haunted Gallery' prohibited interior shots because of the supernatural legends, Kritina - it seemed to be a general ban on photographing many of the interiors.

Did you get a guide, Daniel? One of the ubiquitous Pitkin guides, for example? I'll check and see my copy at home to see if they mentioned the Gallery. I think they did make note of it during the tour, but it wasn't something they emphasised. I'd just grown up with the story, having an interest in Tudor England.

I do like your clear comparative images - it does make it easier to follow the points of decoration under discussion.​
 
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Inger,

Oh, I heard that story but we didn't have a guide there so I didn't know THAT was the gallery. I think we winded up there somehow after the kitchens. There was no one in sight to protest, so I could have taken a photo.

We got two guides, one to take us through William III's rooms, and another to Henry VIII's rooms. The rest of the time Emily spent being bored while I studied each room ;-)

I will do more comparisons, but I have the photos on two different computers. My Olympic/Titanic photos I have on this one, and the holiday ones on a lap top. I did the last comparison by using that frieze photo I posted earlier from the other computer. For the paneling I'll need the original photo so that I could work with a better clarity one.

Daniel.
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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I know an award winning tour guide at Hampton Court (Ian Franklin). He has spent many many years researching the ghosts of Hampton Court. He says he can trace the Catherine Howard story to the end of the 19th century to two old ladies who wanted re-settling within the building..and there are no records of the case before then. Indeed, he found no basis for most of the more spectacular ghost stories, although he had encountered a couple of strange things himself.

He denies that the fire door event was a publicity scam invented by the palace - he says that the figure was probably a member of the public (Hampton have Medieval costume parties at that time of year) helpfully closing the door, but he says that that door has been known to swing open of its own accord from time to time.

Alas, many unscrupulous ghost authors simply regurgitate old stories (rather like the Titanic!) and fail to research old material to ensure that the accounts are accurate...so we have had Catherine Howard et al. wandering around the castle as ghosts but with no solid proof to back it all up!

Cheers

Paul
--
http://www.paullee.com
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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G'day Paul! I wonder if it was Ian Franklin's account that I've read debunking the Cathering Howard story? You're right about the regurgitation - particularly in anthologies. One of my particular bugbears are the reports of Admiral Tryon's ghost. Did your friend have a view on the Sybyll Penn story?
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Hi Ing,
Sybyll Penn? Sorry, never heard about her!

The Admiral Tyrone story was debunked as long ago as 1981/2 - next time I see you, I can give you a magazine article about the debunking.

Cheers

Paul
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http://www.paullee.com
 
Mar 28, 2002
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Morning all,

Sibell Penn was the nurse to Prince Edward VI, Henry VIII's only son. His mother Jane Seymour died in childbirth in 1537 at the Palace. Sibell died in 1562 and was buried at Hampton Church, within the Palace grounds. During demolition work on the church in 1829, Sibell's remains were disturbed and she is said to wander the rooms where she lived during her time at the Palace. There is also some talk of a ghostly spinning wheel behind a bricked up room.

Here is the fire door ghost in all his glory:

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Cheers,

Boz
 

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