Hampton Court Maze - History and Facts | History Hit

Hampton Court Maze

Lucy Davidson

11 Aug 2021
Image Credit: Flikr / Elliott Brown

About Hampton Court Maze

Hampton Court Maze is a yew tree maze measuring around half an acre. It forms part of the extensive gardens at Hampton Court Palace, one of five Historic Royal Palaces in Britain (as defined by the Historic Royal Palaces charity), located in Richmond Upon Thames, England.

History of Hampton Court Maze

Hampton Court’s maze is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the UK and the first to have been planted in the country. It dates back to the end of the 17th century, when it was thought to have been commissioned by William III in his final years as monarch.

Designed and planted by garden designers George London and Henry Wise, the maze originally formed part of what used to be known as the Wilderness Garden, used by William III for leisurely walks. Although hornbeam was the first plant that made up its many borders and tunnels, it was later replanted with yew. The maze is multicursal (also known as a puzzle maze), meaning there are multiple routes to the centre, as opposed to a unicursal maze, which features only one path leading to the centre. Unicursal mazes were the more common format for some time, but Hampton Court’s maze soon became a hit when the gardens were opened to the public in 1838, demonstrating the popularity of multicursal mazes.

It was later referenced by English author and humourist Jerome K. Jerome in 1889 in his most well-known novel, ‘Three Men in a Boat’, when one of the characters – Harris – optimistically believes Hampton Court Maze to be “so simple that it seemed foolish”, only to get very, very lost in it, before having to call out to the grounds-keeper for help. The maze also complemented other grand gardens at the palace commissioned by William III and his wife, Mary II, including the Great Fountain Garden and the Privy Garden.

Hampton Court Maze today

The maze remains a hugely popular part of the Hampton Court Palace visitor experience and is still widely regarded as the most famous maze in the world. Visitors to the palace can also explore the other gardens alongside the maze, as well as touring the palace itself.

Getting to Hampton Court Maze

The palace and gardens are found in Richmond Upon Thames, a borough of southwest London. However, Hampton Court’s official address is East Molesey, which forms part of the county of Surrey (Richmond was historically a part of Surrey). Hampton Court rail station is around half a mile away and there is also a car park on the site. The palace and grounds lie just south of Bushy Park, a large, popular public park.

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