Inventory Site Record

Hampton Court House Grounds *

Hampton Court House Grounds * (Richmond)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Hampton Court House was built in 1757, designed for Mrs Anne Maria Donaldson, mistress of George Montagu Dunk, the 2nd Earl of Halifax, Ranger of Bushy Park and Chief Steward of Hampton Court Palace. Fine gardens were designed with the house by Thomas Wright, which included an ornamental lake and shell grotto. Later occupants in the C19th and early C20th made changes to the gardens. It remained in private occupation until it was sold to MCC in 1948, when part of the garden reverted to Bushy Park. It was used as a home for the elderly, a theatre and since 1998 has been a private independent school.

Practical Information
Site location:
Hampton Court Green/Bushy Park (Campbell Road off Hampton Court Road)
Type of site:
Institutional Grounds, Garden Feature Remnants
Open to public?
By appointment only
Opening times:
private; open for London Open House; group visits by appointment through Orleans House Gallery
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: Hampton Court. Bus: 111, 216, 411, R68, R70.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see

Mrs Donaldson was a well-known dancer and singer, going by the name of Anna Maria Faulkner, who performed at Covent Garden Theatre and in the C18th Marylebone Pleasure Gardens, and was also engaged by David Garrick to perform at Drury Lane. 'Charmed by her musical powers', the Earl of Halifax arranged a post for her husband as Secretary to the Governor of Jamaica in exchange for his wife whom he took as governess to his two daughters as a cover. Mrs Donaldson subsequently gave birth to two children by the Earl. Hampton Court House was built at the bottom of the Earl's garden at Bushy House; the grounds are separated from Bushy Park (q.v.) by a wall to east, north and west. A ha-ha separates it to the south from Hampton Court Green (q.v.), part of which was taken for the house, with a further 3 acres of the Green added in 1762 and converted to make the gardens. The approach drive is from south-east, leading to the south-west front of the house.

Hampton Court House was designed by Thomas Wright, who also laid out the gardens between 1757 and 1769, which included an ornamental central pond, originally heart-shaped, to the south-west of which was a shell grotto built into an artificial mound against the south boundary. It was designed as a summerhouse with fireplaces for moonlit parties and combined the fashions of the 1750s for Rococo garden design and shell collecting. It was described by David Garrick, who lived nearby, in a poem 'Upon a certain Grotto near Hampton' : "A Grotto this, by Mortal Hand! O no - we tread in fairy land 'Tis raised by Mab's enchanted wand' So rare, so elegant, so bright It dazzles, while it charms the sight." Thomas Wright's book 'Six Original Designs for Grottoes' (1755/58) has an illustration that relates to this one. His interest in astronomy is shown in the depiction on the floor of the 4 quarters of the moon and the symbolic shading of the West side on the right and the lightening of the East on the left. The grotto was first restored in 1856 and, following a campaign by Hampton Residents Association, again in 1983-86 by architect Donald Insall, jeweller Diana Reynell and sculptor Simon Verity, with shells collected from all over the world. Re-grading of the grotto from LBII to LBII* had enabled funding to be sought from English Heritage. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

Between the grotto and the house, south of the Wright's Heart-Shaped Lake, was an octagonal hut raised on a mound, possibly an ice house, and also probably by Wright. This was converted to a rustic summer house in the C19th. North-east of the lake is the remains of a gothic arch. Against the north-east wall, facing south-west is a terrace, possibly originally made as a bowling green.

After the Earl's death in 1771, Mrs Donaldson continued to live here, followed by her daughter. In the C19th the house had a number of tenants until 1883 when Sir Thomas Twining purchased it for his daughter Augusta and her husband Auguste de Wette, and it became the centre of much social activity. In 1810 another 0.8 hectares (2 acres) had been added to the gardens as shown on the OS map of 1864. The house was enlarged and altered during the course of the C19th, and again post 1914, after a period of neglect when Hubert Gore-Lloyd purchased the site. Additions in the C19th/early C20th included the Conservatory of c.1875 to the north-west, once the winter garden, which has now gone leaving a raised tiled terrace and palm trees; a C19th semi-circular rose walk and arbour added on the present north-west boundary, backed by a yew hedge, although the cast-iron arbour and central statue are all that remain; and formal rose beds to the south-west of the house dating from C19th/earlyC20th. The grounds also contained an orchard and kitchen garden. Mature trees in the grounds include oak, chestnut, weeping willow, silver birch, Scots pine.

From 1925, Gore-Lloyd's son Edmond, who was interested in the theatre, encouraged the local Cardinal Operatic and Dramatic Society to perform in the house, himself acting, producing and stage managing. During WWII it was used as a clothes and goods store for people whose homes had been bombed, and in 1945 it was sold to the Middlesex County Council, at which time the semi-circular garden to the north of the house reverted back to Bushy Park. In 1946 the MCC converted the house into a retirement home for Elderly Ladies. Upon the demise of the MCC in 1965 ownership passed to the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, who continued to run the Home until 1982, although the decision to close the Home and sell the site resulted in much local opposition. In 1969 the Teddington Theatre Club had been encouraged to renovate the Theatre, which they leased until 1995. The grounds around south to north-west of the house formerly comprised 3.5 hectares, but c.1.5 hectares were leased for a separate nursery business on the site of the kitchen garden in 1968.

Unable to sell the house, Richmond Council leased it between 1983-1992 to Save the Children Fund as a home for Vietnamese Boat People's children. Various attempts by the Council to sell the site from 1985 onwards were unsuccessful, and its adoption of the Thames Landscape Strategy in 1994 embraced a proposal 'to restore the visual connection between Hampton Court House and Hampton Green'. In 1996 The Musical Museum, founded in 1963 and housed in inadequate premises in St George's Church, Brentford, put in a bid to acquire the house and grounds through a Heritage Lottery grant, proposing to restore and re-use the house and grounds as a museum and tourist attraction. However, in 1997 the house was purchased by Lady Houstoun-Boswell who opened it as an independent private school.

Sources consulted:

Musical Museum HLF bid 1996. NHLE Register list: Country Life, 5/8/1982, p392-394, 18/12/1986 p1956-59, 5/12/1987, p65; 'Blest Retreats', LB Richmond 1984 p12-14; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999. John Archer, David Curson, 'Nature Conservation in Richmond upon Thames, Ecology Handbook 21', (London Ecology Unit) 1993 p81; John Vickers and Betty Young 'A Methodist Guide to London and the South East' (Methodist Publishing House) 2nd ed 1991

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
2 (3.5 with nursery site)
Site ownership:
Site management:
1757-1769; C19th; C20th
C18th garden: Thomas Wright
Listed structures:
LBII*: Shell Grotto.
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II*
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance? Check
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

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