Objects Unwrapped – Grace and Favour

When George III became king in 1760, he chose not to use Hampton Court Palace as a royal residence, preferring instead the intimacy of nearby Kew Palace. It was already customary to grant rooms at the palace to those who had served the monarch, so the decision was taken to turn Hampton Court into a giant lodging house for Grace and Favour residents. Individuals and their families could apply for apartments if they had carried out service to the crown or state and included minor royals, aristocrats, military leaders, diplomats, gardeners, and even the odd scientist. By 1776, the ‘quality poorhouse’ as it was known was already full and there was a long waiting list for those wishing to secure a suite of rooms at the palace.

Servants bell

At the height of Grace and Favour during the 19th century, there were as many as 100 residents living at Hampton Court. To look after them, a further 200–300 servants also lived and worked at the palace. The apartments were often large with on average 14 rooms (some had up to 40 rooms!) spread across many floors. This bell is one of several from the Victorian and Edwardian period that would have been heard, ringing to summon a servant through the labyrinth of corridors and stairways that make up the palace. If you look carefully you can see many of these bell systems still present throughout the palace today.

Servants bell

‘New Baby Belling’ oven

Up until the 18th century, the palace had large centralised kitchens preparing hundreds of meals a day for the court. This stopped once it became a Grace and Favour residence, with servants preparing individual meals for their employers instead. Throughout the 20th century, the number of servants dramatically declined, and the apartments, which were often cold and uncomfortable, were gradually modernised. This 1960s ‘New Baby Belling’ oven was specifically designed for use in smaller households, perfect for the 20th century Grace and Favour resident, but a bit of struggle to fit your Christmas turkey in!


Jigsaw puzzle

Several generations of the same family often lived together at the palace. By 1840, there were enough children living at Hampton Court for it to have its own school, with a schoolhouse being built on Tennis Court Lane in the 1870s. This was also attended by the children of those working at the palace and children from nearby Hampton and East Moseley. This colourful 1950s jigsaw puzzle, ‘Family Favourite: The Northbound Express’, belonged to the child of a Grace and Favour family, who lived at the palace during much of the 20th century.


Hymn book

There was a strong sense of community spirit among the residents at the palace, with the Chapel Royal often at its centre. It played an important role in the lives of residents from attending regular services to the cycles of weddings, christenings and funerals. This leather bound book of ‘Church Services – Hymns A+M’ was given to a former Grace and Favour resident as a Christmas present in 1917 and may have been used in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court. Services continue to be held at the Chapel Royal to this day.


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