5 Tudor-Inspired Days Out By Train

Looking for days out by train? Tudor fans won't want to miss these five hotspots, where you can get your fill of Tudor history, in the South East of England.

Bargate Lion, Southampton - photo: Jo Romero

Windsor Castle
With its famous and imposing Round Tower and thick, grey stone walls, Windsor Castle was built in 1070, by William the Conqueror on the site of a Saxon settlement. But it's home to a lot of Tudor history, too. Anne Boleyn was made Marquess of Pembroke here, in what is now the Garter Throne Room, in 1532, in a move to raise her to the status of one of the noblest (by title, anyway) women in England and pave the way for her to soon become Queen.  

Tudor monarchs stayed in Windsor often, arriving by boat from the Thames that runs alongside the castle. The armour of Henry VIII (probably used for display rather than active combat at this time of his life) is also on display, giving you some idea of his size and height. Check out the portraits throughout the castle and you'll find paintings of the young princess Elizabeth and other Tudors. 

St George's Chapel, built in the late fifteenth century, was redeveloped during this period, and some famous Tudors are buried here. You'll find Henry VIII's memorial stone in the centre of the choir, where he was brought from Whitehall Palace after he died there in 1547. He's buried here with his third wife Jane Seymour. Henry's grandfather on his mother's side, King Edward IV, and his close friend (and brother in law) Charles Brandon is also buried here. 

Get off the train at Windsor Station, walk along the platform and head straight through the shopping centre and as you come out, you'll see the castle right in front of you. Walk along towards the right of the castle and the entrance is across the road on the right hand side. 
Website: https://www.rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle

Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is surely the equivalent of the Holy Grail for Tudor fans. Henry VIII acquired it from his Cardinal, Thomas Wolsey in 1528 in his last-minute ditch to placate an angry Henry. Despite this, Wolsey fell into disgrace anyway.

The twisted-chimney, red-bricked palace is split into two parts: the Tudor Palace and the Georgian palace. The story goes that after the Tudors, Hampton Court wasn't used by England's monarchs, until King George came to the throne in 1714. He undertook modernisation of the palace, which, being two hundred years old, seemed old fashioned to eighteenth century royalty and needed repair. But there weren't enough funds to modernise the whole palace, so they worked on half. This was a lucky escape for the Tudor palace and kitchens, which are pretty much as the Tudors would have seen them. 

Walk up the worn, stone steps to Henry's apartments and spot the pomegranate carvings of Catherine of Aragon over the door to the buttery. Enter Henry's wood-beamed Great Hall, and see the tapestries depicting the story of Abraham, worked with gold thread, which glittered to Tudor eyes. Walk through the gallery, and in the footsteps of Henry's fifth queen Catherine Howard, as she was arrested for treason in 1541. Legend has it, learning of her impending arrest, she ran desperately along the corridor towards the Royal Chapel to find Henry and ask for his forgiveness. She was stopped by guards at the arch at the far end of the gallery and never reached Henry. It's thought that the gallery is haunted. There was a definite ice-cold chill around the legs when I visited, and I was interested to learn that this area boasts the most faintings that happen in the palace. 

The Royal Chapel, where Henry learned of the Catherine's misconduct, is at the end of this gallery, as is the room where Henry married Katharine Parr, his sixth and final wife, in 1543. In the chapel, you can stand where Henry's royal pew was, as he looked down at the services below, and then walk around the palace to the main entrance and walk through to the chapel yourself. The ceiling is a real joy to see - a deep blue background, worked with gold stars and golden beams. This is where Henry's baby son Edward was christened in 1537, at just three days old. 

Don't forget the Kitchens - preserved in all their Tudor glory, you'll walk through all the atmospheric, narrow passageways to get there and find yourself in front of the huge roaring fire that cooked the meals for the court. 

Hampton Court is perfect for getting to by train. Get to Hampton Court station, walk through the exit and along the road and you'll see the bridge right in front of you with the view of Hampton Court Palace over the bridge. Keep walking on the right hand side of the busy road, and you'll find the grand gates. The ticket office is down the driveway, on the left hand side. Then with your tickets, you make your way to the main house in front of you. It's about a 5-6 minute walk from the station.

Website: https://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/

Tudor House, Southampton
Perhaps a little less well-known than the other landmarks on this list, Tudor House in Southampton gives us a fascinating glimpse into Tudor history and the life of a Southampton merchant. 

Sir John Dawtrey owned the house at the beginning of Henry VIII's reign, and some of his responsibilities included providing food for the navy, and helping defend this important town. He was also involved in kitting out the Mary Rose. Another Tudor resident was Sir Richard Lyster, a judge and Chief Justice of the King's Bench. He died in 1554. 

Walk around, and spot Elizabethan and Stuart graffiti, a witch's mark etched on the wall (thought to ward off evil) and the beautiful Tudor-style garden. There's also a bronze cannon, which dates to the time of Henry VIII and a leather wine flask in the shape of Elizabeth I. Go down the steps to the air-raid shelter used during World War Two - this was where the barrels were rolled through from the street down into the house's cellar back in Medieval and Tudor times for storage.

From Southampton Central station, walk towards the City Centre, through the Marland's Shopping Centre and out through the High Street. You'll see the Bargate (the old gateway into the Medieval Town) to your right. Go through here, flanked by the traditional lions, and continue until you see West Street on your right. Turn here, then right onto Castle Way, left onto Hamtun Street and then left onto Upper Bugle Street. The unmistakable Tudor-framed building is on your right. About a 10-minute walk. 

Website: https://tudorhouseandgarden.com/

The Victoria and Albert Museum
If you're into actual artefacts as well as Tudor vibes then check out the V&A, on Exhibition Road in London. You'll find sculptures and paintings from Tudor contemporaries (Raphael, for example) and also a fascinating display of items from the period. There's a Tudor bust of Henry VII, a musical instrument thought to have been owned by Elizabeth I and maybe also Anne Boleyn, a Tudor shirt, Henry VIII's writing desk and an original copy of Foxe's Book of Martyrs among other things. Check out the jewellery section for Tudor jewels and coins, too. 

What I love about the exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum is that, while many belong to royalty (and others don't), they give you a real view of what Tudor life was like. The possessions of the Tudor people are on display here and it's almost like stepping back in time yourself. You feel such a connection to these people as you gaze at items that were once loved and cherished. 

With a whole section on Tudor artefacts, you'll spend ages poring over them here. 

You can reach the museum from Paddington Station, if you turn right, cross the road and head towards Kensington Gardens. Walk through the gardens and turn left at the road in front of the Prince Albert statue. Look out for Exhibition Road here on the right, and head down towards the museum, on the left hand side of the road. It's about a 20-minute walk. Otherwise, if you don't feel like walking, take the tube and get off at South Kensington station. The station is practically opposite the V&A. 

Website: https://www.vam.ac.uk/

The Tower of London
Where do we start? It's the place Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I both stayed before their coronations, and both were also imprisoned here. Anne Boleyn was beheaded here, in 1536. Other Tudors that met their end within these walls were George Boleyn (Anne's brother), the musician Mark Smeaton (implicated in Anne's fall), Lady Jane Grey, Henry's fifth Queen, Catherine Howard, and one of her ladies, Lady Rochford. Ironically, Lady Rochford instigated Anne Boleyn's fall, by being one of the first to come forward with 'evidence' of her treason, but found herself at the block a few years later for helping Catherine Howard organise her secret meetings with her alleged lover Thomas Culpeper. Anne, Catherine and Lady Rochford are all buried together at St Peter Ad Vincula, the church inside the tower grounds, which probably makes for an awkward afterlife. 

Henry's armour is also housed here, and knowledgable guides will take you to the important sites, including the site of the dreaded scaffold. 

You can reach the Tower by taking the tube to Tower Hill Station, a 5-minute walk from the entrance.

Website: https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/

Any other places you'd add to this list? Let me know in the comments below. 

Find out about the Southampton women who played roles during the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century. From a merchant's wife to a royal mistress, I explore their stories and others, in my book Forgotten Women of the Wars of the Roses, published by Pen and Sword. Order your copy here. 

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Visits to Windsor Castle, Hampton Court and Tudor House.