The Hampton Court Palace Maze

The Hampton Court Palace Maze is still baffling visitors over 300 years after it was created. Follow this historic gem from inception to the modern day, and find out how our expert gardeners are conserving it for the next 300 years.

By Historic Royal Palaces

The Maze, Hampton Court Palace (2017) by Aerial VueHistoric Royal Palaces

Hampton Court Palace is home to the oldest surviving hedge maze in the world, as listed in The Guinness Book of Records. 

William III (1689-1726) by James BrittainHistoric Royal Palaces

The Maze was probably commissioned by William III in around 1690. It’s the most significant surviving feature of the once extensive Wilderness garden. 

Plan of the Maze, Hampton Court Palace (19th century)Historic Royal Palaces

Completed by celebrated garden designers George London and Henry Wise, it’s a trapezoidal shape and was originally planted with hornbeam, so it would have looked very different to today's neatly clipped evergreen hedges. 

The Maze, Hampton Court Palace (20th century)Historic Royal Palaces

When Queen Victoria opened the gardens to the public in 1838, the Maze proved a hugely popular attraction. This postcard shows visitors enjoying the Maze in the early 20th century.   

The Maze, Hampton Court Palace (1900)Historic Royal Palaces

The Hampton Court Maze has been immortalised in popular fiction from the Victorian novel ‘Three Men in a Boat’, by Jerome K Jerome, to 'Paddington Bear and the Marmalade Maze' by Michael Bond.

Naturally, both protagonists get lost in the Maze.   

The Maze, Hampton Court Palace (2019) by Paul Armstrong (Pictures From Above Ltd)Historic Royal Palaces

The Hampton Court Maze is a puzzle-type maze, which means it has lots of possible paths to take and dead ends designed to confuse. 

Known as 'multicursal', this more challenging form of maze proved so popular that the ancient spiral labyrinth type fell out of favour with designers.   

A staff member cuts the hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace (2019) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

But it’s not as easy as you might think! The Maze is known for its many twists, turns and dead ends.

If all the paths of the Maze were put end to end, it would span half a mile. The objective is to find your way to the centre and then navigate your way to the exit. 

On average, it takes 20 minutes to reach the centre. 

This British Pathé film from 1933 promises to show visitors the 'two golden rules' to solve the Maze's puzzle.

A staff member cuts the hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace (2019) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Today, maintaining the Maze requires careful pruning so that it can continue to entertain, confuse and delight the visitors who enter. It remains one of the most popular visitor attractions in the palace gardens. 

A visitor in the Maze, Hampton Court Palace (2017) by David JensenHistoric Royal Palaces

Next time you're at Hampton Court Palace, why not see if you can beat the 20 minutes average to reach the centre...

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