Caring for Collections at Historic Royal Palaces

Come behind the scenes for a glimpse of important treasures from our collections

Working in the collections stores at Hampton Court Palace (2024) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Historic Royal Palaces develops, manages and cares for a collection of tens of thousands of objects housed in the six remarkable sites that are in its charge: the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, the Banqueting House, and Hillsborough Castle. 

Working in the Hampton Court Palace Collections Store (2014) by Kieron BoyleHistoric Royal Palaces

We have 110,798 items in our collection. 70 percent of these items form our archaeology collection recounting over 10,000 years of history in the London area. In 2023, we have added 338 objects to our collection.

Fragment of Flint ToolHistoric Royal Palaces

The oldest object in our collection

This flint tool was discovered at the Tower of London. It is over 10,000 years old and dates from the Palaeolithic era. The tool would have been used for cutting or chopping materials, such as wood and meat.

Saxon ceramic pottery (800-1066)Historic Royal Palaces

An important archaeological find

Fragments of Saxon pottery from a  cremation urn were found in a 1930s excavation of Whitehall Palace which stood in London from the 13th to 17th centuries. The Saxon period dated from 410–1066 AD. There is minimal Saxon evidence in London, so this is an important find.

The first acquisition into our Collection

Our collection began in 1978 when this Open Robe and petticoat was acquired into the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, a designated collection of national and international importance. 

The garment is a 19th century imitation of 18th century open robe using original fabric.

Moving a large object in the stores at Hampton Court Palace (2024) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

In addition to our Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, we cover Artworks, Archaeology, Architectural, Palaces and People, Decorative Arts and Books and Manuscripts.

The ceiling of the Cupola Room, Kensington Palace (1722-25) by William KentHistoric Royal Palaces

The largest object in our collection

By surface area, the Cupola Room ceiling painting is 605 square metres. This painting  dazzles visitors to Kensington Palace with its skilful trompe d'oeil  effect across its  domed shape. The painting has even influenced the design of a red-carpet gown worn by Billy Porter.

Zoom in to take a closer look at the painting's details.

Insect repellent FrontHistoric Royal Palaces

From more recent times

Our collections cover a vast range of objects and show the changing uses of the palaces through time. They include contemporary artefacts like this Zonk insect repellent which belonged to a Grace and Favour resident living at Hampton Court Palace in the early 20th Century.

Insect repellent FrontHistoric Royal Palaces

This is an interesting example of the changing uses of the palaces through time and the vast range of objects in our collection.

Commemorative map for the coronation of Edward VIII Commemorative map for the coronation of Edward VIIIHistoric Royal Palaces

Collections on the move

Our collections have travelled more than 10,400 miles around the world. We regularly lend items from our collections to other organisations and our objects have travelled as far afield as China and Australia. Maybe they will come to somewhere near you?

A conservator at work at Hampton Court Palace (2024) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

How do we store our collections when they aren't on display?

We have 93 individual storage locations across our six sites. We utilise 1088 linear metres or 1449 square metres of shelving to keep it all organised.

Conservation works at Hillsborough Castle by Brian MorrisonHistoric Royal Palaces

The Collections Management team oversee acquisitions and loans, recording information about objects and the ways they are used, displayed and cared for. They ensure that the collections are accessible today and protected for future generations to see, use and learn from. 

Do you have an object you think we might be interested in? Contact us via email.

The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection is a Designated collection of national and international importance, cared for by Historic Royal Palaces. 

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