Built in 1757 by the 2nd Earl of Halifax, Hampton Court House was intended as an extravagant gift for his beautiful mistress, Anna-Marie Donaldson. The Earl, a lovable cad if ever there was one, met Anna-Marie while she was singing at London’s Marylebone Gardens. Rumour has it that the Earl was so impressed by her, he reportedly ‘fainted with ecstasy’.
The house was designed by the renowned architect of the time Thomas Wright, who was also responsible for a number of other very special period features, such as the heart shaped lake and the exquisitely decorated shell grotto. The grotto served as a summerhouse, which was the venue of many moonlit parties. Today the grotto is a rare blend of two upper class obsessions of the time; Rococo garden design and shell collecting.
Anna-Maria left Hampton Court House following the Earl’s death in 1771. Since then it has been the home to numerous distinguished, and not so distinguished, owners, including the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Best remembered as a compulsive gambler and inventor of the sandwich, the Earl would save having to leave the card table to take a meal, by calling for a piece of beef to be brought over to him, between two slices of bread.
Within easy reach from the centre of London, whether by car, train, helicopter or boat, today Hampton Court House and its grounds is as spectacular as ever, making it the perfect choice for both private and corporate functions.
The Shell Grotto and the gardens
The landscaped sunken gardens were designed by the famous astronomer Thomas Wright. Providing a wonderfully private and romantic environment, the gardens contain several magnificent features, including a winter garden with palm trees, a heart shaped lake and an enchanting shell lined grotto. Ideal for couples or groups of up to 10 people, this intimate grotto is available for private dining throughout the year.