When most visitors arrive at Hampton Court Palace, they come through the stately gatehouse near the second, inner court, on the “Tudor side” of the palace. Once at the gatehouse, the eye is first drawn to is the astonishing astronomical clock that still functions in spite of being more than five hundred years old, although its mechanisms have been replaced at least once. According to Simon Thurley in his book, Hampton Court Palace, the clock not only tracks the time of day, it shows the phases of the moon, displays the month and quarter of the year, the date, the sun and star signs, and uniquely, the high water at London Bridge. Tidal information was especially important to those visiting by barge from London, as at low water London Bridge created dangerous rapids.
The gatehouse and rooms around the clock are also well known as they were the sumptuous chambers of Anne Boleyn. They were adapted for her as she, understandably, didn’t want to use Katharine of Aragon’s old rooms, which stand directly opposite hers – an interesting juxtaposition. The gatehouse is known today as Anne Boleyn’s gate, and sadly, work was still underway on Anne Boleyn’s apartments above that gate on the day the King had her executed. Her rooms today have been enveloped by, ironically, the Young Henry Exhibit as well as parts of the gift shops. However, as romantic as the notion may be, the gatehouse would not have been called Anne Boleyn’s Gate during the Tudor period. Alas, the name allegedly comes from the Victorian period, as do the entwined H&As in its ceiling.