It is to this palace organisation that the Georgian House chiefly belongs. From 1785 it housed the Foreman of the Gardens and from 1834 the Clerk of the Works as well; the one providing fruit and vegetables on a large scale for the royal tables at Windsor, the second maintaining the fabric of the palace under H.M. Office of Works.
A role as official residence does not come as a surprise, since from the outside, the house looks very like the plain and dignified buildings, officers' quarters perhaps, at contemporary defence establishments such as Chatham. Its origins are much more unexpected, because it was in fact built as a kitchen, in 1719, for the then Prince of Wales. As a detached kitchen, it again highlights the links between a palace and a military or naval base, the feeding of large numbers being common to both. In such circumstances, it becomes practical to give the kitchens their own building. It also harks back to the Middle Ages when, because of the risk of fire from their great hearths, kitchens were often kept separate.
Associations of this kind arise in other aspects of palace life, too. Parallels are often drawn between Oxford and Cambridge Colleges and the great households of the past, with their complex, crowded and inward-looking populations. Palaces, too, have a continuity with the past. Hampton Court still houses, as it always has, a varied but structured society, with its own customs and conventions, a strong sense of community and not much individual privacy. Though mostly left to its own devices, there is the feeling of a place well-run on behalf of an owner who, while not necessarily present, might be without much warning, and for whose benefit the place exists.
So must it have been in any one of a series of castles or palaces belonging to a great medieval, Tudor, or even Stuart, lord, to which he might pay a single annual visit. Each had its permanent population, for whom life went on throughout the year regardless. Today it is the flow of day visitors for whom standards are kept up, but they too are only an interruption to the palace's real, more hidden, existence.
For a short history of The Georgian House please click here.