Portable Palaces: Royal Tents and Timber Lodgings 1509-1603

Lead Research Organisation: Historic Royal Palaces
Department Name: Historic Buildings

Abstract

Tents represent a critical part of the architectural canon spanning both centuries and civilizations but are often overlooked in favour of those buildings that have left a longer-lasting mark on their surroundings. In the introduction to his 1979 book, Tents: Architecture of the Nomads, Torvald Faegre wrote that 'In a sense, tents are the truest architecture: our word architect comes from the Greek archi, "one who directs" and tectos, the "weaving"'. The feting of the late Pritzker Prize winning architect Frei Otto, whose 1972 tensile canopy for the Munich Olympic Stadium is still considered one of the landmarks of world architecture and an apogee of tent construction, demonstrates that tents can be some of the most futuristic and sophisticated building types. However, most tents fulfil a much more basic function for, as Faegre's Tents (1979) reminds us, they also have the capacity to serve a primal need for shelter and flexibility of situation. For many casual observers tents are simply resonant of camping holidays but the stereotype that this conjures distracts from the significance of the tent as a structure that is able to embody messages of both libertarianism and authoritarianism in a single object. Accordingly the architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff, summed up his thoughts on the importance of tents in his 2014 BBC documentary Tents: The Beginnings of Architecture by saying, 'stitched into the fabric of all tents is a defiant streak; they are a rebellious force in both architecture and society at large' ('Tents - The Beginning of Architecture', The Culture Show. BBC2. 24 July 2014).
This project considers the tent as an important expression of architecture at an earlier point of apogee through a study of the design of the royal tents and associated temporary structures that were built for the sixteenth-century English court by the Office of Tents and Revels. In doing so it responds to all three of the themes cited above - those of sophistication, itinerancy and symbolism - and pushes the boundaries of our current understanding of early modern architecture and, by association, politics. The project is timed to underpin preparations for the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold in 2020, an event that arguably defined the importance of tents and temporary structures as a tool of European monarchy in the period and as an outlet for creativity in architecture and design. However, the project spreads its net wider than that single event to review the role of the royal tent across the whole period from the accession of Henry VIII to the death of Elizabeth I. Supporting the project is a rich vein of evidence that includes paintings and drawings, account books, inventories, chronicles, furniture and surviving fragments said to be from royal tents that has never before been collated and reviewed as a whole. By doing so this project will both highlight the important role played by tents in European diplomacy and will demonstrate that the Office of Tents and Revels employed renowned craftsmen whose work on temporary structures playfully and experimentally pushed the boundaries of architectural and decorative design at a time widely acknowledged as a great period of development in English architectural history. The project will culminate in the construction of a recreated royal tent that will act as a piece of experimental archaeology or practice-based research and a high-impact way of engaging broad audiences with the themes of architecture, power and magnificence at the Tudor courts.

Planned Impact

The project is designed to be high impact in both the professional and public spheres. The principal impact will be delivered by the historically-informed recreation of a Tudor royal tent. This will provide a focus for public engagement and learning activities in summer 2018 and will also provide a catalyst for engagement with a wide audience. The tent will be a stand-out and innovative output from the project and as such is likely to attract considerable attention in media and other public forums which will be capitalised upon to share the research outputs from the project with the widest possible audience. Historic Royal Palaces has an experienced and well-connected Press and Public Relations department who will work with the Leadership Fellow to publicise the outputs of the research in national and international media and thus create wider public engagement with the work of the project.
The project will establish webpages within the HRP website and will blog monthly about the progress of the project. This will act as a key plank of engagement activity and will provide the platform from which to share regular updates about the progress of research and development. It will pioneer a new use for the HRP website as a research hub and will therefore attract a mixed audience of specialist and casual visitors.
The tent will be the focus for engagement activities at Hampton Court Palace during the summer of 2018. This will include displaying and interpreting the tent to visitors to the palace and using it as the backdrop for live interpretation and learning activities. In the long-term it is likely to become a resource for school parties and other education groups and will continue to engage with audiences beyond the length of the project.
For non-academic audiences the research will provide a fresh insight into the magnificence of the Tudor court. The research outputs will extend public knowledge of the Tudors beyond the stereotypes and will increase wider awareness of the methods of royal power and of the sophistication of 16th century craftsmanship. Furthermore it will also help to develop an awareness of major historical events like the Field of Cloth of Gold. The recreated tent itself will present a familiar object in an unfamiliar way and will provide the opportunity to engage with public audiences on a number of levels.
The project outputs, including the tent, will also attract broad professional interest. The recreation of the tent will employ traditional craftspeople and specialist producers and will therefore stimulate some immediate economic benefit to the sector and highlight their work to a broader audience. The use of experimental archaeology and research-led recreation of an historic structure will also engage with museum and heritage professionals nationally and internationally. HRP is already known for leading the field in heritage interpretation and this project will enable us to develop new ways of telling the stories of historic sites through research and public engagement that will be of use to the wider sector.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Tudor Royal Tent prototype 
Description The research and experimental archaeology of the project team fed into the design and construction of a prototype, historically informed "Tudor royal tent". This tent was researched and designed by the project team in cooperation with LPM Bohemia, The Tent Company Ltd (experts in constructing bespoke ephemeral architecture). The research process included analysis of numerous manuscripts sources, historical images of tents, analysis of extant historical tents and fabrics, and a process of experimentation. This process included research into materials, construction, decoration as well as the use of these tents and their historical context. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact This tent was displayed during the project's study day when delegates were invited to explore elements of its construction and comment on its physical appearance, and emotional impact. This resource is currently being adapted as an on going process of experimentation into the materiality of Tudor tents, and the practicalities of making these structures open to modern audiences. This tent was also on display to the public at Hampton Court Palace during the autumn of 2018, and it is hoped that will feature in future Historic Royal Palaces events and research. Anonymous, feedback from spectators of the tent have included: "Visit to the red tent was superb." "The experimental archaeology aspect of HRP's work is novel and interesting within academia and delivers a new view of Tudor Britain and 16th century tents." "Seeing the tent, after understanding the process of research, context and symbolism, was excellent". 
 
Description Some of the research has been submitted for publication and is undergoing peer review, while other areas of research are still under preparation. Details of key findings will be shared following that process.
Exploitation Route Following publication it is anticipated that the research will influence historians of architecture, art, material culture, politics. Many of the research findings are already informing the planning of Historic Royal Palaces' response to the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold in 2020.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The results of research project are informing the planning of Historic Royal Palaces' public programming for the anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold in 2020.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
 
Description 'Glamping goes Tudor: historians to remake Henry VIII's opulent tent' - Observer newspaper - 22 September 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The PI Alden Gregory and the PDRA Charles Farris were interviewed about the Portable Palaces project for a piece in the UK Observer newspaper. The piece appeared in the print edition of the paper on Sunday 23 September 2018, on the Guardian newspaper's online platform, and was shared widely on social media. This gave it strong and wide reaching national and international coverage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2018/sep/22/henry-viii-tent-field-of-cloth-of-gold-reconstructio...
 
Description 'My winning proposal: Royal palaces claim first AHRC grant' - interview for Research Professional - 13 July 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The PI Alden Gregory was interviewed for Research Professional website. The interview described the background to the funding application but also set out the significance of the research topic and described some early ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://info.researchprofessional.com/
 
Description Court Studies seminar - 17 September 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI Alden Gregory presented a paper under the title 'The Tudor Court under Canvas: Royal Tents and Timber Lodgings, 1509-1603' to the seminar of the Society for Court Studies. The audience comprised of academics, postgraduate students, museum and heritage professionals, and members of the public. The paper sparked a long question and discussion session afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Early Tudor Court Culture. A Conference celebrating the launch of the digital edition of the Chamber Books of Henry VII and Henry VIII (1485-1521) - 29-30 August 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI Alden Gregory presented a paper titled 'Portable Palaces: Temporary Architecture at the Field of Cloth of Gold' at the two-day 'Early Tudor Court Culture' conference at the University of Winchester. The conference was organised as part of the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'Kingship, Court and Society: The Chamber Books of Henry VII and Henry VIII 1485-1521'. The PI was invited to speak on the topic of the temporary architecture built at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520 to respond to evidence in the Chamber Books for the construction of the English temporary palace and, more broadly, for the material and architectural culture of the Tudor court. The paper aimed to explore the stylistic and technical innovations witnessed in the different buildings and tent constructed at the Field of Cloth of Gold, and to encourage the audience to consider the event not only as a moment of great political value but also as a great moment of cultural exchange. The paper used construction models and drawings created by the PI to demonstrate the scale of the achievement of the English and French courts. Many in the audience reported a base level of knowledge about the Field of Cloth of Gold, but said that their preconceptions about the nature of the temporary structures had been challenged. The paper also led to a more general discussion about the ephemeral nature of Tudor palaces and spaces.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.tudorchamberbooks.org/publications/
 
Description Flax Growing Hampton Court Palace 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Over the course of 2018 the project team cooperated with members of the Kitchen Garden team to present a bed planted with flax - in order to promote the project and demonstrate where flax came from (one of the fibres used to make canvas). This presentation was signposted clearly to make it known to the public that this was part of a process of experimental archaeology. The signs were update at each stage of the process (sewing/harvesting/rhetting etc.).

This was promoted widely using social media accounts of the parties involved and proved particularly popular with archaeologists and horticulturalists. This activity also helped foster communication with other similar academic funded projects.

The gardeners also reported a considerable interest in the flax displays and have considered repeating in future years. The kitchen gardens at Hampton Court Palace receive many thousands of visitors every year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Historic Royal Palaces - Members Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact PDRA Charles Farris gave a presentation to an audience of 100 HRP members at Hampton Court Palace, on the theme of the Portable Palaces Project research. This interactive talk allowed the audience to come and look at the materials we were investigating and offer advice on how they thought they might be used and how the sources might be interpreted. This process was of benefit to the project team as well as informing and entertaining the audience.

Feedback recorded that the audience reported:
- They enjoyed learning about the project, and having access to HRP professionals.
-They appreciated the imagery and quality of the presentation materials.
- They enjoyed the style of the presentation, and the balance of technical information and humour. Noting that it was engaging and yet professional.

The membership team reported:
-That they would be keen to have members of the team back for future events.
-Suggest as constructive criticism that the speaker should repeat audience questions before answering - to ensure the audience remains engaged.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Inside Story Magazine Article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact In June 2018 we wrote an article for the Inside Story magazine about the research aims and methods of the Portable Palaces Project team. This magazine has a readership of over 100k. It also drew attention the research activities of Historic Royal Palaces, and encouraged readers to keep abreast of forthcoming project activities and outputs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Materializing Tudor Elites - Clare Hall, Cambridge, 8 June 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A study day held at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge bringing together researchers and practitioners from the fields of academia, museums, and conservation. The study day was themed around the subjects of elite art, architecture, and dress in England during the 16th century. PI Alden Gregory presented a paper under the title 'Portable Palaces: Henry VIII's Tents and Timber Lodgings'. The primary audience were engaged in the fields of art and fashion history and therefore it provided a forum for interdisciplinary dialogue about the use of textiles in other contexts and about the nature of magnificent display as a means of power-brokering in the 16th century.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description National Archives Tudor Takeover Day - 21 July 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The PI Alden Gregory presented a talk at the National Archives, Kew, titled 'Portable Palaces: Henry VIII's Tents and Timber Lodgings'. The talk was part of the National Archives' Tudor takeover day aimed at members of the public and family groups. The day also included craft, falconry, and armour demonstrations. The encouraged the audience to engage with a lesser-known aspect of Henry VIII's architectural patronage and to think about the ways magnificence, especially as expressed through different forms of architecture, could be used in international diplomacy. The audience were largely interested non-specialists and several expressed through the questions and discussion afterwards that this was an exciting area of Tudor life that they had no prior knowledge of.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Paper at 'New Insights into 16th and 17th Century British Architecture' Conference - Jan 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI, Dr Alden Gregory, presented a paper titled 'Portable Palaces: The Architecture of the Royal Tents and Timber Lodgings in the Sixteenth Century' at the New Insights into 16th- and 17th-century British Architecture conference in London on 20 January 2018. The conference is the leading annual forum for scholars of architectural history in this period, and attracts an international audience of academics, students, researchers in the heritage and museums sector, and researchers in private practice. The paper received positive feedback from the audience and elicited questions both on the day and by follow-up emails subsequently. The general response was that the audience had not previously considered tents and timber lodgings as important expressions of royal architectural patronage in the past but that it was an important and interesting field of study. Several members of the audience highlighted ways in which the subject overlapped with their own areas of study.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.sahgb.org.uk/new-insights-conference.html
 
Description Portable Palaces Blog Posts x6 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The PI Alden Gregory and the PDRA Charles Farris contributed a series of blog posts (x6) about their research to the Historic Royal Palaces Curators' blog. The HRP blog reaches c.75,000 users per annum with each individual blog post receiving 1000s of engagements.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://blog.hrp.org.uk/curators/
 
Description RCT/HRP Curatorial and Conservation Research Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In June 2018 PDRA Charles Farris gave a presentation to a combined audience of conservation and curatorial professionals at Historic Royal Palaces and Royal Collection Trust. This was an opportunity to share research with colleagues and professionals and to gather opinion on some of our research methodologies and conclusions. Feedback was very positive and resulted in changing the opinions and understanding of colleagues and professionals and honing the research approaches of the research project team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Research Presentation for MA in Heritage Management Students 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Students on the MA in Heritage Management at HRP and QMUL were given a presentation on the process of research within an IRO. The Portable Palaces Project was used as a case study throughout the presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.hrp.org.uk/about-us/learning/ma-in-heritage-management/#gs.0k9gpb
 
Description Study Day: Untold Tudors - 24 November 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The PI Alden Gregory and the PDRA Charles Farris presented talks about their research on 16th century royal tents and timber lodgings at Historic Royal Palaces' Untold Tudors study day. The day was intended for a general non-specialist audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/explore/study-day-untold-tudors/#gs.13e01j
 
Description Talk for Local History Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In September 2018, PDRA gave a presentation to the West Drayton History Society, after a request for a talk from one of our curators. The provided an informal introduction to the research themes and approaches of the project and helped to promote other activities happening at Hampton Court Palace. Audience reported learning lots of new information, and the presenter reported feedback which led him to reconsider some of his research conclusions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Temporary Magnificence: The Ephemerality of Early Modern Courts Study Day - 27 October 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Portable Palaces project hosted a one-day study day at Hampton Court Palace on the subject of ephemerality in early modern courts. Both the PI Alden Gregory and the PDRA Charles Farris presented papers on aspects of their research on 16th royal tents and timber lodgings. It provided also provided an opportunity to present the historically informed Tudor tent which the Portable Palaces project produced through a process of experimental archaeology. Other papers at the study day were presented by Prof. Maurice Howard, Prof. Glenn Richardson, Prof. Maria Hayward, Prof. Thomas Betteridge, Seif El Rashidi, and Dr. Jagjeet Lally. The papers explored the English and European culture of ephemerality (framed in broad terms) alongside the international context of the Egyptian, Mugal, and Qing worlds. The study day brought together a diverse audience from academia, museums and heritage, business, and members of the public. Eighty delegates signed up (although there were a small number of drop-outs caused by a train strike on the day) and the feedback they gave indicates that over 97% of the delegates rated the event 'very good' or 'good'. Feedback from delegates included the following comments:

"Excellent speakers all adding elements which supplemented the context of others. All v focussed on the aim of the conference. I made some very useful and interesting contacts. I gained a historical context for the craft work. I am looking at fascinating information around craft processes which is very interesting to me and often underrepresented in the academic world."

"The expert presentations provided significant research interpretations and insight into key Tudor events. It was well organised and timely."

"Fascinating array of interlinked angles from the talks - all centred around a topic which is both relevant and approachable"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description The Tudors Restored: The Creation and Conservation of 16th-Century British Art - 6-7 July 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The project PDRA Charles Farris gave a paper under the title 'Portable Palaces: Recreating Henry VIII's Tents and Logyngs' to a conference audience of museum professionals, art historians, and conservators. This paper explored the experimental archaeology aspect of the Portable Palaces project and some of the problematic research questions relating to the materiality of Tudor royal tents. Audience members reported learning a great deal about the subject and subsequent feedback from expert in material culture influenced the interpretation of sources by the project team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/exhibitions-events/tudor-conservation-conference
 
Description The Tudors' incredible 'Portable Palaces' - AHRC website - 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The PI Alden Gregory and the PDRA Charles Farris were interviewed about the Portable Palaces project for the AHRC's won website. The piece described the background to the research and summarised some of the early research findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://ahrc.ukri.org/research/readwatchlisten/features/the-tudors-incredible-portable-palaces/