The Great Vine of Hampton Court Palace

Sep 6, 2021 1 comments

The Great Vine of Hampton Court Palace, on the River Thames in London, is the largest and the oldest vine in the world, having being planted at the royal palace’s conservatory in 1769, at the time when George III was the King of Great Britain and the American colonies were still under the British throne.

The vine began as a small cutting that arrived from a mother-vine at Valentine’s Mansion in Ilford, Essex. Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the Chief Gardener, planted the vine in the fertile ground left behind from the old Tudor latrines, and the vine flourished. By 1887, it was already 1.2 meters around the base.

The Great Vine

Vine Keeper Gill Strudwick attends to the Great Vine. Photo: Historic Royal Palaces

The average lifespan of a commercial vine is about 25 years, though many growers have vines far older, some over 100 years. Older vines are known for their ability to make exceptional quality grapes, even though their yields become much diminished. Centurion vines are relatively few because devastations of phylloxera and fungal diseases in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Great Vine was exceptionally lucky.

In Victorian times, gardeners believed that a single large vine would produce a more abundant crop. So they built a glasshouse surrounding the vine that kept the vine heated during the chilly British winters. As the vine grew, the glasshouse was enlarged several times. One constructed in the early 1900s had a public viewing area. By 1969, this again needed replacing, but the vine had become so entwined in the structure that the replacement aluminium glasshouse incorporates the older iron framework within it.

The Great Vine

Photo: Historic Royal Palaces

There’s no record of these grapes bring used for wine. Instead, Queen Victoria had the grapes sent to the Royal Household at Windsor Castle. Edward VII then decided they should be made available to the public.

Today, the Great Vine is four meters around the base and the longest spur is 36.5 meters. The average crop of black grapes is 272 Kg. In 2001, the Great Vine yielded its biggest crop of 363 Kg.

The Great Vine

Vinekeeper Mary Parker at work in the Vine House in 1970. Photo: Historic Royal Palaces

The Great Vine

Workers preparing grapes for sale. Photo: Historic Royal Palaces

The Great Vine

Photo: Tel O'Brie/Flickr


  1. the oldest vine is in North Carolina, 400 years old.


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