Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is a book that became an instant classic with those who love the Tudor era when it was released back in 2009. Today, Mantel closes this trilogy with the long-awaited third book The Mirror and the Light and, due to the sheer popularity of the series and to pay homage to Thomas Cromwell himself, this guide looks at several places you can visit to follow in the footsteps of the great man himself.
The first stop on your tour should be Putney, the birthplace of Thomas Cromwell. Born around 1485 to a blacksmith, Cromwell spent his time between Putney, which is a short distance from the Marble Arch Hotel, and Lambeth Palace where his uncle worked as a cook. You can stroll around Putney and head to 3 Brewhouse Lane where you will find a blue plaque commemorating Cromwell before walking to Lambeth Palace and exploring the gardens, just like Thomas did nearly 600 years ago.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court is famously connected to the Tudors and can be found in East Moseley, just a short train ride away from the luxury hotel rooms in London. The palace was built by Cardinal Wolsey, who was Cromwell’s patron, but it was claimed by Henry VIII when Wolsey fell out of favour. It became Henry’s refuge, a place to escape city life and it plays a major role in Cromwell’s life too. It is open to the public all year around and is a fascinating place to explore, especially if you are a lover of Tudor history.
York Place/ Whitehall
This site was also a former home of Cardinal Wolsey before it was claimed but the king and renamed Whitehall. It was where Henry married Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour and was Henry’s main residence in the city. Today, there is only a small part of the palace that remains, Henry’s wine cellar is located underneath the Ministry of Defence building and the Horse Guards Parade now stands upon the tiltyard, where many jousting tournaments took place.
The Tower of London
Possibly the most iconic sight in relation to Thomas Cromwell is the Tower of London, the place of his execution. During Henry VIII reign, it was used as a prison and a place of torture and Cromwell would have spent his final few days locked away here before being taken to Tower Hill for beheading.
Cromwell isn’t the only one to have suffered this fate at the hands of Henry; his two wives Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard were both executed here. Today, the Yeomen offer tours of the Tower and impart their historical knowledge on visitors, taking you back to those dark times via the Bloody Tower, dungeons and torture rooms.
National Portrait Gallery
Just off Trafalgar Square lies the National Portrait Gallery, a place where you can come face to face with many historical figures, one being Thomas Cromwell. In Room 1 you will find Cromwell’s portrait created by Hans Holbein the Younger and, if you have read Wolf Hall, you may be surprised at the harshness, brutal face of the man compared to Mantel’s sympathetic portrayal of him. From here, you can explore the rest of the Tudor monarchs throughout the Gallery.