Hampton Court is the most impressive Tudor palace left to us, a triumph of architectural design and a lasting symbol of Henry VIII's legacy.

Yet at the same time, the palace is a real puzzle. Although a large part of it is classically Tudor, Hampton Court has undergone some major changes since the reign of Henry VIII. Unpicking what was built by Henry and what came later can be a real challenge - one that gets even harder when you start to look at what is left underground.

In March 2009, Time Team was given a unique opportunity: to find evidence of a pleasure complex built by Henry in the later years of his life.

The team had just three days to investigate two areas of the palace. The first was the tiltyard, to the north of the main building, where jousting and mock battles would take place (now a series of walled gardens). At the centre of this huge space were once five towers or viewing platforms, evenly spaced in a symmetrical arrangement. One of these towers is still standing and has been converted into a tearoom, but the location of the other four is a mystery.

Three days of backbreaking work resulted in some remarkable discoveries. For the first time, we can definitively say where three of the five towers were and we have got a pretty good idea of where the other two were as well. A fantastic find, given the amount of landscaping on the site since the towers were demolished in the 17th century.

Meanwhile, to the west, the team were also looking for a bowling alley built by Henry VIII soon after the birth of his son, Edward. Bowling was hugely popular in the Tudor period - there were dozens of bowling alleys in London alone. But we don't really know how the game was played, or how these buildings worked.

With some fantastic geophysics results, the team successfully located the alley building, and even part of the surface that Henry would have bowled on. We now know that the alley was at least 60 metres long - over three times the length of today's 10-pin bowling alleys.

These discoveries have helped us to understand more about the palace that Henry built. The buildings that Time Team have uncovered make up the final phase of construction at Hampton Court before Henry died. Although he couldn't play much sport by the time these structures were built, they do reveal how important leisure still was to him this late in his reign.

In his last years, Henry put the finishing touches to his pleasure palace at Hampton Court. And now, 500 years after he came to the throne, Time Team has been able to give a unique insight into one of the most important buildings in this country's history.