Palaces & Buildings

Dragons to return to The Great Pagoda at Kew after a 200 year absence



Take a step back in time and imagine Georgian London. The year is 1762 and a building unlike no other becomes the talk of the town. Many marvelled at its beauty; others thought it would not last.

Artist’s impressions of what the Pagoda will look like once restoration is finished. Photo Courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces.

Artist’s impressions of what the Pagoda will look like once restoration is finished. Photo Courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces.

The Great Pagoda at Kew, designed and constructed during Chinoiserie craze of the 18th century was a garden gem. Adorned with 80 brightly coloured wooden dragons. The ornamental dragons were quite something back in they day.

The dragons although lived a short life. After 20 years of standing proudly for the public to see they disappeared, rumour has it they were payment for gambling debts incurred by the Prince Regent. Experts claim since they were made of wood, they rotted as time passed. Sadly none of the 80 dragons survived.

In 1843 Palm House architect, Decimus Burton made an attempt to solve the mystery of the disappearing dragons to no avail. The hunt continued well in the 1970s, as the mystery remained unsolved. Decades later, the dragons will see a rebirth.

As part of a conservation project, returning the Palace to its original 19th-century splendour, Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have announced that the dragons will return to Kew Pagoda.

Having already completed major restorations of Kew Palace and the Royal Kitchens within Kew Gardens, HRP will be undertaking a two-year project to restore the Pagoda to its former grandeur.

The Pagoda is set to re-open in 2017.

Artist’s impressions of what the Pagoda will look like once restoration is finished. Photo Courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces.

Artist’s impressions of what the Pagoda will look like once restoration is finished. Photo Courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces.

“It has been fascinating to piece together the story of the elusive dragons, missing from this remarkable building for over two centuries. Using tantalising contemporary accounts and drawings, and taking inspiration from surviving eighteenth century dragons in houses and museums across Europe, we’ll be pulling together a team of specialist craftsmen to ensure the new dragons are as faithful to the original design as possible,” Craig Hatto, Project Lead, Historic Royal Palaces, commented.

Paul Gray, Palaces Group Director, Historic Royal Palaces, added: “We’re excited to be restoring The Great Pagoda at Kew to its former glory over the next two years. The Pagoda forms an important part of Kew’s fascinating royal history, which we already explore at Kew Palace, the Royal Kitchens and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage. We look forward to working with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew towards opening this wonderful building for the public to enjoy in 2017.”

Gay Coley, Director of Public Programmes, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, stated: “We are delighted that our long-established partnership with Historic Royal Palaces has been extended to include the restoration of The Great Pagoda – one of Kew’s most iconic architectural structures and the landmark most easily seen from outside the walls surrounding the Gardens. Our visitors have a great deal of affection for The Great Pagoda and the news that it will be lovingly restored and open to the public from 2017 will be met with much excitement.”

Admission:

Included in the price of entrance to Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew:

Adults £15, Concessions £14, free for 16 and under (with an adult).

Throughout 2016, when works begin, visitors to Kew Gardens will be able to witness the restoration project unfold. The Great Pagoda at Kew will be open to visitors to enjoy and explore in 2017.

Kew Palace and Royal Kitchens opening times:

Open from 2 April to 27 September 2015, Monday to Sundays 10.30 to 17.30 (last admission 17.00)

Queen Charlotte’s Cottage opening times:

Open from 2 April to 27 September 2015, weekends and bank holidays only 11.00 to 16.00 (last admission 15.50)

Photos courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces 2015.

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information, visit hrp.org.uk