Royal Kitchens at Kew uncovered for first time in 200 years
The Royal Kitchens at Kew will open to the public for the very first time, on 18 May 2012, following a £1.7m conservation and interpretation project by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces. Untouched since the time of King George III, these remarkably preserved historic kitchens, which have been carefully conserved and restored, reveal a fascinating insight into Georgian culinary life.
The kitchens will tell the story of a particularly special day in Kew Palace’s history, 6 February 1789. On this date King George III was given back his knife and fork after his latest bout of illness (presumed to be madness, but now known to have been Pophyria) and the Master Cook of the Kitchens was busy overseeing the preparation of the royal menu.
Largely unchanged for nearly 200 years, the Royal Kitchens show where the food for the royal table was prepared and how it was cooked. Staffed by a Master Cook and his team, the kitchens and their several offices stored and served food for the table of the King and Queen and their household during royal visits to the Palace. Original and uniquely surviving features include the original kitchen ovens, roasting range, a scullery dresser and both original kitchen and bake house tables. Together these objects make Kew Palace home to one of the most significant Georgian kitchens in the country.
Susanne Groom, Historic Royal Palaces Curator, said: “These recently unveiled Royal Kitchens have remained virtually untouched for almost two centuries, and consequently, many parts of the kitchens have remained unaltered. Visitors to these kitchens will experience a sense of discovery, of opening the door to a lost space and a forgotten time, a time capsule that speaks of kitchens and cookery, of food and fashion and wealth and power.
The whole experience is like creeping into a long abandoned house, where the occupants left in a hurry and all personal belongings are here to be explored and wondered at. The inhabitants have left clues behind of their lives and work and visitors will pick up information from recipes and letters that have been left behind.”
Sound effects and video projections will conjure up the bustle and atmosphere of the great kitchens, along with a fully reconstructed charcoal range, displays of pots, cooking utensils, and a specially recreated kitchen garden. Upstairs, visitors can explore the Clerk of the Kitchen’s office, complete with a spice cupboard overflowing with the rarest and most exotic delicacies. Costumed hosts will welcome visitors through the kitchens, accompanied by audio-visual display, and on special occasions live cooking by the historic kitchens team will bring the kitchens to life.
The Royal Kitchens were built and fitted out with all the latest 1730s kitchen gadgets by Frederick, Prince of Wales, the father of George III, and were in use until the death of George’s consort, Queen Charlotte, in 1818. Extensive research, carried out by Historic Royal Palaces curators, has uncovered a wealth of information about the kitchens, how they were used, the staff who worked there, and the meals they created. The 18th century kitchens reveal what was necessary for a style of grand dining, which was soon to be replaced by what is more familiar today. While most stately homes changed their kitchens to accommodate the new fashions in dining and preparation, the Royal Kitchens were closed and left untouched, following the departure of Queen Charlotte – effectively fossilising its Georgian layout and fittings.
Notes to editors
Kew Palace and Royal Kitchens opening times:
· Kew Palace is open from 1 April to 30 September 2012
· The Royal Kitchens at Kew are open from 18 May to 30 September 2012
· Monday to Sundays 1100 to 1700 (last admission 1615)
Ticket prices (Kew Palace and kitchens):
· Adult: £6.00 Concession: £4.50 Child: free
(NB: admission ticket to Kew Gardens must be purchased for access to Kew Palace – for gardens admission prices visit www.kew.org)
The Palace entry fee covers a hosted visit to the Royal Kitchens
The Royal Kitchens and Kew Palace
Kew Palace is Britain's most intimate royal residence, enjoyed as a country retreat by George III, Queen Charlotte and their family between 1801 and 1818. Many cherished moments were spent entertaining family, friends and heads of state in the stunning King's Dining Room.
Kew Palace was the subject of a major restoration project by Historic Royal Palaces (which re-opened in 2006 following a 10 year £7.6m conservation and restoration project) and the kitchens will form part of a new visitor experience, incorporating a visit to the palace itself followed by a guided tour of the kitchens that served the royal family. Some parts have been carefully restored, others left ‘as found’ so that visitors can see the kitchens as they were discovered.
The Royal Kitchens were attached to the royal residences of George III and his family in the heart of what is now known as Kew Gardens. Meals would have been prepared in this bustling yet efficient food factory and delivered to either the White House (no longer surviving) or the smaller Kew Palace, with the food wheeled to both from the kitchens on covered trolleys. Nearby stands a brew-house and housekeeper's cottage, forming a small enclave of significant 18th century buildings associated with the royal residencies.
Historic Royal Palaces
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built (registered charity number 1068852).
We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors. 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.
We believe in four principles. Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world. Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Although administered and cared for by Historic Royal Palaces, Kew Palace sits within the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. From May 2012 to April 2013, Kew Gardens will be hosting a major exhibition of the art of prolific sculptor David Nash. For more information please go to www.kew.org
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