New building, conservation and garden restoration
Historic Royal Palaces Submit Planning Application
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent conservation and education charity responsible for the areas of Kensington Palace which are open to the public: the State Apartments, public exhibition spaces, shop, café, the Orangery restaurant, and the gardens directly surrounding the palace.
We have now submitted a planning application for our new building next to the Orangery restaurant and a historically inspired garden to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for planning consent. See the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea website for full details.
Our application will shortly be considered by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s planning committee and we should have a decision by early July 2017. If successful, we will begin clearing the site later this year to allow us to conserve the rear of the Orangery before we begin the project in January 2018. We aim to finish the new building by Easter 2020 and the garden shortly afterwards.
The State Apartments at Kensington Palace are managed separately from areas of the palace used by the Royal Household and members of the Royal Family have no involvement in this project. The project will be funded by private donations and the charity’s own reserves, without any public funding.Contact the project team
Visitor numbers at Kensington Palace have more than doubled over the past five years. We now attract over 400,000 visitors a year to visit the historic Stuart and Georgian State Apartments, our displays and exhibitions. At the moment, our staff at the palace are housed in temporary accommodation. Our proposed additional space will enable us to better serve our visitors and support the exhibitions, education and events programme and curatorial projects at the palace. The new building will provide Historic Royal Palaces with a permanent onsite store and conservation facility for key pieces from the internationally renowned Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, together with essential work space for operational staff responsible for opening the State Apartments to the public. Much needed new kitchens and facilities for the Orangery restaurant will also be provided.
The decision to build a new building has not been taken lightly. Initially, we undertook a year-long process of examining spaces available within the areas managed by Historic Royal Palaces, a feasibility study of off-site accommodation and considered the movement of some staff to other sites managed by the charity before we concluded that a new building was the only possible solution to our long-term accommodation needs. The essential staff needed on site each day to care for the palace and open it to the public are currently housed in temporary accommodation wholly unsuitable to their functions. The new building will provide improved, specially designed facilities that will better equip staff to manage and care for Kensington Palace as a world-class visitor destination and heritage site.
The new building next to the Orangery will provide dedicated storage and offer improved access to a carefully curated selection of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, an internationally important collection of historic royal and court dress as well as providing new kitchens and facilities for the Orangery Restaurant and essential office accommodation for the charity’s operational staff.
As a conservation charity, our priority is to ensure that the new building is sympathetically designed to respect the Grade I Listed Orangery and its historic setting. We have chosen to recreate the garden wall that used to enclose the area behind the Orangery which can be seen on historic plans and for which we have archaeological evidence. This wall provided a backdrop to the wilderness garden to the north of the site and its reinstatement will once again provide an elegant backdrop to this area. It will enable us to remove the collection of cluttered and unsightly temporary buildings partially hidden by scrub planting currently behind the Orangery.
The new building will blend in with the Orangery using handmade bricks with details picked out in red rubbed brick and Portland stone to match the existing Orangery brickwork. The majority of the building will be hidden below ground to protect views of the 18th-century building and the surrounding park land. The basement will not extend under the Orangery building itself, but will be two storeys deep to minimise the effect of the development on archaeology in the area and ensure that foot print is kept within the historic boundary of the original yard.
The new garden has been designed by the landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan and draws inspiration from the area’s early 18th-century layout and surviving plans from 1720-5 and 1733, as well as from the garden’s early 20th century re-modelling.
It will open up views to the Orangery from the south, reintegrating the building within the palace complex and gardens. It will reconnect the Orangery Garden and Sunken Garden which, in the early 20th century were designed to complement one another and it will establish an area to display exotic plants, such as those that would have been overwintered in the Orangery in the past.
Alongside the new building and garden we will also be carrying out a major conservation programme to restore the Orangery itself. This important baroque building was constructed for Queen Anne in 1704–5, as both a greenhouse and a setting for court functions. It is now used a popular restaurant and venue for functions and events.
The building requires specialist treatment both inside and out. Externally we will be carrying out brick repairs and we have been carrying out research to inform the repairs to the decorative details, some of which have become damaged over time. Internally there are a two stunning carvings by the renowned 18th century carver Grinling Gibbons which will be carefully restored and a new heating system will be installed which will do away with the intrusive temporary system currently in use. Finally we are carrying out paint analysis to inform the redecoration of the building.