How we brought dragons back to Kew

Updated 29 May. In line with government guidance, our palaces remain closed. We are working on detailed plans to safely re-open our sites, starting with our outdoor spaces. Thank you for your patience. Read our statement

In 2015 Historic Royal Palaces embarked on an exciting conservation project to return the Great Pagoda at Kew to its former splendour. A major part of this was the reinstatement of 80 brightly coloured wooden dragons that once adorned the Pagoda's exterior.

The eye-catching dragons dazzled onlookers for 20 years before disappearing in the 1780s. At the time the dragons were rumoured to have been payment for the Prince Regent's gambling debts, however, Historic Royal Palaces curators believe that they were probably badly degraded after the mini ice age and the end of the 18th century.

Finally in 2018, 80 new dragons now adorn the Pagoda once more. Find out more about how we brought dragons back to Kew in the video series below.

Great Pagoda at Kew surrounded by blue sky and green trees

How to make a dragon - part 1

Here we look at how we used contemporary sources to find the shape for the new Pagoda dragons and bring the building back to its original 1762 design.

How to make a dragon - part 2

In this short clip, we take an in-depth look at the design of the dragons and how we've ensured that they will last for future generations to enjoy.

Carving the dragons

Eight of the dragons were hand carved in African cedarwood before being painted and installed on the Pagoda.

Here, Robert and Ashley from Sands & Randall explain this painstaking process.

3D printing the dragons

How do you 3D print a dragon? Find out in this interview with Nick Lewis, head of the team that printed and decorated 72 of our glorious Kew dragons.

The dragons unveiled

The Great Pagoda and its 80 dragons were unveiled to the public in summer 2018 and the Pagoda opened on 13 July. 253 steps lead to the top of the Pagoda, offering enviable views over London.

The building has been returned to its original 1760s appearance, complete with green and white paint scheme, gilded finial and terminal pole and, of course, its 80 iridescent dragons.

Green and gold dragons on the side of the Great Pagoda at Kew, surrounded by blue sky
The Great Pagoda at Kew surrounded by blue sky and green trees
Things to see Highlights

See The Great Pagoda at Kew Palace, now returned to its 18th-century splendour.

Closed until 3 April 2020 for winter.

Kew Palace

11:00 - 15:00

Separate ticket

Queen Charlotte's Cottage surrounded by trees and garden under a blue sky
Things to see

Discover a queen's rustic country retreat in the grounds of Kew Palace with a visit to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage.

Closed for the winter season

Kew Palace

11:00-16:00

Included in Kew Gardens admission

Luna Cinema event at Kensington Palace, with crowds of people watching Rocketman on a summer's evening outdoors.
Events Highlights

Join us in the ultimate setting for a night of cinema under the stars, in the gardens of Kensington Palace.

5 August - 7 August 2020

Kensington Palace

Separate ticket (advance booking required)

A selection of products from Royal Palace collection
Royal Palace fine bone china dessert plate 30142978.  Royal Palace luxury ceramic bauble 30169631. Royal Palace fine bone china tea for two gift set 30162646 comprising of two cups and saucers and tea strainer, Royal Palace china tea po

Shop afternoon tea gifts and accessories

Exclusive English fine bone chine tea sets inspired by our historic royal palaces. Collect our traditional Palace china afternoon tea sets, with designs including elements from all our royal palaces.

From £10.00

Tudor Rose Cushion - Perfect for a history lover, this Tudor rose cushion symbolises the joining of two rival houses, York and Lancaster.

Tudor Rose cushion

Perfect for a history lover, this Tudor rose cushion symbolises the joining of two rival houses, York and Lancaster.

£40.00

Raven luxury embroidered hanging decoration on a white background

Raven luxury embroidered hanging decoration

This luxury hand embroidered black raven decoration features one of the famous Tower of London ravens and is embellished with silver metal threads and black sequins

£10.99