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How we brought dragons back to Kew

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.

The newly restored Great Pagoda at Kew, which now has 80 dragons adorning it.

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


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The Great Pagoda

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

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Queen Charlotte's Cottage

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

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Quiet Session

Join us for a quiet session in Kew Palace, a calmer experience for those living with or caring for someone with Autism or those who have any other sensory needs, and their families and carers.

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