23 September 2016
To mark the signing of a major new sponsorship partnership between heritage and conservation charity Historic Royal Palaces – responsible for the care and restoration of the Great Pagoda at Kew – and House of Fraser, the UK and Ireland’s premium department store, a member of the Sanpower Group of Companies, civic dignitaries and invited guests from both China and the UK gathered to welcome the Master Monk of Nanjing to Kew for a traditional blessing ceremony.
This event is to be followed by a formal signing of the partnership contract. Buddhist Master Da Chu - a council member of the Buddhist Association of China – and is also the Buddhist Abbot of both the Jianchu Temple in Nanjing and the Nanshan Temple in Taizhou.. Coinciding with Nanjing Week at the London Design Festival, the visit - hailed as a symbol of Anglo-Chinese cultural cooperation - celebrated the historic links between the Pagoda at Kew and Nanjing’s Porcelain Pagoda. Thanks to the generous support of Sanpower, Historic Royal Palaces, in partnership with Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, can now begin a major conservation project which will see the Great Pagoda, returned to its 18th-century splendour and re-opened to the public permanently in 2018.
The Great Pagoda was designed in the 18th century by English architect Sir William Chambers for the royal family. Chambers visited China twice and he was inspired by the buildings he saw and his designs for the Great Pagoda were influenced by prints he had seen there of the famous Porcelain Pagoda at Nanjing. The Great Pagoda was the largest and most ambitious building in a ‘royal circuit’ of 16 structures showcasing architectural styles from around the world built in the royal garden at Kew. When it was completed in 1762, the 163ft tall building was so exotic that a suspicious public were unconvinced it would remain standing.
Pagodas are revered in traditional Chinese culture as the repository of relics or sacred writings and as place for contemplation. The Kew Pagoda was inspired by the porcelain Pagoda at Nanjing – one of the wonders of the medieval world - and is not designed as a religious monument; rather it was intended to be a window for the British people onto Chinese culture.
The Great Pagoda at Kew was originally far more colourful than it is today, and was once adorned with eighty ‘iridescent’ wooden dragons which were removed in 1784 when repairs were undertaken to the building’s roof. None of the eighty dragons appear to have survived, beginning a two hundred year hunt to rediscover or replace them. Historic Royal Palaces intends to restore the dragons to the Pagoda once more, as part of this major conservation project.
This is the third project undertaken to restore royal heritage within Kew Gardens by Historic Royal Palaces, which cares for the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, the Banqueting House, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle. In 2006, Kew Palace, former home to King George III, was re-opened following an extensive restoration followed by the palace’s Georgian kitchens in 2012.
Frank Slevin, Executive Chairman of House of Fraser & Group SVP of Sanpower said: ‘House of Fraser is the UK and Ireland’s leading premium department store group with a heritage that stretches back more than 165 years, almost to the time when Kew was a private royal garden. We are delighted to be supporting this project to restore this unique and much-loved part of our royal heritage so that it can be enjoyed by the public once more. It is fitting with our ultimate parent company, Sanpower, based in Nanjing, for us to be supporting a building that was modelled on the Porcelain Pagoda at Nanjing and which has stood for over 250 years as a symbol of Anglo-Chinese exchange and co-operation. We are very pleased to be supporting Historic Royal Palaces in their ambitious goals.’
Michael Day, Chief Executive of Historic Royal Palaces said: ‘I am delighted that thanks to House of Fraser’s incredible support we can now embark on the next major project to restore and open up to everyone the fascinating and important royal heritage that exists in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.’
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About House of Fraser
House of Fraser is a premium department store group with 59 locations across the UK and Ireland. As one of the best known names on the high street, House of Fraser has presented customers with an unrivalled nationwide premium department store for over 165 years. The company completed its sale to Nanjing Cenbest on 2 September 2014 marking an exciting beginning for the company under Chinese ownership. The Group’s record annual sales (ex VAT) for 2015/16 were £1.3bn and the Group employs over 6,000 House of Fraser staff and over 11,000 concession staff trading on over 4 million sqft of selling space. Customers can shop at House of Fraser from www.houseoffraser.co.uk.
Sanpower Group Co., Ltd. is a private conglomerate whose primary businesses are engaged in technology and modern service industries. With big data serving as its core competitive advantage, Sanpower is rapidly building up an industrial ecosystem across the finance, health and commerce sectors. The company now has an excess of RMB 100 billion in both total assets and annual gross sales, and a controlling stake in more than 100 subsidiaries. Through this diverse set of businesses, Sanpower provides growth opportunities for a 100,000-strong global workforce, including 30,000 staff from its non-Chinese enterprises.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Kew’s Sussex botanic garden, Wakehurst Place, attract over 1.5 million visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately just under half of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales. For more information, visit kew.org.uk
Once the restoration of The Great Pagoda has been completed in 2018 and the Temperate House reopens in the same year, the south end of Kew Gardens will be a major draw, enticing visitors to view Kew’s newly landscaped gardens and heritage architecture in all its renewed glory.