26 March 2018
Updated 12 June. As a result of the Coronavirus global pandemic, we have taken the difficult decision to close Kew Palace and the Great Pagoda until 3 June 2021. We are sorry for any disappointment this may cause. Please read our statement
This summer, families can embark on a dragon quest around Kew Gardens, becoming ‘dragonologists’ to track down the Great Pagoda’s decorated beasts
To celebrate the restoration of the Great Pagoda at Kew by Historic Royal Palaces, six majestic dragons have descended upon the famous gardens, waiting to be discovered. These large hand-painted sculptures will be hidden in key areas of the 300-acre site, forming a fun family trail in association with BBC’s Blue Peter.
The adventure begins at the Welcome Centre, located next to Kew Palace, where visitors will be introduced to ‘Ting’, a dragonologist and member of the fictional British Dragonologist Association. Families will be able to discover how she researches, finds and records dragons and help her complete her mission to hunt down and identify all the dragons nesting in the Royal Botanic Gardens. The ‘Here Be Dragons’ exhibition will also offer visitors the opportunity to learn more about the dragon-tastic history of the Great Pagoda at Kew. Built in 1762, the Great Pagoda was constructed at the height of the eighteenth century craze for Chinoiserie and was designed by architect Sir William Chambers for the royal family after a visit to China. Once adorned with eighty brightly coloured wooden dragons - which subsequently disappeared in 1780s - the Pagoda will finally see a host of shimmering creatures return to its roofs in 2018!
After a visit to the exhibition, it’s time for families to become ‘dragonologists’ themselves and head out on a dragon hunt around the gardens. With the aid of a trusty map, visitors will be able to help Ting seek out the six mysterious dragons, enjoying other highlights of the gardens along the route. Five of the six sculptures were designed by the Top Runners-Up of the BBC’s Blue Peter competition, in which children were invited to design their own dragon. The competition received over 8,000 entries and was judged by children’s author Cressida Cowell. Each of the Top Runners-Up dragons has been given their own name and super power, and joins the sixth and final dragon – designed by a local community group – in leading budding ‘dragonologists’ to the winning dragon, Fargesia. Designed by 11-year-old Florence Oeters, Fargesia is inspired by the plants found in Kew Gardens and symbolises healing, conservation and growth and joins 79 other dragons in adorning the Pagoda’s roofs. The original designs for Fargesia, the Top Runner Up dragons and further 30 runners up will also be on display, and there’ll even be a chance for visitors to make their own dragon puppet. For two weeks in August, there will be additional free drop-in arts and crafts activities taking place at the Great Pagoda. ‘Artists in residence’ will be on hand to encourage children to get creative with a collaborative sculpture activity and visitors will be able to meet a whole host of characters from the past, in daily live performances exploring the design and building of the Pagoda.
No journey for a self-respecting ‘dragonologist’ would be complete without a visit to the top of the Pagoda itself, where visitors can marvel at the stunning 360° views of London. The Great Pagoda will open on 25 May and is free for HRP members.
Notes to editors
For information and images please contact Sophie Lemagnen in the Historic Royal Palaces press office on 020 3166 6304 or [email protected]
Dragons trail and Here Be Dragons exhibition
30 March – 30 September
Included in admission to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
Trails available free of charge in exhibition and from all visitor entrances.
29 March – 30 September
Included in admission to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Opens 25 May
Entry: £4.50 adults / £3 children / Free for HRP members
Summer holiday activities
6 – 19 August
Including daily live performances outside Kew Palace and arts and crafts activities by the Great Pagoda.
Included in admission to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
For further information about the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew please contact Tarryn Barrowman on 020 8332 5607 or [email protected]
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Historic Royal Palaces cares for Hillsborough Castle under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk
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 country estate, Wakehurst, 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 is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives just under half of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.