12 July 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 March 2021. We are sorry for any disappointment this may cause. Please read our statement
His Royal Highness visited the Pagoda to mark the completion of a four-year major restoration project by Historic Royal Palaces
The Great Pagoda at Kew reopens to visitors from 13 July 2018
His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales visited the Great Pagoda at Kew yesterday, to celebrate of the completion of a four-year long project to restore the iconic London landmark. HRH toured the Pagoda – commissioned for the Georgian Royal Family – and met the specialist team of architects, historians and conservators behind the restoration of the building, which is now once more adorned with eighty eye-catching dragons, as the architect, William Chambers, intended. The Prince also met Florence Oeters (12) who won a competition staged by the BBC’s Blue Peter programme, to create a new design for one of the dragons on the Pagoda.
Historic Royal Palaces, the charity behind the project, is the guardian of some of the splendid royal buildings in Kew Gardens. In partnership with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, HRP’s team of expert curators, surveyors and conservators have been working on the restoration of the building since 2014, undertaking painstaking research to piece together a detailed picture of the appearance of the eighty dragons, which were removed from the building 20 years after it was erected. Experts in paint conservation also conducted detailed studies to reveal the original Pagoda colour scheme – a glorious Georgian green and buff, which has now been restored to the building.
Innovative techniques have made this unique restoration possible. Working with 3D printing experts, 3D systems, and architects Austin Smith Lord, Historic Royal Palaces have produced 72 3D printed dragons, using precision laser sintering. These new dragons will be almost completely immune from the decay HRP’s curators suspect caused the original dragons to be removed in the 1780s. The dragons on the lowest level of the building have been hand carved by master carpenters, faithfully following some of the historic techniques used to craft the original wooden beasts. This remarkable combination of use of these materials and technologies means that, for the first time, something like Chambers’ original vision for the Great Pagoda can be restored and maintained.
The Pagoda was one of the jewels in the crown of Georgian London: a building so unusual that a suspicious public were unconvinced it would remain standing when it was built in 1762. Used by the Georgian Royal Family to entertain and astonish visitors with its stunning views across London, it was also a window into Chinese culture in the eighteenth century. Its architect, William Chambers, was inspired to create the Pagoda during a visit to the famous porcelain Pagoda at Nanjing.
From today, for the first time in its history, visitors to the gardens will now be able to access the Pagoda and its bird’s eye view of the gardens every day. As well as the chance to take in panoramic vistas across London, those who brave the climb will also discover the little-known role the Pagoda played in planning for the D-Day Landings, and have the opportunity to try out the automata on the ground floor for a tour of Kew’s Georgian ‘royal route’…in miniature.
John Barnes, Chief Executive, Historic Royal Palaces, said,
‘We were delighted to show His Royal Highness the Great Pagoda today, which has now been fully restored to its original Georgian glory. An enormously talented team of historians, architects and conservators have made this unique restoration possible and now that the project has been completed and the dragons unveiled, we look forward to welcoming visitors to the gardens at Kew to this extraordinary building!’
Notes to editors:
Tickets: £4.50 adults / £3.00 children. Free for Historic Royal Palaces members. Advance booking recommended.
A valid ticket to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is also required.
For information and images please contact Adam Budhram in the Historic Royal Palaces press office on 020 3166 6307 or [email protected]
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.