Historically significant for its association with the Royal family, Kew Palace (formerly known as the Dutch House) is the earliest surviving building in the Gardens. It was built around 1631 by Samuel Fortrey, a merchant of Dutch origin, and is noted for its distinctive decorative carved brickwork and rounded gables.
It was used intermittently as a royal residence between 1728 and 1898. Initially, while her husband George II was extending Richmond Gardens, Queen Caroline leased several parcels of land and buildings in the hamlet of Kew which included Kew Palace.
George II and Queen Caroline’s son, Prince Frederick, married Princess Augusta and after Frederick’s untimely death in 1751, it was Augusta who effectively established the botanic gardens of today.
From 1760, when he became king, her son, George III lived in various properties around Kew, principally Richmond Lodge and the White House. After his plans for a new palace were dashed, he bought Kew Palace in 1781 to accommodate his new family. It became their family home.
After Queen Charlotte died in 1818, Kew Palace was closed. In December 1896, Queen Victoria agreed to Kew’s acquisition of the Palace, providing there was no alteration to the room in which Queen Charlotte died. In 1898, the palace passed to the Department of Works and opened to the public.
In the 1960s the Queen’s Garden was created in its grounds by Sir George Taylor, then the Director of Kew. It is of 17th century style and contains only those plants known to have been grown in the period.
Kew Palace is in the trust of Historic Royal Palaces. The palace has recently under-gone a highly acclaimed ten year restoration, and is now open to the public once more. The ground and first floor rooms have been lovingly restored to their opulent Georgian splendour, while the second floor has remained in an untouched state for centuries.
A link to the Historic Royal Palaces website –
I’ve sneaked in a picture of the Orangery at Kew, as well as a view from Kew across the River Thames to Syon House, the London home of the Dukes of Northumberland.
Orangery – Historical information
William Chambers was employed by Kew founder Princess Augusta as an architect for the Gardens and tutor to her son (the future King George III). He completed the Orangery in 1761. Built of brick and coated in durable stucco, it is the largest classical style building in the Gardens.
As its name suggests, the Orangery was designed as a hothouse to grow citrus plants but the low levels of light made it unsuitable for this purpose. In 1841, Kew’s Director Sir William Hooker shifted the building’s ailing orange trees to Kensington Palace and installed large glazed doors at either end of the Orangery to improve its effectiveness. Thereafter he used the building to house plants too big for other glasshouses.
In 1862-3, these plants moved into the newly opened Temperate House. The Orangery was converted for use as a timber museum, to exhibit wood from Britain’s colonies. Donations were plentiful; in 1878 more than a thousand specimens of wood arrived from the Indian Forest Department alone. Collections of timbers and furniture from the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace also went on display in the museum.
After a period of time as an orientation centre, during which various displays and exhibitions were mounted, the Orangery was converted to a tea room in 1989. It was adapted again in 2002 to its present use as a restaurant. The building is now an airy and elegant eaterie capable of seating 180 visitors at any one time for lunches and afternoon teas. Outside of normal opening hours it is used to host corporate or special-occasion dinners.
Conservation and restoration
The Orangery was extensively repaired in 1833. Fifty years later, two cast iron galleries were added, accessed by spiral staircases. These were removed in 1959 when the building was restored to its original form. The exterior was restored and redecorated again in the 1990shttp://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/garden-attractions-A-Z/orangery.htm
Syon House and Gardens are currently closed – opening sometime in March. The gardens I know, but have never been in the House. This is an omission I ought to remedy this season.