The Great Pagoda at Kew Gardens – there be fearsome Dragons


The newly restored Great Pagoda at Kew Gardens, replete with fearsome dragons. Built in 1762, it was one of a series of oriental-inspired buildings smattered through these new gardens, though the only one to have stood the test of time.

The dragons are beautiful, colourful, gilded and sparkling, and quite fearsome. On the lowest tier they are intricately carved from wood, 1.8m long, and one at least quite toothsome. Those on the upper levels have been 3D printed, but with no less charm. From the interior they are tricky to see, as they are on the points of the 9 tiers, and offset from the windows, which understandably, are not open. 253 steps from a standing start, if memory and breath serve. That’s my workout for the day.

The views are, as they were on my first ascent, spectacular, a panorama across the whole of south west London. How much more so would this have been in 1762 …. Avenues between the trees radiate from the Pagoda, through the gardens and the wider landscape – Syon House and the Great Conservatory on one axis. Green trees but parched grass delineate these pathways that are less obvious on the ground. And the Cedars of Lebanon – magnificent from above.

It is advisable to book in advance – as I learnt yesterday, rocking up sans billet, but went online yesterday evening and got the first booking at 10.30 this morning, and plenty of folk were buying tickets on the door. #4.50 on top of the admission fee, though I am a Friend of Kew and with a near #18 entrance fee, happy to subscribe. A delightful gentleman, in tricorn hat, frock coat, waistcoat, breeches, knee-high socks and buckled shoes – in this heat – managed proceedings.

Here are the rest of the photos …

I visited the Japanese landscape and the Chokushi-mon, as I had a little time before my allotted time-slot in the Pagoda. Such a beautifully planted space, with Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa, Liriope and Japanese Spurge, Pachysandra terminalis, and Fatsia japonica, Hydrangeas, Japanese Anemones, raked gravel. Just beautiful. In the Spring, with the Azaleas in flower, there is drama, and with the irises too – and a lovely Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis flowering right through the winter months. Inspired planting even now in the height of summer, and the anemones were sparkling under the sprinklers. Hat’s off to the folk for keeping so much so well watered.


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